Having recently visited Amboseli, I can say with certainty that elephants are right up there with my favorite animals. I have had the fortune of visiting a variety of wilderness areas across Africa in my life and have seen many elephants, but what I love about elephants, is that they give me this sense of calm, this sense of peace that no other animal has ever given me.
I have had my fair share of close encounters with these giants and I remember as a kid visiting the Kruger National Park with my family, I used to be absolutely terrified of elephants. Why? Because, one - they are absolutely massive animals and two - I didn't understand their behaviour so I always got very nervous and scared when we were up close and personal with them simply because I didn't understand them, but I have built such a great respect for them over time and I think my understanding of them has become very different.
I have always enjoyed sitting with elephants, observing their behaviour and watching their interaction with each other.
10 facts about elephants
- They are the world’s largest land animals
- They have about 150,000 muscles in their trunks
- Their tusks are actually teeth
- Their skin is about 2.5cm this in places and the folds and wrinkles retain about 10 times more than the flat part of their skin, which aids in cooling them down.
- Elephants need to eat between 150kg – 250kg of food every single day
- Communication includes, trumpeting, body language, scent and seismic signals which is vibrations through the ground.
- Calves can stand within 20 minutes of birth (personally, I witnessed a calf being born and it took 11 minutes to stand).
- The elephants temporal lobe is denser and larger than that of a human, and that’s why you hear the saying that an elephant never forgets.
- Sad reality - roughly 90% of African elephants have been wiped out in the last century
- Elephant herds are led by the oldest female in the herd as she has the most experience and is generally the Matriarch of the herd.
Just like a previous post I did on leopards, these are just facts, but from my personal experience they are very true.
So I have mentioned before that leopards are my favorite animal, but elephants are a very close second! Cats are always great to see out on safari, but for the most part they sleep, yes it is exciting when they are up and moving and active, but like I said they sleep… a lot!
Whereas elephants are always doing something. I mentioned they need to eat between 150kg and 250kg of food every day, the reason for this is that they are hind gut fermenters. This means that an elephant will only absorb between 30% and 40% of the food they take in, this means that an astonishing 60% to 70% goes right through the system. Having said that, there are plenty of other mammals and birds that take advantage of this and will forage through elephant dung, because the dung still holds a high percentage of nutrition.
Why I mentioned them feeding is because I find it fascinating that they have 150000 muscles in their trunk and to watch how they maneuver their trunk and use it to communicate with each other is simply unbelievable. They can tear down a massive branch using their trunk with bruit strength and on the opposite end of the scale they can pick up the smallest fruit by delicately using the tip of their trunk.
Elephants live in family units, depending on areas, they can consist of anything between 8 to 20 individuals. Generally, they are all related in one way or another and will be mainly adult females with their youngsters, which could be young bull elephants and cows. There are periods where you can be on safari and see anything from 80 to 120 individuals all together, this isn't a mega herd of elephants, what you will find is that generally they are all related in one way or another and come together(sometimes after years) and spend a couple of hours if not a day or two together and pretty much just have a catch up.
There is so much communication that goes on between individuals that us humans are still researching and trying to understand and that in itself I find absolutely fascinating.
Male elephants will either get pushed out of these herds between 13 years and 15 years of age as they become like naughty teenagers. These males will go off on their own and more often than not find other young males and move around as bachelors.
For me, it is more than just the facts that interest me. Over the past couple of months, I have been fortunate to spend MANY hours with elephants. We can learn so much from the natural world, including elephants.
I often found myself just sitting staring at them with a grin on my face. It’s moments like those that fill me with complete peace and relaxation. So, when you next find yourself sitting with a herd of elephants, take time to observe them, what are they doing? How are they interacting and most importantly, how does it make you feel.
It’s a privilege to spend time with these gentle giants that should never be taken for granted.
Until next time,
Ultimate Elephant Safari
This tour provides an amazing opportunity to spend time with Africa’s giants in some of the most breathtaking landscapes. The combination of Mana Pools, Hwange and the Chobe not only allows you to view Elephants in different environments, but also to observe vastly different behaviour.
Best of Mana Pools
This experience is set apart from any other and will showcase all of Mana Pools to you across 11 days. Nestled within the Zambezi Valley lies a creation of nature still pure, splendid, untouched and wild. With the mighty Zambezi flowing to the North, the wooded floodplain to the South plays host to one of the most astonishing wildlife experiences in Africa. This is a unique safari experience to Mana Pools in that it offers the opportunity to explore both the wildlife-rich floodplain as well as "the last waterhole" further inland known as Kanga Pan, as well as a 3 night stay at the wildest place in Africa - Chitake Springs.