2 Jul

Afternoon Lunch with an Elephant

How does one have lunch with Africa’s largest land-mammal?

Enjoying a fine meal in the presence of an elephant is not something you would expect to do while on a safari in the greater Kruger National Park wilderness. You ordinarily spot elephants while out on game drives, or at a waterhole, and observe them from a distance.

Not so at Tintswalo Safari Lodge. Sometimes the elephants are happy to join you, practically at your table, for breakfast or lunch, or even high tea.

Just recently we were at Tintswalo, sitting at our table among the towering fig trees that hang over the deck, having a lovely mid-afternoon meal, when a huge elephant bull came wondering out the bush opposite the lodge.

As lunch views go; this was something special. We had seen a number of elephants during our game drive; which is to be expected. But it was another thing completely to see such a big animal walk confidently up to the deck of the lodge, and stick out his trunk as if to say: I’m ready. At this point, water began to flow out of a pipe that fed a small pan. This is what he had come for. The elephant rolled out his trunk and enjoyed large trunk-fulls of fresh water as we sat in awe at this spectacle.

Where else in the world can you sit and enjoy a fine lunch, in the middle of the Southern African bush, while a wild elephant saunters up to have a drink not more than 3 meters beside you?

This is the magic of Tintswalo Safari Lodge.

The Manyeleti Game Reserve is a 23 000 hectare reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. There are no fences between Kruger and the reserve, so all the same animals make their way between the properties. This means that although this elephant was tolerating us for lunch, he was by no means tame.

He was as wild as any elephant in Africa.

This quickly became clear when we got up from our seat and moved a little closer to get some photographs. He turned and raised his trunk as if to say: “Hold on! Don’t push your luck!”

Looking into his eyes, I could see he was wild. He was simply letting us be for this short period of time so he could get a drink of water.

As we sat and watched him, it was incredible to see how much water he would hold in one single trunk-full. Elephants can hold up to 10 liters of water in their trunk at any one time, and he must have guzzled at least 15 of those.

By this time, most of the lodge had gathered on the deck to marvel at the elephant, and there was a feeling of awe and privilege permeating through everyone. It’s simply wonderful to have a wild animal so close, and so accepting.

The big bull stood motionless for a little while, perhaps digesting the 1500 litres of water he had just inhaled, and then slowly sauntered off away.

We carried on with our lunch, happier and more relaxed and feeling closer to primal Africa than ever before.