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Dodging elephants with a smile More articles...

It was a massive, solitary bull elephant, right on the tarmac and he wasn't moving for anybody, taking his time, eating leaves from trees bordering the roadside in the Kruger National Park. And as everyone knows these lonesome elephants can be highly dangerous; in fact many of the elephants, which have charged at stationary vehicles have been unaccompanied.

A group of tourists and I watched in awe and delight. This was the second of the 'Big Five' (elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo) we had just encountered. The first being a pride of lions a few yards back.

The tourists were all clicking away with their cameras when the elephant flapped his ears in extreme irritation and lumbered forward, menacingly towards us. Myself and three other driver guides in stationary vehicles in the vicinity, quickly turned on the ignitions and started reversing.

Suddenly, an irate French tourist in the passenger seat beside me pulled up the handbrake and shouted that he still wanted to take pictures. I stalled the vehicle and my heart jumped as the beast moved threateningly nearer.

I don't know how but I rapidly switched on again, reversed at great speed and scolded the Frenchman that what he had done was not on. And the other tourist passengers who had witnessed the incident shouted: 'Feed him to the lions!'

As we drove back to camp, it took sometime to convince the French tourist that bad-tempered elephants can overturn and trample vehicles as quick as lightning, and that we had had a narrow escape.

Excerpt from: Life as a tour guide in South Africa. Copyright (c) Bev Mortimer

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