Roused from deep slumber, my day began very early, and then went on with driving through the dark morning on a very windy road through the approprietly named Misty Mountains. The road - usually stretching through lush green hills - allowed us only a glimpse of the next five meters that lay ahead as the headlights created a milky white bubble around us.
Dawn finally broke, painting the world in shades of gray and slowly breathing color into it. The landscape changed from mountains to plaines and my curiosity as to where we were going increased even more. One sign made me hesitate. Turn right for "Kruger Gate". No, it couldn't be, I thought.
However, as the sun rose in an overcast sky, making the clouds blush, we passed the main entrance into the Kruger National Park. My heart was pounding with joy, with utter excitement as it dawned on me that I was about to see the magnificent animals of Africa in the wild.
Fortunately the morning sky stayed overcast, keeping the sun from cooking us, only a glimpse of blue peering through occasionally. A pleasant breeze played with my hair as we rolled the windows down a bit, not too much since we didn't want to have a leopard stucking his head inside the car to say Hello.
At first I was afraid I would be bush blind, not able to see any animals. But that fear was soon laid to rest as I saw a buck, then two - including a little baby who was quite busy with his breakfast. Later an elephant cow with her baby stood in the high grass amongst the trees not far off the road, ripping leaves and branches.
It was incredible: lions sunbathed on the road, a rare white rhino grazed peacefully in the distance...
A day to remember...and a place to return to. :)
However, the day wasn't over yet. There was another surprise waiting for me. Again we drove with me having no clue as to where we were headed, but not long and we turned left: Elephant Whispers a sign greeted.
I remembered it. We had passed here in the morning on our way to the Kruger Park. Elephants. I had loved them since I was a child and watched them in the zoo. Now I wanted to know....
When we stepped inside, a woman greeted us and handed me two envelopes. One even had a cream-colored bow around it. No clue what that was all about, I was way beyond curious now and opened it up, my hands shaking slightly.
Tears couldn't be stopped when I realized that not only would we meet the gentle giants, but that we also had adopted two of the elephants.
Andile and Tembo.
I was eager to meet them. After a couple of minutes of waiting, we were finally introduced to Elephant Whispers' six tamed and trained elephants who were rescued from planned game reserve culling operations by Elephants for Africa Forever (EFAF). As ambassadors for their species, this herd has an important conservation message to share.
You come ignorant and leave educated - and filled with awe and respect. Being able to feel their constantly curious trunks, touch their rough and in some places incredibly soft skin, and offer tasty treats while learning about their behaviour and history from the Elephant Handlers was a once in a lifetime experience.
Having a big, gentle giant like Andile begging me to feed her little treats directly into her mouth so I could feel her soft tongue was incredible. 14 years old, she is a beautiful, young female African Elephant and I'm proud to be her Mom. ;)
Trusting, playfull and gentle....this herd reminds us that we share the planet with magnificent and incredibly intelligent creatures.
I'm grateful for these unforgettable memories.