A Walk on the Wild Side
I am eye to eye with Africa's gentle giant. Her name is Masadi, an elephant cow who is 18 years old and weighs 2150kgs. She swings her head gently in my direction.
Her handler explains the functions of her trunk, and points out things you only notice close up - like how her front feet are round, while her back feet are oval. All the while, he encourages me to touch her - her face, her tail, her trunk. Being this close to an elephant is breath-taking, and just a little bit frightening.
Our guide takes us through the anatomy of elephants, whilst displaying two elephant skulls. He answers the dozens of questions with ease and a friendly smile, cracking jokes that make the locals laugh and leave the foreigners scratching their heads.
A short while later, I'm walking hand-in-trunk with Temba, a young female, who eyes me sweetly when I look over my shoulder, and follows behind me quietly. The best part follows - we get to actually climb onto the backs of these magnificent animals and ride them for 15 minutes, their massive bulks swaying gently beneath us, affording us an elephant's eye view.
That same day I visit Bush Babies, the monkey sanctuary; right next door to the elephants. The sanctuary is for monkeys donated by the public, usually previously owned as pets. The sanctuary is a primate paradise - the fenced enclosure is massive and a haven of trees, giving the monkeys the space to roam freely.
In the one-hour tour we see six different species of monkeys - some so close we can touch them (one monkey takes a liking to a guest and tries to snatch away her sunglasses, but alas he is foiled by the guide), and others swing high above our heads, jumping from tree to tree. The guide talks about each breed as we walk along the paths through the forest, explaining the feeding schedules and the breeding program. Looking at the beauty of this place I keep thinking that if I were a monkey, this is where I would want to be.
Both these sanctuaries are worth the time to go see, and not only will you learn something and have a ball doing it, but you will be helping towards two valuable causes.
The Elephant Sanctuary
Tel: 012 258 0423 / 9906
Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary
Tel: 012 258 9908 or 071 791 7712
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