My Travel Blog

Close Encounters of the Elephant Kind

I’ve already said that of all the animals we encountered the elephants were our favorite.  This magnificent species is not only physically imposing, but in our opinion they are the most intelligent of all the animals we saw.  There impressive intelligence was most visibly displayed by their highly evolved matriarchal society.

That fact is these beautiful giants in addition to being smart also have character.  The teenage males, as teenagers tend to be, will often display attitude.  Fortunately our guides knew just how close we could get before they got really pissed off.  There were a couple of times I could have sworn we were about to be charged by an irate elephant.  One day we were watching a large herd of elephants, and saw a couple of teenagers playing.  They were bumping each other.  It all seemed very innocent.  We continued to watch as the animals got closer and closer to our jeep.  Eventually they were right next to us when one of the elephants bumped the other into our jeep.  As luck would have it the elephant did not end up in my lap, but it was close.  With all the excitement on my side of the jeep I managed to stay in my seat. The guy behind me quickly abandoned his position, and ended up on the other side of the jeep in his wife’s lap.

I never realized how close we would get to the animals.

In your face.

These guys were just playing.

They were getting closer and closer.

Oops, a little too close.

One of our favorite elephant encounters occurred when we were parked next to a large watering hole.  We had been watching a herd of roughly twenty animals drinking when they decided to leave.  While elephants may look like they are merely strolling they actually move quite fast.  It wasn’t long before they were on the road we would take to get back to camp.  Because the Royal Malawaneis on a private reserve they have to maintain the dirt roads.  Someone had left a large yellow tractor parked by the side of the road.  As the herd passed the tractor the matriarch stopped, and began to inspect the strange piece of equipment.We stood by and watched for fifteen minutes as she checked out the bizarre manmade yellow piece of iron with her trunk.  It was the strangest thing to watch this elephant run her trunk back and forth across the tractor, as if she were trying to look into every corner.

Getting ready to enjoy our sundowners.

A lion enjoying her sundowner.

Elephants enjoying their sundowner.

A drink of water.

On the move.

Checking out a tractor.

I haven’t talked much about the giraffes.  They are plentiful, have beautiful coloring, and are relatively easy to approach.  What they lacked was personality.  The big cats, the Cape Buffalo, even the many different species of antelope had more personality. Obviously the elephants in our book had the most.  I enjoyed seeing the giraffes.  Watching them eat the highest leaves on the trees with their long tongues was interesting. Their long stilt like legs propelled them gracefully through the bush, but I wasn’t all that excited about them.At least they weren’t ugly like the hippos.

This giraffe had a feathered friend.

Giraffes are graceful and beautiful.

Hippos are neither graceful nor beautiful.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.