I’m crazy tired, but I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay up all night and listen to their breathing, chewing and playful games. I’m spending the night in a Boma. I have a bed overlooking an elephant house in the middle of the African bush, and I’m in heaven! Elephants are active all day and night and only sleep for short periods, and other than when they sleep, they are constantly eating, which is what I’m doing to stay awake.
The females tease the males so badly that the handlers lock the males in cages overnight to protect them and so they can sleep, but it doesn’t stop the females from stealing their food when they’re not looking. Those girls are very fresh!
The Knysna Elephant Park offers six rooms for humans to sleepover with their elephant herd. Included in the room booking is as many ‘tours’ or chances to be near elephants as you want. Feeding is allowed and having food makes elephant encounters much more intimate. Since without food, they aren’t that interested in you. The motto here is “No food, no friend!”
Elephants are gentle creatures with very rough skin and prickly hairs. They love sniffing things and above all need to constantly stuff things in their mouths. They form tight bonds with their families and exude understanding and intelligence. Knowing that poachers kill these beautiful animals for their tusks is horrifying, especially because they are on the vulnerable list. The demand for ivory in places like China is the root cause, and this must be eradicated. Luckily, there are caring people who collect the orphans of poached parents and take care of them in sanctuaries like Knysna.
Africa elicits strong feelings, majestic images and a sense of wonder. We all long to go to our ancestral origin, to see nature living on the edge of life and death, and to challenge what we know by experiencing a way of life other than our own. There are so many opportunities to do this, from city tours to safaris to staying at reserves. I had my moment on a safari tour when a rhino was blocking the road. A butterfly tickled his rear and he jumped and did a 180° in a split second. Instantly, I realize how powerful this animal was and how vulnerable I was in comparison.
The culture and politics of South Africa is complicated, probably a lot like elsewhere, but sadly, and surprisingly to me, traces of Apartheid can still be seen. It left me feeling uneasy. I’m a proponent of equal access to education which I believe would level the playing field around the globe. Ignorance keeps people down. Education lifts them up. It was clear that good education favored a certain skin color and heritage here.
When traveling, it’s quite common to find amazing experiences, but also things that disturb. It’s those disturbing things that build character and inspire us to make the world a better, and more fair, place. Let’s agree to do that.
If you want to visit Knysna, fly into Cape Town, SA and go from there.