We arrived at Knysna Elephant Park, a facility in South Africa dedicated to housing and caring for orphaned elephants, those rescued from culls or even from the circus. Our guide directed us to jump in the ‘African limo’, or safari truck as we know it, and we drove across the property to where the elephants were hanging around. The facility takes good care of the animals and the encounter was very much on their own terms, wherever they wanted to walk they could and we simply walked with them, occasionally going up to have a pat all the while admiring their beauty and sheer size.
Elephants are beautiful animals and the whole experience was special. The facility is currently caring for 10 elephants and we were able to meet each one, learning their names and where each had come from. Enjoying about an hour with the elephants before getting the limo back to the reception area we then checked into our room, having booked to stay the night and continue our encounter with them. Having not experienced a private room in a while we were excited to have a room to ourselves and our own bathroom, to not sleep in a bunk bed and to not have the worry that our stuff might get stolen being in a room with random other people. Not only that but our balcony looked over the outside area that the elephants stayed in overnight and they were walked over at around 4pm, just in time for our tea and following that, our pizza for dinner that was brought right to us, luxury we hadn’t had for a long time.
Retreating to the warmth of our room we actually got into bed, loving the fact that we could sit up without hitting our head on the bunk above us. I kept running out to our lounge room which actually looked over the shed where the elephants were welcome to sleep for the night if they wished to get out of the cold, hoping to find a friend but always discovering them to still be outside, eating all the plants they’d been provided with for dinner.
Waking up gave me a different surprise, hearing whatever grunt it is that they make while lying in bed I hopped up, heading out to the lounge room at 6am and straining my eyes to make out the shape of an elephant lying down, clearly asleep as I heard its heavy breathing. I went out to the balcony and found the others still eating, wondering if they’d even moved in the 8 hours I’d been asleep considering the only visible difference was that the pile of plants had grown smaller. Situated against the sunrise I sat and watched them, ignoring my camera inside and enjoying the moment for myself, still shocked that we’d spent the night there and thankful that we’d found the opportunity to do so.
After a delicious hot bacon and eggs breakfast we were able to go on another walk with the elephants where I was surprised that my fear hadn’t diminished as I went up to pat one again, still astonished by its size and aware of its ability to squash me with one sudden movement. Of course the likelihood is slim to none; we stand on the side of their front leg so as not to get hit if it shakes its trunk and so that we’re not in front of it should it decide to walk away. Nevertheless, fears are never based on logical reasoning and I freaked out while trying to pause for a photo next to one, hoping Emily could catch the moment where I was smiling and not attempting to run away.
So thankful to have had the experience we said goodbye to the elephants along with the private room, private bathroom, not one but three pillows each and even our own couch and coffee table set. We set off for the Crags, all the while thinking to myself that I must book a nice hotel again in the future just to treat myself to my own room and to not feel like a child who’s just asked for a bunk bed.