I recently returned from Africa and one of the highlights on my trip was the opportunity to trek through the bush on the ever-so-high back of an elephant. And being the adventurer I am, I insisted on riding the biggest elephant in the bunch. They called him the "supervisor" as he always takes up the rear ensuring none of his pack mates stray too far from the trail.
Having grown up riding horses I was accustomed to the feeling of being atop a large animal, but this certainly took it to a new high -- not to mention a new girth. That's quite the straddle. We slowly -- and I mean slowly -- wound our way through the bush offering beautiful views of the valley below. As you can imagine, elephants are not fleet of foot so it was a slow, methodical trek. And much like horses, given their druthers they'd eat their way through the journey. In this case stopping to tear entire limbs off of bushes and trees.
Our guide explained that the other elephants in the pack wouldn't go out without having the "supervisor" following in their footsteps. Apparently they relied on him to ensure their safety from predators such as other elephants and lions. Lions are the one thing elephants truly fear.
He also explained how to be charged by an elephant and live to tell about it. There are two things to remember should an elephant ever decide it was time to take you down:
- hide behind a rock or boulder because an elephant cannot navigate across these obstacles; or
- run up a hill as elephants can't easily charge up a hill -- I imagine it has something to do with gravity
All in all, our journey on elephant back was a wonderful adventure -- albeit not the most comfortable ride. At then end, we were given the opportunity to thank our new friends with special treats after which they saluted us with a very gracious jester. All trunks up!