We couldn’t be more grateful for our team of expert field guides at The Outpost Lodge, including Dean Oelofse who recently came face-to-face with an elephant when out on a walking safari. Thanks to his instinct, expertise and nerves of steel, our guests left The Outpost Lodge having had the most incredible experience, and a story to tell for many years to come. See the moment for yourself below and read on to hear what Dean had to say about it.
WALK US THROUGH THIS EXPERIENCE…
Being fortunate enough to be working in the far north of the Kruger National Park, I have the privilege to experience this magical place on walking safaris. Having had an amazing few days with Brett and Lulu, we decided to do one last morning walk before they made the trip back home. About 15 minutes into our walk, we came across a breeding herd of buffalo about 150 metres away from us, busy coming down to the water for a drink. They blocked our initial route, so we had to take wind direction and the position of the sun into consideration and move around the herd.
After passing the buffalo, we entered a section of our Fever Tree Forest that borders the Limpopo River. We started working our way through the forest, admiring the bird calls and the trees. We exited the forest and, as we came around a small outcrop, we spotted an elephant bull about 100 metres away from us. The bull was elevated so he immediately took notice of our presence and, at this stage, my hours and hours of training and previous experience kicked in.
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND?
Let me say up front that as a guide I don’t wish for encounters like this. Treating guests to a walk through the bush is a wonderful experience in itself, seeing wildlife on foot is a bonus, and meeting elephants is particularly special… but from a distance. Most guides will at some stage in their careers experience a situation similar to mine, and it is important that we are prepared for such encounters, and our response is appropriate. In this particular case, the elephant was nervous and I could sense he was not comfortable with our presence… it is after all his territory and his behavior was normal.
My number one priority is always the safety of my guests and as such, I needed to calm my guests, instruct my back-up guide, Phanny, to get them to cover, and prepare to deal with the situation in a calm and calculated manner.
HOW DID YOU RESPOND?
On reading the elephant’s body language, I stood my ground, extended my body and let him know in a tone of voice that we meant no harm. And that he should back off. This happened three times before he moved off – a relief to myself, my back-up guide and my guests.
Elephants can be unpredictable; hence we need to be prepared for every eventuality but keeping in mind that you are giving the animal the benefit of the doubt. Fortunately, there was a very happy ending to this encounter.