“Seldom does the average human being ever get the opportunity to stand alongside one of the world’s most magnanimous creatures.”
At the foot of the Magaliesberg, only one hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, in the malaria-free North West Province, lies the Hartbeespoort Elephant Sanctuary.
Surrounded by natural indigenous flora, the sanctuary is home to a wide array of wild life including impala, klipspringer, baboons, porcupine, caracal, leopard, as well as a host of other small mammals, in excess of 350 bird species and, obviously, six magnificent African Elephants.
The Elephant Sanctuary provides a safe haven for the elephant inhabitants, of whom most have been rescued en route to far-eastern circuses, and offers a platform for guest education and interaction. On entering the sanctuary grounds, one is at once swallowed up by the fertile bushveld surroundings, the pungent smell of the wild permeating the air.
The sanctuary offers the visitor interactive, elephant driven programmes, allowing man, woman and beast to be in close proximity with each other, all the while focusing on the most important part of the operation, ensuring happy elephants and satisfied guests.
The Elephant Sanctuary implements a reward-based training system, which ensures a relationship of trust between the animals and their trainers. With a strong belief in forming bonds between humans and elephants, all elephants are exercised and stimulated daily, providing a firm foundation for trust and mutual respect between man and beast.
It is a little known fact that the trainers at the Elephant Sanctuary are of the best in their field on a global scale. A better known fact is that elephants are highly intelligent and delightful creatures, and guests are guaranteed to discover a different character, personality and temperament within each one.
The family orientated operation caters for young and old, keeping its primary focus on education. Through interaction visitors will not only learn a lot about elephants, but also get to touch, feel, feed, walk with and ride these splendid animals.
Coarse hair bristles against one’s hand as you run it over the leathery surface of the elephant’s skin, and the unwavering trust that exudes from the animal is overwhelming. In stark contrast, the skin of the back of their enormous ears can be compared to a baby’s bottom and as the elephant patiently waits for the inspection to end, it displays a temperament to match. There seems to be no fear as you place your entire hand on the creature’s tongue, or when walking hand-in-trunk with your new friend, and one cannot help but thank it for its time when the session has come to an end.
The sanctuary offers an array of different programmes throughout the day, catering to a vast variety of visitors’ needs. Ranging in time from as little as an hour and 45 minutes to overnight adventures. Partaking in any one of the programmes is an experience that will surely remain with you for a lifetime.
Visitors are afforded the opportunity to feed the elephants, touch and interact with them, walk trunk in hand with them and learn about their social structure, behaviour, anatomy and individual characters. Some of the programmes offer visitors the unique opportunity to witness and become part of the special relationship that the elephant handlers share with their elephants; take a walk with these beasts, see where they sleep at night, feed them and, on some hot days, even see them having a swim.
The elephant rides specifically cater for the super adventurous and somewhat fit. Riding gives one the opportunity to experience elephants from a different perspective – a privilege which was historically reserved for kings.
“An adventure not to be forgotten, to stand alongside one of the world’s most admired creatures. An experience that everyone, young or old, should try and accomplish at least once.”
Contact the Elephant Sanctuary • 012 258 0423/ • www.elephantsanctuary.co.za