When the thought of coming to South Africa was first mentioned to me in Australia by a South African brother at Rathmines Bible School in 2011, I thought to myself, why would I ever want to go to South Africa ??? Like most people, I had a bucket list of places I wanted to see, but unlike many other places and countries, South Africa wasn’t even close to being on my list. By this stage I had already visited about 50 countries around the world and I had another 50 to see, but not South Africa !!!
But bro Matt Blewett was persistent enough to encourage me to come and taste it just a little bit, and taste it I did. It is history that I have been coming here every year for the past four years now, and each trip it only gets better and better. There is something about Africa that gets in your blood, and I haven’t really quite worked out what it is. Is it the people, is it the land, is it the intangible things that one cannot define ….. Whatever it is, it gets you and keeps bringing you back for more.
On my way to Port Elizabeth, a 12 hour drive south of Durban is an elephant reserve called “Addo” ….. I had heard about this reserve from some South Africans for some time, nothing special, but somewhere and something you should see if you are in the area.
Let me say this from the outset, South African are not normally prone to understatements, in fact to the contrary, they are unabashedly proud of their country and everything about it …. they even seem to love the crime as it keeps them on the edge ….. but that is another story. However, for some reason, maybe it’s the distance from Durban or whatever, but from the first few minutes that I drove into “Addo” I was blown away.
My daughter Crissie, who had spent 2 years in South Africa as a volunteer here with her family had said this is a MUST SEE destination, but be prepared to not see anything if you are just darn unlucky !!! Hmmm I thought …. what sort of “are you feeling lucky” experience was I going to have today ? I hadn’t driven more than two minutes into the reserve when I came around a bend to be greeted by a huge elephant strolling up the bitumen road …… all of a sudden I was feeling very lucky !!!
I stopped on the left side of the road and watched him strolling along and eating as he went from the luxurious greenery all around this place. I couldn’t lean out the car drivers window far enough to take all the photo’s I wanted. Then, as I was looking down the camera lens at him, he turned ….. and with almost a glint in his eye he made his way directly towards me and my camera ….. click, click, click I went as he got closer and closer … then with the lift of his trunk I realised it was time … really really really time to stop taking photo’s and wind my window up !!! He strolled right up next to my drivers window and stopped, and appeared to look at me, almost as if he was going to wink at me and say “ I got you” … then with a little shimmy that I felt sure was going to nudge my little car off the road, off he went up the road and then into the bushland. I am still not sure who is more pleased with themselves …. Him or me ?? I am sure he thought he called my bluff and won …. but I have the photo’s to prove I came, stood my ground and got what I came for … an amazing elephant experience and won !!!!
From here on I would have been sort of happy if I didn’t see another elephant, so pleased was I by this first encounter ….. but no …. more was to come !!! The drive through Addo is one of the most incredible drives you can ever experience. That is of course my opinion and I know my daughter Crissie agrees. She declared it her favourite place in South Africa and I can’t disagree with her. Crissie, her husband Glenn and their 4 boys went back and forth through this place a few times during their time in South Africa. The drive through the reserve is stunning without the elephants, but throw them in with a few deer, turtles, warthogs, birds and other animals and it is simply the most amazing experience. The reserve is so perfectly Africa … you feel and sense that you are really in deep dark Africa. The views from the crest of hills is stunningly beautiful with endless ranges and plains as far as the eye can see with absolutely no sign of civilization.
Time after time I come upon another elephant here and then another elephant there meandering near the side of the road in the bush or just enjoying a stroll along the dirt roads. From the crest of a hill I can three or four elephants feeding in the thick foliage of the bushland to my right, while on the other side in the open grasslands I can see a lone elephant eagerly ripping and gorging itself on the tall grass from the ground all around it.
Time is against me to really just sit and absorb all this spectacular scenery and the grandeur of this amazing place with these majestic beasts roaming free and wild. I have to be in Port Elizabeth by sunset (5.00pm) to give a Bible Class at the Port Elizabeth Ecclesia later in the evening and so reluctantly I continue my drive until out of the corner of my eye I spot a large herd of elephants grazing on my left about 400 mts away. I immediately turn down a side road track and come within 30-40 mts of the herd that are slowly making their way towards the road I had just turned off, grazing off the lush foliage as they went. Suddenly, it became apparent there were at least two young baby elephants, one whom was being very closely watched and nurtured by its mother.
I was transfixed by this scene and by these elephants. Even if I wanted to leave and move on I couldn’t …. This was simply unbelievably, breathtakingly amazing …. After 15-20 minutes I moved back to where I had turned off from the main dirt road and within 5 minutes they were at the roadside in front of me, beside me and behind me. I just sat there …. breathless at the sight all-around me. If I had ordered an elephant safari drive “wish” through a park “genie” I could not have been granted a better wish …. this was (Hmmmm I’ve already used stunning, breathtaking, amazing, incredible, so there are no adjectives left to describe this place)
After 30-40 minutes that I didn’t have to spare, I moved on and made my way out of the park and on towards Port Elizabeth, but not before passing a huge herd of impala’s and some warthogs grazing along the way.
Deeper and deeper this “Africa thing” gets into my blood, drawing me deeper and deeper into its ?????? whatever this African thing is !!! Whatever it is, I am hopelessly smitten by everything about it.
I slept well last night, sleeping and dreaming of elephants …. Not just any elephants ….. African Elephants and my desire to see even more of this amazing country that is once and for all on my bucket list to stay.