So, when you are a Small you have to have favorites - favorite colour, favorite number, favorite food, favorite animal... You have to know, because people ask. And my favorite animal was, is, and has always been elephants. Until our holiday I had never met one. I think I had seen them at a safari park as a kid, but I had always dreamed of meeting one. Properly.
Well, at Knysna Elephant Park I got my wish and I met several. They were everything I had imagined and more.
Knysna rescues orphaned and threatened elephants and keeps them in a herd in a large park where they are free to roam, to feed from bushes and trees and to behave like elephants. The handlers speak to them with great affection and respect, understanding that they are wild creatures. They use the income they make from tourists to fund their work and to run education programmes. The elephants decide for themselves whether to meet tourists and can wander off and do something else instead if they wish, although, the bucket of apples and oranges is probably a bit of an incentive to come and say hello.
Their skin is soft and warm and bristly all at the same time. They look you in the eye and make their own decision about whether to stay and chat.
They are big and gentle and a bit clumsy when they decide to walk backwards.
Now, the best bit was that we didn't just get to meet them, we were allowed to ride them! I have to say, I was beyond excited...
Tall Girl went with a guide by herself.
J and Big Trouble went together. Getting on meant abandoning your dignity, but who needs dignity - you are riding an elephant, they have enough for everyone!
I went with Little Man on Sally, the matriarch - very fitting...
I have to say, it is not the most comfortable way to travel, but it was brilliant!
At the end the ellies, as the handlers called them, were rewarded with a snack and more chat.
Sally let us drop handfuls of food into the end of her trunk.
It was a complete privilege to spend an hour in the company of such elegant creatures.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, my other favorites are pink, seven and a properly ripe and perfect peach.