Skip to Content

What to do around Elephants

Moderator: RosemaryH

Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:57 pm

Re: Ellie Charges

Unread postby Sjambokpod » Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:56 am

With Elephants there are 2 basic social groups you will encounter and that is the Breeding Herd and Lone or small group Bull elephants.

With breeding herds its prudent to watch from a distance and BB above mentioned 50 metres which I reckon is perfect.
Luckily the really large breeding herds with cows that are temperamental are situated in the NW where there are basically no tourist roads.
However in recent years Elephant numbers have increased a lot and more and more smaller breeding herds are encountered along popular tourist routes like the H4-1 where it is crowded and often one finds damaged number plates and bits of vehicle lights lying in the road, signs that a herd crossed and cars crowded them and a cow may have challenged the cars most with incorrectly engines left running..panic quick reverse into the car behind.

Further north across the Olifants River is prime elephant Bull country although they are encountered anywhere now.
In 95% of cases they are harmless old souls who just carry on doing what ellies do.
There are a few things (Check List) I do on seeing a Bull Elephant approaching me on a quiet narrow dusty road normally at about 300 metres at first sighting:

- Switch off.
Ellies don't really enjoy this noise pollution and it spoils the sighting for others if there just happens to be other vehicles behind you some of whom maybe videoing the scene and wouldn't want the sound of urban noises on their African Safari movies.
- Position your car first right on the left side to allow the Ellie space to pass when he gets to you.
- With Binos check to see if he is aroused (erect penis) a sign that he could be upset with your presence.
- Also at this stage it is very important to check the back legs for signs of Urine stains which tells you that he is in musth and not in a good mood. '
If at this long off stage you see the wet back legs then its best to fire up the engine and turn around and leave on a narrow road.
- If everything checks out above then take pics till about 35 metres and then let him pass.

I missed one of the signs earlier on (aroused state) but by this time it was too late when I noticed it in the view finder of the camera so just sit tight.
He stopped alongside and eventually moved on towards a waterhole behind me and the 2 cars behind me panicked and reversed and reversed and couldn't turn around on the narrow road and the Bull ellie played up to this audience and terrified the occupants.
These cars broke the unwritten laws and spoilt their sighting.

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 22336
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:22 am
Location: Midway between the infinite and the infinitesimal!

Re: Ellie Charges

Unread postby onewithnature » Tue May 03, 2011 9:17 am

Some very sage advice from our forum friends. :clap: :clap:

I am wondering, though, whether elephants in the past few years have become aggressive/assertive with tourists? Perhaps increased traffic and more ignorant people doing stupid things around them? I've noticed an increased amount of elephants confronting an approaching car than ever before.

I remember an elephant half a kilometre into the bush on the Tropic of Capricorn loop a couple of years ago - as soon as he saw us, he changed his parallel direction and walked the 500m diagonally to drive us off the road. When an approaching car saw the scenario, it eventually U-turned to drive the 20km back to the main road, rather than risk an encounter with, what turned out to be, a rather docile, but fun-loving specimen of the pachyderm species.

Most of the time, one can see an elephant's intentions, so act early and don't challenge him unnecessarily. The best was reversing 5 kilometres on a narrow dirt road many years ago in the Olifants area because there was not a single opportunity to create enough distance between him and me in order to do a 10-point turn with my huge-turning-circle vehicle at the time. I will never forget the regular rhythm of those feet on the muddy road as he continued towards me at a steady pace! Eventually, I reached another road and was able to take the long way around back to Olifants, in the process arriving 25 minutes late for camp gate. :doh: Luckily I had filmed the incident, so that the ranger didn't fine me.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." (Groucho Marx)

User avatar
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 848
Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:07 am
Location: Under African Sky !!!

Re: Elephant

Unread postby Leeukos » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:19 pm

This big elephant was just plain stubborn and difficult the one morning while we were on our way from Orpen to Satara. It chased a few cars and then saw us...

We had to reverse a few meters or so as it probably said "You shall not PASS !!!!!"



