Most Unique African Safari Animals: African Elephant

what-to-check-when-comparing-african-safari-price

The African elephant is a staple of safari iconography, identified just as easily in silhouette as they are in person. Their tall profile, broad backs, sweeping trunks and prominent tusks all make them a unique combination of features unlike anything else on the planet. Many people travel thousands of miles to African countries just to get a glimpse of these huge, majestic beasts.

You can join their ranks and have a camera roll filled with snaps of wild elephant herds when you go an African safari tour and tell your guide that seeing elephants is your priority. Here are some interesting facts to help your search while also helping you understand just how amazing and special the elephant is.

Physical Traits of the African Elephant

African bush elephants are the largest land animal on the planet. Males typically grow to between 10 and 13 feet tall at their shoulder and weigh anywhere from 5,000 to 14,000 lbs. The largest recorded individual was 13.1 ft tall at its shoulders and weighed nearly 22,000 lbs!

Their prehensile trunks can grow seven feet long and weigh up to 400 lbs. These appendages are truly remarkable, acting like a fifth limb used for everything from picking off foliage to moving tree trunks to even acting like a snorkel or a straw.

Zoologists estimate that the trunk has over 100,000 muscles and tendons inside of it, which give it both an incredible amount of strength and substantial dexterity. African elephants have two finger-like “tip” projections on the end of their trunk, which is used to grasp objects as well as feel about with its sense of touch.

Of course, this schnozzola can be used to smell just like ours can. An elephant will raise their trunk into the air and wave it around to gather scent particles like a radar array gathers data. Small scent particles are trapped in the hairs inside the trunk and brought to a highly refined scent gland known as Jacobson’s organ on the roof of the mouth. They can use this organ to detect sexually active females up to 12 miles away. Some trainers are experimenting by using the African elephant’s highly sensitive scent glands to detect explosives or poachers, turning the tables on the people who wish to hunt them into extinction.

These poachers want to hunt them for their valuable ivory tusks. Tusks are incisor teeth modified through generations of evolution to form tools for the elephant. They will use them to dig in the ground, scrape bark off trees, lift objects and other tasks. Males also use them when charging, but bull elephants are more likely to intimidate with their large tusks than risk injury in a full-on charge.

Subspecies of African Elephant

  • Savannah or Bush Elephant — These elephants are the largest subspecies and can be found across the grassy savannah plains throughout southern and central Africa.
  • Forest Elephant — These African elephants are actually considered a separate species by some taxonomists because of their divergent DNA and evolutionary heritage. They are smaller, have darker skin and spend less time foraging compared to their larger bush counterparts.
  • Desert Elephants — These African elephants are not a true subspecies but rather a sub-community that has become partially adapted to dry conditions. They are mostly found in Namibia, but their populations have become extremely threatened by poaching.

Where to Find Elephants on an African Safari Tour

Although their territories have been interrupted by deforestation, poaching and other risks, African elephant populations are still fortunately widespread across the continent. You can find herds roaming Kruger Park in South Africa, the Okavango Delta or Chobe National Park in Botswana, the Amboseli National Park in Kenya and many other locations.

Book your elephant safari today by looking at our comprehensive African safari tour packages.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Peter’s African Safari Travel Diary

Today was already our 4th day in a row on travel adventure and safari through the beautiful Tanzania. How fast time runs is hard to tell and as we had so many impressions throughout our travel time was flying even faster. After a delicious breakfast at the Arusha Coffee Lodge we were leaving around 10:00am with our new guide Semle.

2016-11-02_africa_0001

2016-11-02_africa_0003

Our first destination was the Maramboi Tented Camp at lake Manyara for site inspection. But the road is the destination, as we could get already gorgeous impressions during our drive through the Masai land.

2016-11-02_africa_0009

Arriving at Maramboi we immediately went out for photographing and filming the beautiful and picturesque surroundings of the camp where one could see zebras, antelopes and wildebeest strolling between the pool and lake Manyara – you have to see this in reality in order to fully understand this beauty.

