Elephant Sanctuary a surreal experience

As part of a month-long family holiday in South Africa, Michael Vukcevic shares insights ‘out of Africa’.

Quite an adventure so far.

After fun and adventure in Sun City, we travelled south to Cape Town. Whilst there we experienced the worst storm to hit Cape Town in the last 30 years. Frankly, it was no worse than a mild and wet winter weekend in Auckland – South Africans don’t know bad weather!
After leaving Cape Town, we drove to a place called Oudtshoorn – the roads here are long and wide with baboons playing on the side of them. The speed limit of 120km is just a guideline which no one seems to really follow. It was weird being passed while doing 140km by a ute (or a bucky as they are known in SA) with a trailer and three people sitting in it. Passed a number of police whilst going 140km – they are far too busy with other crimes to worry about speeding!
We stayed in a place called Buffelsdrift in tented cabins – in the wilderness SA style – with a five-star restaurant, heat pumps, running water and wild hippos in the dam on the doorstep.
I have decided I am not a fan of hippos – they are responsible for killing more humans in Africa than any other animal. They are vegetarians so they just chew and tenderize you for the crocodiles.
We visited an ostrich farm, but nothing in comparison to our visit to the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. It was the most amazing and surreal experience of my life, crossing bush fire lines to get there. There were 10,000 people evacuated, four people died, many houses destroyed, and helicopters and planes dropping water. Click here to read about it.
Once we arrived the experience was awesome! We were able to hand feed and ride them as well as live with them – our lounge in the lodge was basically the elephant’s bedroom. The elephant handlers were just awesome people, who never got tired of my boys’ constant questions. We learnt so much about what clever and special animals they are. We also learnt about the history of poaching and the dreadful impact this has had on elephants herds in Africa. The efforts of elephant sanctuaries like this one, make a real difference.
The people here are great and friendly – some tourists are annoying and live up to the typical stereotypes. Either my patience has worn thin or it’s a side effect of the anti-malaria tablets?
Often when thinking of Africa, you think of drought and starvation, but we experienced great food – no such thing as small servings. The meat dishes and wine were especially good, but the beer left a lot to be desired.

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