Riding an Elephant

Amanda Vallone

Lions and tigers and bears… oh that’s a different trip. Let’s talk elephants in Victoria Falls.

As you have probably already read in some of our last blogs, the experiences in South Africa and Zimbabwe & Zambia are spectacular. This is one account of one more stunning experience.

It was 5am the day after our brush with death touching the lions… Joking!

Seriously, it was more like 4am the next morning when we woke up and had a cup of coffee and headed out. My family was the same as normal, dragging their feet getting ready. How does one get ready for a Bush Safari on Elephant anyway? Because that was exactly what we were doing.

As we got to camp, we were given a safety briefing and history lesson about the elephants we would see, and we were told of their handlers.

And then we all walked out on the deck and saw this spectacular parade of majestic creatures walking one by one to the balcony we were boarding them from. Besides pure size alone, the thing that most impressed me was their skin. It is all dry and wrinkled, thousands and thousands of beautiful old wrinkles, and their eyelashes are incredibly long. Like that 99-year-old woman whose skin was tanned from her life and all her wrinkles show the proof of the life she has lived—the good, the bad and everything in between. Those wrinkles are her storybook of every smile, cry, laugh, and heartache in her life—it is completely beautiful. Elephants are just the same. When you look them in the eye, there is so much depth… you find a connection right away. The elephant is truly a soulful creature. It is no wonder why all of the other animals respect them the way they do.

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So how does one board an elephant?

Let’s just say, I am not your best example…

The elephants walk up to the deck that is designed to be right at the height of their backs. You walk up and set your left leg (inside leg) up first then quickly hoist the right leg over the back of the elephant. This does take some maneuvering and stability but is so worth it.

After you are on be sure to LIFT your left (inside) foot up. Why is this an important thing? Well the elephant leans into the deck to allow you to get on. So, if you don’t do as you’re told—and are an idiot like me—your foot will be squished between the deck and the bajillion pound elephant. This, my friends, is not a comfortable position to be in.

After I realized my ankle was not crushed into a million pieces, it was time to enjoy the ride.

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We took a leisurely stroll on the back of our elephants through the bush, where we learned about our lovely pachyderm, her feeding habits, and why their tusks are all broken or sawed off.

Interesting fact: Elephant Reserves in Africa have begun sawing off the Elephants tusks to make the elephants less desirable for poaching AND because an infected tusk can lead to death. So by sawing them down, there is less of a chance for the ends to be broken and later infected.

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