2016-11-02_africa_0049

After a delicious lunch we went out to the planes ourselves to get even a closer view of all the animals, a paradise for photographers and filmmakers.

2016-11-02_africa_0065

We were walking literally in the mid of all these animals, totally in harmony at least as was our impression – not so sure if all the animals felt exactly the same.

2016-11-02_africa_0074

2016-11-02_africa_0077

Needless to say we were all more than satisfied with all the photo opportunities we got presented in such a short time. After a selfi we went back on our vehicle again to head to Tarangire National Park that is just opposite to the Maramboi Camp.

2016-11-02_africa_0177-1

Wildlife is also stunning here and we were able to see warthogs, the usual suspects as wildebeest and antelopes, but also ostriches. The ostrich is one of the large flightless birds native to Africa and males can reach a heigth of 2.8m and achieve maximum running speeds of up to 70km/h.

2016-11-02_africa_0203

2016-11-02_africa_0223

The absolute highlight were elephants, especially two males crossing the horizon that allowed for great photographs and videos.

2016-11-02_africa_0274

Now it was time to drive up to the Ngorongoro highlands as we anted to get to the viewing point for Lake Manyara in time before sunset. Semle worked hard behind his steering wheel to bring the truck to breath taking speeds, but finally we made it in time for a wonderful sunset view over Lake Manyara.

2016-11-02_africa_0289

We could even see the animals grazing down in the juicy green banks of the lake, especially flamingos showing in a beautiful pink even far away.

2016-11-02_africa_0310

Now the sun started to disappear behind the Ngorongora crater rim and we headed to our final destination of today, the beautiful Manor Ngorongoro in the Ngorongoro Highlands. This is a rebuilt coffee planation pretty high up in the mountains and the climate was so totally different from where we came today, cool, humid and simply what you are looking for after such a day.

2016-11-02_africa_0324

Yes this place is really as gorgeous as the pictures show and as a great end of our photography day we had the chance to shoot a stunning rising moon.

2016-11-02_africa_0331

Our dinner was nothing short of being spectacular, for sure this was also because of the colonial style surrounding of this place that made us feel transferred back some 100 years in time – the best that could happen as the end of that day.

Find out more about the safari destination and accommdoations.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Peter’s African Safari Travel Diary

We had a great night in the Ruaha River Lodge and this morning went out on our game drive already before 6:00am in order to be able to get hold of a potentially beautiful sunrise. And what a sunrise that was, we were not disappointed at all!

2016-10-31_africa_0032

 

This is one of the routines when you are photographing on safari to get out as early as possible in order to be able to see the sunrise, enjoy the stunning colours during this first hours of the day and of course also to see potentially as many animals and if lucky predators still eating their kill from last night. The highlight we got this morning was no predators, but instead a beautiful giant eagle owl sitting high up in a tree.

2016-10-31_africa_0065

 

After we had done some driving we went down to the Ruaha river in order to have breakfast. There is nothing like having breakfast in the bush, where the sun is already a bit higher and already starts warming up the air, which is a nice welcome after the usually cool nights and morning hours. Alex our guide was nicely preparing the whole breakfast setup and we started enjoying our coffee or tea, while eating the deliciously prepared breakfast.

2016-10-31_africa_0097

 

We had at the same time the possibility to watch the animals in the dried river bed like elephants, antelopes and even some hippos. It quickly got warmer and we had to move on to come back to the lodge in order to pack and prepare for our next hop to Selous.

2016-10-31_africa_0116

 

We were brought to Selous by a small airplane from Fox airlines. We were heading to the beautiful Rufiji River Camp, where we arrived at 3:00pm.

2016-10-31_africa_0134

 

Our tent was built underneath a high roof made from wood and we were again surprised about how beautiful and comfortable the interior looked like in this place, far away from standard civilization. Meanwhile Joel and I were already used to sharing one room or tent and as they tended to be so spacious there was absolutely no problem with that.

2016-10-31_africa_0143

 

At 4:00pm we started our boat cruise on the Rufiji river where we would have the opportunity to see all the animals from a totally different view as compared to the usual view out of a vehicle. We started with huge groups of pelicans who were absolutely not shy when the boat got closer.

2016-10-31_africa_0153

 

Next were hippos who were hiding everywhere in the water and the one group we had approached now was obviously surprised and upset because they hurried to get away from us as quickly as possible.

2016-10-31_africa_0182

 

Around the river you can see a multitude of birds but as you already know I am not a birder. Nevertheless one cannot help keep shooting these beautiful animals and I even got the chance to shoot a goliath heron this evening – yes I am very proud I managed to identify this beautiful bird.

2016-10-31_africa_0403

 

One of the highlights was to be able to get very close to crocodiles and we saw quite a few magnificent ones. They were dozing lazy on the sandbanks in the grass enjoying the evening sun before sliding slowly back into the water as soon as our boat came closer.

2016-10-31_africa_0461

 

Another beautiful sunset closed the day when our boat arrived at the lodge to let us enjoy our dinner and well-deserved sleep after this day of breath taking views and adventures.

2016-10-31_africa_0476

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Find more African safari inspiration on our website.

Peter’s African Safari Travel Diary

We were starting this adventure through National Parks in Tanzania and Kenia from Zanzibar, where we had the privilege to stay in a stunning place called Next Paradise that turned out to be a real secret marvel at the Indian Ocean. This hotel is lead by Stuart and his wife. Stuart is an interesting, friendly and very much caring guy actually from Italy and living here in Zanzibar for many years now.

2016-10-30_africa_0018

 

We, these were my friends Ute Sonnenberg from Roho Ya Chui (http://www.rohoyachui.com) South Africa and Joel Lipton from LA and me from Austria. We all had arrived the evening before and now had far too soon to leave already for our African Safari sight inspection tour over the next few days, but at least  we got to see a wonderful sunrise when first looking out of our rooms this morning.

2016-10-30_africa_0004

 

Our destination for this day was the wonderful Ruaha National Park in Tanzania that we could access by small airplanes typically of the type Cessna Caravan via Dar Es Salam. On our second flight the captain was Peter Fox himself, one of the directors of the local airline as well as the lodge where we would stay. We arrived at noon at the local air strip in Ruaha, where our guide Alex was already waiting for us. Our goal was to stay as long as possible in the bush and arrive at the Ruaha River Lodge as late as possible, in order to give us maximum time for doing our photography and cinematography. Now it was a big advantage to travel in a small group where all members had essentially the same interests. We started to shoot ourselves warm with some nice baobab trees that can be found especially in these areas of Africa.

2016-10-30_africa_0049

 

While driving deeper into the bush towards the Ruaha river, there was no shortage of all different kind of animals, giraffes, elephants, antelopes, zebras, and of course birds, well you could ask which birds, but as I am no bird specialist yet I’d rather like not to specify them the wrong way. We made a stop near by the river for lunch and  from there it was nice to watch the animals grazing in the dried parts of the riverbed.

2016-10-30_africa_0181

 

Our first lion of this trip was a lioness obviously enjoying the shadow nearby the river. We did not expect the lioness lying around almost unprotected and easily watchable and she was not scared at all that we took pictures and videos of her as we got close to almost 10 meters, well an experienced guide can make this possible!

2016-10-30_africa_0273

 

A herd of elephants was scanning the riverbed for greens and it is always amazing to watch these animals walking together and doing their thing as a group. They usually keep their babies in the middle of the group for protection, but there in the wide and quiet riverbed they all felt so safe that they obviously loosened this rule a lot. We followed this group when they came out of the riverbed to find food somewhere else while moving in the beautiful Ruaha sunset. It was time for us to drive to the lodge, where we had dinner and went to bed tired but happy after that first day of our adventure. Tomorrow would be another interesting day starting early.

2016-10-30_africa_0410

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa