Engage with ellies at Knysna Elephant Park

Posted by Fatima Anter on 22 April 2011

I’ve done quite a few elephant interaction activities and by now you’d think I’m over it. In Thailand, we went to an elephant show and got to ride on the ellies, and even though I did the whole lie-down-and let-an-elly-massage-your-back thing, it didn’t come close to my encounter at Knysna Elephant Park.

There’s something about African elephants that make the experience more thrilling. It’s more than likely the fact that they’re wild animals. In Thailand, the elephants seem more like domestic pachyderms while here in Africa you can still sense their ‘wild’ side and it keeps you on your toes.

A normal interaction session will cost R175 a person and this includes meeting them, touching, talking to them and taking pics with them. If you’d like to feed them, a bucket of fruit and veggies costs R30. Compared to other expereinces I’ve had, this one seemed the most worthwhile. Sure, there was a line these giants weren’t allowed to cross at times(especially when being fed), but for most of the session they were walking around freely and we could walk around them (while being advised by guides) and pet them. It felt as if we were in the middle of the bush, in their natural habitat – something you’re not likely to experience in the ‘wild’.

Sure, you’ll feel a bit sad and worry that these guys are so domesticated and live like pets, but it was either this or be culled, for these friendly mammals. I think they got a good deal and not once did I get the feeling that they were being treated badly.

We opted for the elephant back ride (which includes the elephant interaction session) at R750 a person. There’s only one rule here  – hold on to your guide! The ride’s loads of fun but I’ll admit I was a bit scared at times when the elephant sped up near the end. I was reassured that it’s nothing to worry about – they know they’re getting snacks at the end of the walk so they rush towards the finish line. Clever buggers.

When you’re done you can buy pics (R200 for a disc with lots on) of your ride (since you can’t take pics while you’re on the elephant) and a video of the experience (R250). If you’re up for a very different experience at night, you can sleep in the same area the elephants do (you can see and hear them). They can’t come to you or mess up the decor in your room but you’ll still be able to have chats with them before you go to bed.

Contact Knysna Elephant Park:

It’s on the N2 between Knysna (22km) and Plettenberg Bay (9km)

Tel 044-532-7732, www.knysnaelephantpark.co.za

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