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PILANESBERG GAME RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA .. .Nothing is guaranteed at a game reserve. I'd learned in my travels that every game park was different and you never knew what to expect. Well, expect the unexpected.

If I see zebras, and I did up close, I'm a very happy photographer on safari. But, I'd remember Pilanesberg more for its elephants. Shortly upon arrival we heard trumpeting elephants in a fight that was thankfully far away from our vehicle. At another point a pack of them with a whole lot of young ones crossed the road just ahead of our car. I didn't think it could get any better than that.

As usual, I was wrong.

It is simply amazing how closely an elephant can hide from you in the bush. As we neared a safe parking area in the reserve, Coenie spotted a tail moving in the bush. I'm not sure how it was possible to see just a tail because I didn't even see an elephant. But, Coenie spotted it. He stopped the car to see if we could get a better look.
A not too happy bull elephant stopped tramping through the brush to take a closer look at us. I snapped photos until he got so close that I couldn't take any more photos with my camera. I wished I'd been taking a video instead. That way I would have recorded Corniel in the back seat screaming for his father to drive out of there. Coenie did so only after the elephant was about two car lengths away from us.

Sometimes ignorance is a good thing. It wasn't till well after the trip to Pilanesberg that I learned more about those elephants. They were unusually aggressive. And, of course, there was a reason for that. They were originally from Kruger Park. When the young herd was uprooted and moved to the new reserve, nobody thought to bring older, adult elephants. So, the elephants of Pilanesberg grew up without knowing how to behave as non-aggressive elephants. Nobody taught them elephant manners. And, believe me, that bull had no manners.

And, if that wasn't enough ignorance, we heard how at least on one occasion an elephant in Pilanesberg trampled a car with the people in it. Well, they were in it at the start. The two women fled the scene. I never heard what happened to them. However, on the radio as a public safety announcement for the World Cup, visitors were asked to not feed the wild animals and that meant stay inside the car while at game parks.

How close is too close? Scroll over these elephant photos.
Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.