"A roaring lion kills no game."
"Until lions start writing down their own stories, the hunters will always be heroes."
"If you kill a tree, you are killing a bird."
“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”

Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:44 pm
Location: jhb

Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby alleycat » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:36 pm

I've just returned from the ParK and it happed again

I was on the s114 just below Skakuza and before the Steve Hamilton turn off when i rounded a bend and a bull Elephant was walking towards me in the road on his way to ( I'M SURE ) Skakuza.
He was so big and formidable i didn't hesitate to engage reverse.

I knew to look for signs of Must? but the only way to do that was in reverse. With kids saying he's too close and my reverse sensors screeching with grass setting them off, i didnt know if I muscht? or Muschent? i kid you not i reversed for 1km.

Eventually i backed up 10 cars behind and 5 cars in front all stressing which i think i caused by my initial insubordination to the BRUTE.

Eventually i backed up with my followers in reverse, we then passed a hardened Landrover owner, he stood his ground while we all cowered behind him. The bull left the road 1 meter in front of the rover and we all made a dash for it, he wasnt in Must.

What is the sensible thing to do? i'm an expierienced Kruger Visitor but cant rely on a Malboura men in land rovers to help me out, i also cant afford the Elly to be 1 meter in front of my car, my kids will disown me.
What can we do?

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 4317
Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:37 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Heksie » Wed Apr 04, 2012 10:47 pm

wacktazz wrote:I strongly believe that an elephants sex organs are in their feet... If they step on you, you are screwed...

10 July Letaba
11 July Satara
12-14 July Lower Sabie
15-18 July Tsendze

24-27 September Lower Sabie

11-20 Dec Satara
14 Dec Sable Hide
21-27 Dec Lower Sabie
28-31 Dec Satara
1 Jan Croc Bridge
2-4 Jan Satara
5-8 Jan Lower Sabie

User avatar
Forum Assistant
Forum Assistant
Posts: 4235
Joined: Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:06 am
Location: Boons NW

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby RosemaryH » Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:15 pm

i could be...the Malboura man.

You right alleycat ... how would he know :lol:

We once got pushed back 3 kms by a unhappy ellie :shock: Was also told afterwards that an ellie would stay on the road, walking towards you as long as you kept reversing. :big_eyes: :big_eyes: I don't know if I could take on an elephant :D I love elephants but always treat them with a lot of respect and give them loads of space.

Golden Rule of any SANPark - DO NOT feed or put food out for ANY species whatsoever!

User avatar
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 845
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 7:11 am
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby normana53 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:20 am

A few years back, we were forced to reverse for about 3/4 km by a bull that was walking down the road, I finally was forced to stop when the cars behind were too slow at retreating. I pulled as far to the edge of the road as I could and let him pass - my wife kept repeating the mantra "this is a rental car, this is a rental car" and stated I pulled over so that her side was closest to him on purpose. He walked past close enough we could have reached out and touched him. We both held our breath and didn't make a peep, and he walked by like we weren't there. That is when everyone behind us decided to start backing up again!
Flight Booked,Tamboti, Talamati, Satara and Olifants Trail Booked, can't wait for November 5/11- 18/11

Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:44 pm
Location: jhb

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby alleycat » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:01 am

Its exactly that, once you show fear its like they know, not only for this trip but the next one as well.
they say Elephants never forget, i'm sure, its the same one thats messing with me from Malelane to Satara,

they communicate through their feat one herd to another, maybe my numberplate or my SO description, but as sure as eggs i meet an elly with an attitude.

I need help, a new car, look, attitude diesal Petrol, :shock: SO any advice will help.
My son asked me how fast can you drive in reverse, i lied, more impotantly i was looking at who was likely to have the best insurance.

Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1046
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:20 am

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby threedogs » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:47 am

:funny: :funny: :funny:

Last trip without SO I did all the driving with two gun ho young men (sons) with me! Ever the cautious one, I kept getting a lot of stick for pulling up 'a hundred metres away' every time I saw an elephant! :evil: Huge exaggeration :evil: :evil:
Then we bought a copy of one of those books from the camp shop relating lots of short stories from game rangers in Kruger over the years. After reading a couple of the stories about naughty ellies both sons shut up about my ellie strategy! Some bulls seem to have that very self assured, non-chalant type of air that is very hard to read - are they gonna get antsy or stay cool and pass on by? It takes sterner stuff than I'm made of to sit tight and wait and see - after all if the mood changes when they are just metres away it's hard to beat a retreat! We were charged by a huge bull in must in Etosha - it is a very unsettling experience to say the least!

Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 462
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:02 pm
Location: SA

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby wacktazz » Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:50 am

I learned a trick from our ranger few years back. I was so sacred of them as well. Would stop 100m plus from them. Untill i was in the car with said ranger and got surrounded by ellies. And naturally nothing happened. I am talking about them sniffing and touching the car.
The trick for me is to read their body language. One on mast is almost always a no-no. Very short tempered and moody. Also never get in between a mother and calve. Unless your mother in law is with you. But in general, read their body language. I cant tell you exactly what to look for but I can tell you that we have one big bull frequently at our house in skukuza and I have stood next to this monster of 3m plus many times. Once as close as 2m, without me knowing it at that time
It's nice to be a person. You must just be a nice person!

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 8144
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 9:21 am
Location: SA

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Grantmissy » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:03 am

:doh: Alleycat I rather do not want to encounter a bull elephant advancing on me. We had a few :shock: encounters with grumpy bulls on the Mahonie Loop at Punda Maria but I would rather not be stepped on by any of them with the consequences as Wacktazz put it :pray:
“Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got.”

User avatar
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 635
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:22 am
Location: Pretoria

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Dabchick » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:19 am

I agree with Wacktazz. One can usually see from the body language when you can stick your ground and when you must be submissive and reverse a little bit.

I usually have few problems with elephants (touch wood) I'm not excessively scared of them and "think" :shock: I'm fairly good at reading their body language, so whenever I'm behind the wheel, we'll get all these good-natured elephants that are a breeze to pass by and walk off the road when we're still hundreds of meters away.

Naturally, whenever my sister (who usually stops breathing the moment she spots an elephant a km away in the road) is driving, we'll get the stubborn bull (or around Shingwedzi... cow), who absolutely won't let us pass :wall: :wall: :wall:. I have to tell her when to stop, when to reverse, how fast to go, when to go forward... (and to breath so that she don't pass out behind the wheel :roll: ). So the conversation usually goes like this:

me: that elephant looks fairly calm, go forward slowly...
sister: (busy reversing)... but he's flapping his ears!
me: that's because he's hot. stop reversing, go forward slowly
sister: (still reversing). okay
me: other "reverse"
sister: (finally stopping, and hesitantly changing gears) okay (tremulously...)

So we'll creep forward at about 1 km/hour.

me: a little faster is okay
sister: (still going 1km/hr, slowing to a stop...) okay
me: (sigh). okay, just wait right here. Breath. when he's right next to the car, slowly pull forward and get away
sister: (switching to reverse gear): okay
me: put the car in first..

and so forth! It's a mission I tell you :wall:

Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1046
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:20 am

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby threedogs » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:24 am

I have been in Hwange NP with a researcher and sat on top of the cab of her bakkie in the late afternoon as around 400 hundred elephant in groups of 50 or so wandered past within feet of us and the car over a couple of hours. Because I trusted her judgement and experience in telling me to just sit quietly and relax, after the first few tense moments, it was magical :dance:

Posts: 35
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:46 pm

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby kujo » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:59 am

I'm normally more worried about he other cars around me than the elephants... Last October while in the park I made a judgement call to stop about 80 metres from a herd of elephants which seemed quite relaxed and were walking towards us. Anyway to cut a long story short about 8 cars were eventually behind me and in the rear view mirror I could see this Toyota Yaris aggressively passing each car to get closer. By now the Elephant herd was about 10 metres from my car and about to cross the road, this Yaris sped up next to me which upset this cow who was now in the road. She turned around a started flapping her ears at us. I was now boxed in between this Yaris and the bush and these elephants right in front of us. Unfortunately the people in the car didn't understand me when I started to give them a mouthful (or fortunate for the language I used) about the dangerous situation they had placed my family in.... :wall:

User avatar
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 10:42 am
Location: MontanaPark, Pretoria

Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby kids@camping » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:19 am

To reverse with a car alone is fine, but when you are towing a caravan, it becomes difficult. Bets advice we've got was to close all windows, sit still (dont make any sudden movements) and you will be fine.

Return to “SANParks Tuskers”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests