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It’s All About the Elephants

27 Dec

Safari on Elephant Back - the famous Jabulani himself to be exact!

At Camp Jabulani, a Relais & Chateau property located in the private Kapama Game Reserve, everything is elephant.  In fact, there wouldn’t even be a Camp Jabulani without the inspiration of a tiny, 4-month old baby elephant whose herd was forced to abandon him when he got stuck in the mud of a silt dam.  It took over year (along with the help of a sheep named “Skaap” who acted as a surrogate mother) to nurse the little guy back to health.  After baby Jabulani (his name means, “rejoice”) was healed, numerous efforts were made to release him back into the bush.  He was not having any of it.  These humans were his family now, and he had no intention of leaving them.  Luckily, or as they say at The Camp…”fate stepped in”.  Just five years after rescuing Jabulani, it was discovered that 12 Zimbabwean elephants needed a new home as the farm they currently lived on had been seized by war veterans.  These ellies would have been collateral damage if it hadn’t been for the rescue efforts of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre and what eventually became the Camp Jabulani that exists today.

In my opinion, this type of operation could have easily become a “cheesy” petting zoo type experience.  On the contrary, Camp Jabulani is quite the opposite.  It is a true luxe safari experience.  With its 5-star quality lodges (each with private pool),  beck-and-call service standards, on-site spa, and let’s not forget the gourmet food that blew us away at each meal.  Seriously – the food is incredible…edgy flavors, beautiful presentation, and to top it off – the chef shares her recipes!  Although, last I checked they don’t sell Wart Hog or Antelope at any of the markets here in Beijing – so it might be a while before I can actually test any of them myself.

Brett and I truly loved our time spent at Camp Jabulani.  Safari on Elephant Back was a completely different experience.  You really have a bird’s-eye view of the bush – not to mention the tranquility of it all.  Plus, watching the elephants have their “play time” in the watering hole and visiting the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre to play with baby cheetahs were unforgettable moments.

Even though this little baby is too small to take guests on safari just yet, she likes to join the herd so she can stay close to her mamma. Nature is so precious.

The ellies play!

Just a second after I snapped this shot...the little ellie lying on his side lost his footing and crashed into the water. It was equally hilarious and heartbreaking. More incredible though - was the way that the entire herd rushed to the little one's aid.

There are more than just elephants at Camp Jabulani. Expect to see all of the Big 5 as well - from elephant back if you are lucky!

Wild dog! Check out that crazy hide.

It was all I could do to stay in the jeep! I just love giraffes.

We figured out that if we ask for the biggest ellie - we could ride on safari together. Much more fun! BTW- safari on elephant back was much more comfortable on my burned back than bouncing around on the primitive paths in a land rover jeep.

These little wart hogs have no fear. OK maybe...it was me that had no fear! They are so ugly they're cute - and I just had to get a closer look. If you look closely, you will see that they are actually on their knees, snout to the ground searching for food. Hungry little buggers, right?

One gorgeous sunset + my gorgeous husband = perfection.

Our view during Camp J "sun-downers" - what South Africans call cocktail hour. Stunning.

This beautiful surprise set-up was waiting for us after the sun-downers. The five-course meal to follow was also to die for, and it put both of us into a fantastic food coma.

On our last morning at Jabulani - before leaving for the Blyde River Canyon, we visited the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. These two charming cheetahs were rescued from the wild after injury.

Playing with a cheetah cub born at the center. This cutey will be trained to live in the wild by older cheetahs who split their time between the wild and the center. That's right - these smarty pant cats have realized that when things get too tough in the wild...they can take a vacation to a place where humans provide them shelter and serve them food and drink. Brilliant.

Shortly after this picture was taken, this little kitty had to be put into "time-out". He became a little over zealous and started to climb on my back. Under normal circumstances - no biggie, but with 2nd and 3rd degree burns from the fire-pit fiasco...it was a less than ideal situation. In the kitty's defense, our ranger did tell me that if I stayed in one position for too long, the cubs would want to climb on me. I suppose I was just too distracted by their cuteness to keep track. Wouldn't you have been?

Up next: Our voyage to the Blyde River Canyon  – the 3rd largest canyon in the world and it is completely green and a spa retreat at Cybele Forest Lodge.  Stay tuned!

A special thank you to the team at Camp Jabulani for an incredible South African adventure!

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One Response to “It’s All About the Elephants”

  1. moya January 23, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    So so envy you. One picture there made me think you are the prince and princess, definitely loyal family style.
    Did you wear high heels in the trip? Lol

    M

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