“Safari Live” Field Notes: Among the Elephants

Djuma & Arathusa Game Reserves, Sabi Sands, South Africa – 1100PM.

I am not sure what it is about being in the presence of elephants, but there is something very special about the largest land mammal on the planet allowing you to be there with them, up close and personal.

Today, I had a pretty special encounter with two adult bulls who were spectacular in size, condition, and temperament.

I arrived at the dam as they were walking to water–always a great time to sit and observe these incredible creatures. They drank and bathed, and we sat in ore of them. They completed their daily routine and departed. I followed them and parked up about 30 feet/10m from them as we had gauged from their behavior they we comfortable with us being there.

Why is it we connect with creatures like this? Is it just anthropomorphism? Well, I think we all have a habit of giving human-like qualities to things around us that are non-human, and I think that has been instilled upon us over many moons through stories and ancient times.

WetElebullFor me, and most of you I am sure–we understand that elephants are complex, dedicated, social, and intelligent. We connect with many of the attributes they have because us humans share similar traits: we have a relatively long gestation period for a mammal, we nurture our young and support our offspring throughout their lives, and we stick in our family groups tighter than many other mammals on the planet. But, there is so much more that we cannot put into words. When you are in the presence of elephants, you become a trusting human–a humble human–a quiet and calm human. You are putting yourself into a world that is not yours, and that is unique in so many ways. A mammal that has immense power and strength, yet will allow us to be so close–SO close that he removed vegetation from right underneath my vehicle today!

One of the bulls moved towards me, feeding as he went, completely comfortable and at ease when the 30-foot distance suddenly became just three feet. He dictated the moves and proximity of us to him and felt secure, not finding us a threat at all, and allowed us to have this very special close encounter! (If anything, he was probably just wishing I would move the vehicle so he get the tender young shoots we were parking over!)

I suppose I am as guilty as anyone of giving human-like qualities to many creatures that I meet, and as I get older I don’t really have all the answers I may have thought I would with age–I am a mere human.

I think Charles Darwin said something in a book once along the lines of “our differences are in degree, not in kind”

Long live the Elephants..



Don’t miss live safaris every day at 9 a.m. ET on Nat Geo WILD! You can also catch bonus safaris online at WILDSafariLive.com!


  1. lev
    brooklyn, ny
    December 7, 2014, 2:27 am

    you, m8, are a international treasure. carry on.


  2. Kathy Schmidt
    Delaware Ohio
    December 7, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Absolutely love the concept of live presentation of Kruger and am thrilled with what you’ve done to show us all the wildlife…great stuff…keep it going!!!!!!!!

  3. Rhonda
    Callahan FL
    December 7, 2014, 6:05 pm

    What a terrific show this week during “Big Cat Week!” For those of us like me who cannot go on Safari this was pure joy. U learn U will see very cool surprises, and learn a lot about the animals from those guiding the show. My red basenji boy “Aussie” and I hope SafariLive becomes a standard – daily – show on NatGeoWild!!!! Thanks to Hayden and Pieter for being superb guides and teachers!

  4. Marlene Busby
    Galloway, Ohio
    December 7, 2014, 10:04 pm

    I love the new concept of doing Safari Live. I am looking forward to watching more live telecasts.

  5. Marlene Busby
    Galloway, Ohio
    December 7, 2014, 10:08 pm

    I think the live telecast is a great idea. Hope to see more of the same in the future.

  6. xena
    New York City
    December 8, 2014, 10:55 am

    this show was fabulous! I love the live aspect and when they Hayden came across the Rhinos….it was unbelievable. I stumbled on this by accident but hope it returns in the future!

  7. Ann McGaw
    December 8, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Thx. for all of it, Hayden. I have been privileged to go on 5 safaris since 2002 and going on 2 more next year. I understand the concept of Mother Africa. It hit me the first time (1983) I arrived in Nairobi. I have always loved animals and am blessed to be able to do these safaris. I hope NatGeoWild will decide to continue these in the near future. Take care and enjoy your family time. Peace and Love. Ann

  8. John Mejia
    United States
    December 8, 2014, 7:15 pm

    Ever one connected to making Safari live must be commented for its success. None us in our lifetime will have the opportunity to travel to Africa let alone be on a Safari. Bringing the brush and the animals into our living rooms will forever be impressed into our hearts and mind. To the Krueger wild preserve – Wow!
    Wonderful job my friends,
    “Keep Africa alive”

  9. Vicky
    New Mexico USA
    December 10, 2014, 2:48 pm

    HT, wow! I had a fabulous time watching you and Pieter. I only got in on the last year of the WE drives, got horribly addicted, and went through major withdrawal when they ended. Needless to say, I was overjoyed for them to come back. Therefore, I totally understood your and Pieter’s joy and excitement at what was going on. It is a wonderful thing to be able to share with people around the world, some that just love Africa, and others that will never be able to experience it in person. What an opportunity. I was blessed to be able to go to SA last year with Will’s OTS. What an experience. Now I can relive it through these online drives over & over…hopefully longer than 3 months. {hint, hint} Enjoy your time at home, thank your wife and boy for sharing you with the world.