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Riding the World’s Largest Land Mammal through Victoria Falls National Parkby Dalene Ingham-Brown


There I was - Victoria Falls - looking out over a branch of the Masuie River about to ride the world’s largest land mammal. Bubbles of excitement wiggled their way up from my tummy into a smile. Let’s DO this!

Elephant back safari with my elephant Jake

Meet Jake - the orphan elephant I rode from the Wild Horizons Orphanage

I met our cheerful (I could’ve sworn I saw him smile at me), orphan elephant who's come to find a home at the Wild HorizonsWildlife Sanctuary. His inquisitive trunk glided up my arm and around my frame in greeting. Right, now that we’d made friends, it was time to set off on safari together. Two per an elephant, and the guide in front, I hoisted myself on Jake’s back.

Leading the way were three armed rangers on foot. Armed! As if a human riding an elephant isn’t scary enough.  Jake was the biggest guy in the lot and the other ellies followed diligently behind them.

The guide, who sat right in front of me was full of information about the area and animal behaviour. Turns out, he trained Jake himself!

With a series of gentle taps on the ear accompanied by voice commands, Jake was more than happy to follow instructions. Good boy. Moving forward we swayed about as our enormous elephant planted his tree trunk legs on the ground, occasionally stopping to strip leaves clean off a tree’s branch.

Our convoy of elephant riders

Fellow riders enjoying their elephant back safari experience

The view from ol’ Jake’s back was quite something. It was like riding a safari lodge’s 2rd floor balcony across Victoria Falls National Park. We came across a herd of buffalo grazing in a field and passed right by them without the buffalo even batting a wiry eyelash. I’d just witnessed a moment of respect and mutual understanding between nature’s wildlife. With no lions in sight I felt like my elephant and I were king of the jungle. Even the shotgun-wielding rangers ducked behind an elephant at the sight of the notoriously bad tempered buffalo. In this neck of the wood you need to know someone to be safe. Like in the mafia.

After our safari we had the opportunity to thank Jake by feeding him. Scooping up pellets in my cupped hands from a food bucket I was instructed to either throw the pellets into his mouth (which he gladly opened) or I could simply pour the pellets into his eagerly tilted trunk.

I then tipped the guide (don’t forget to tip the guide) and sat down to a scrumptious breakfast of my own overlooking Victoria Falls National Park’s landscape of brown, orange and green. A morning well-spent. A morning thoroughly enjoyed.

Additional Information:

I ended up in Victoria Falls experienceing this elephant back safari while on the Magic Namibia overland trip.

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