Tag Archives: South Africa

#toystory

I grew up loving a stuffed toy elephant and lion. Together,  they were Ellie and Leo. Very original, I know.  They were a set of stuffed small bean-bag style toys. The best of friends among themselves, propped up on my bed. They were adorable (if I don’t say so myself). They travelled the world with me and like for any child, they were a comforting, constant presence.

Leo’s mane had been whittled into a thin wisened, wizardly beard, almost dreadlock-like from overuse: too much stroking, not enough washing hehe. Don’t laugh. I had them well into my late teens (…if not into my early 20s!). I’m sure many people share this trait, they just don’t admit to it. As I grow older, I actually get more comfortable with admitting the desire to hold onto being a child at heart. These toys were a window into my childhood.

I was genuinely excited to go to Africa earlier this year, to discover Ellie and Leo’s ancestors. No joke. Lions and elephants were both  spectacular in the flesh!! I think Leo had always been my secret favorite (even though I know we’re not supposed to have favorites)…but the surprise of the trip was most definitely having fallen in love with elephants.  Elephants exhibit a depth of emotional intelligence and humanity to them that was almost palpable.  Lions do still have some the most interesting behavior of all the cats, and of many of the animals in general.  You can watch them for hours: they have interesting social behaviors and are often more active than many other animals.  It can also take FOREVER to find them!  We were lucky enough to find a few lionesses on the hunt in Kruger National Park and it was one of the most incredible experiences to watch them running between and around the cars on safari, using the road to track their kill and the cars like boulders, oblivious to us bystander!!

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Sniffing something out

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Too close for comfort?

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Leo’s mother on the move

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I can’t help myself – an occasional black and white monotone photo I think often adds great character and intensity to already beautiful animal portraits. The harsh sunlight and shadows from the trees in the South African landscape made for some beautiful, playful darkened lines and patches on these lionesses, deep in concentration.

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Deep in contemplation (…maybe the next meal?)

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Stealth beneath the bushes

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The intensity of a lioness

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A young male hiding beneath the thicket

Elephants tend to be a little easier to catch – size sometimes matters.

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Ellie’s grandfather caught hiding behind the trees

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Cousins in the reeds

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I’m watching you!

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Don’t be shy!

Ellie and Leo were eventually joined by another long-eared and flopsy mopsy rabbit (read Beatrix Potter if you don’t know this reference!), with a triangle-like body, that I named Isosceles: a great descriptive name!  I left Ellie, Leo and Isosceles in Australia…New York winters were a little too harsh for them! More recently though, in the concrete jungle, the metropolis of New York – I was gifted a somewhat ironic addition. A small donkey! Ruben, or ‘Rubi’ for short. Watch this space 🙂 #anothertoystory

A warm and fuzzy story always helps start the week on the right note. Happy Sunday.  Good luck for Monday!

M xx

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Falling in love with elephants

I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life as when I saw an elephant walking towards me.  On safari. In Kruger National Park. Amazing place! And of course, the safari guide, rather than driving backward and reversing away from the advancing bull – he drove forward and stopped the safari truck near a tree, waiting patiently for the bull to near our truck. It stopped right at the tree. Nibbled on some green shoots. Surveyed the area. Sized us up. I wandered what it was wandering about. Terrified. So terrified I even stopped taking photos, scared that the elephant’s trunk would reach into the car or hear and take offense from my camera shutter. Little did I know that animals see black and white, and in 2D – so they couldn’t see me inside the vehicle anyway! My friend took some very funny photos of my wide eyes and shocked expression as the elephant walked past us peacefully and left us well alone! What an experience.

Kruger National Park is probably one of the most incredible nature and animal sanctuaries. A reminder of what Eden must have been like. Of what the world was like before we relegated these enormous, mighty animals to small national parks. It was a meditative space of beauty. And Africa Spear was a fantastic safari company – fwiw. Our safari guide was truly passionate about the park, conservation, the animals – his knowledge was impressive. He particularly loved elephants. He would talk to them. He would talk to them. He would invite them over.

And the elephants understood. I really believe that. You could feel their intelligence. Their piercing eyes – looking deep into you. They are  majestic, grand animals. They are capable of love, gratitude, happiness, pain, expressing fun, thanks and anger. You could see them helping the children of the herd across the river, you could see them having fun with each other, spraying water and sand on themselves and others. The biggest mammals on the lands of this earth – wonderfully meditative and insightful. Old wisened men and mothers in a hulk, wrinkled body. I can see why Hindus see Ganesh as a great deity.

I came to Africa thinking I would be most fascinated by the big cats, intoxicated by my dream of seeing lions and leopards. And instead I fell in love with elephants.

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Twin delight

Most of these photos were actually taken in Botswana, in Chobe National Park. It is the home to some of the highest density of the Kalahari elephant, the largest in the world. Some 120,000 or so are in the park. And they are an impressive bunch.

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Mother and daughter

The elephants helped each other cross the rivers and would arise from the waters dark and glistening, as if their grey bone colored wrinkled bodies had turned a dark chocolate brown.

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Mamma, don’t leave me behind!

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Doesn’t he look like he’s smiling!?

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Keeping cool in the hot summer’s day

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 I see you elephant, behind that tall grass!

A must-read on your trip to Africa (or Asia) if you are going to see elephants, is the book “Elephant Company”. I think I had already fallen in love with elephants before I came into contact with them, such was the personality and humanity expressed of the gentle giants.

M xx