Looking back, I’ve likely taken close to 2,000 photos of elephants. It all started with a life changing volunteer trip to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand several years ago. It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision, but then again that’s usually how my trips come to fruition. Granted I do have to make off-island plans well in advance, but still, I almost always jump on the chance to go someplace new when I feel that familiar pull.
As long as I can remember I’ve been charmed by the idea of going to Africa. Being such a massive continent, there are a million locations that promise to offer stunning scenery and wildlife and some of course are safer than others. Especially for travelers going solo. So for a recent birthday present to myself, I booked a trip to South Africa headed to a private game reserve focused heavily on conservation efforts and wildlife management.
I had a few extra days before and after my time spent on the reserve and this is one of my favorite images captured both from the trip and from my time touring the area. It’s a really simple image, but I love it because it’s just entirely natural. We found this bull in Addo National Park, known for its high concentration of African Elephants. I happened to be there during the rainy season, so the elephants had plenty of access to water in the dense forest, and found no reason to frequent their normal watering holes which were much closer to the roads and in plain view for sightseers and photographers alike.
After a couple hours searching high and low for one of the resident herds, out of nowhere appeared this bull amidst the dense acacia. Not only was he stunning, but I was shocked that a bull of this size was less than 50 yards away and we had absolutely no idea until he lifted his head above the tree line to nibble on a branch. He moved effortlessly and made no sound other than the soft crunching of leaves as he grazed. And only a few moments later he emerged slowly, completely, from the brush to cross the narrow road and completely disappear again on the other side.
It was one of the first opportunities I had to see a truly wild elephant, doing what elephants do, in its own forest, and it was such a treasured moment. I loved the way he could just appear and disappear on a whim and that he was able to live a peaceful life in a protected, yet wild and untouched environment. I can only hope that the future brings more moments like this and that these peaceful giants are able to reclaim more of the land that they once roam freely and without fear of human interference.