South African Ellies
July 9, 2006
We spent last night in Plettenberg Bay since that was where we were going to start our day today.
I have to report that I have been doing the ‘backpackers’ thing on this tour. I have become extraordinarily low-maintenance
as I don’t even have much of a problem sharing a room for two weeks with at least six other people. Okay. I did make one or
two comments to Lori as I thought Lori and I would be in a double when we booked this trip. Oh well. Since that wasn’t the
case, there was only one choice and that was to deal with it. To be honest, it feels like Outdoor Ed back in 6th grade all over
again. Sharing bunk beds. Having group dinners. Even occasionally playing games. It is kind of fun re-living those days that
were close to twenty years ago. Personally, with our ‘camping safari’ coming up at the end of this month (yes, you heard that
correctly), I just feel fortunate for the roof over my head and a hot shower.
We had the cutest dog at our backpacker’s lodge last night. He was a huge, over-stuffed Miniature Schnauzer named Willis. I
already have a thing for this breed of dog since one of the family’s that I did a lot of babysitting for has two Miniature
Schnauzers. The difference here was that this dog was the fattest dog I have seen for a very long time. I literally had to laugh
when I first saw him. Any psychological problems that dog might have probably has to do with people like me. I’m really not a
bad person…it just sounds like it right now.
We hit the road this morning en route to the Knysna Elephant Park.
First…some interesting facts about elephants:
- The brain of an African elephant is between 4.5 and 5 kilograms.
- Elephants spend 12-18 hours of the day eating.
- An elephant consumes between 150 and 350 kilograms of food per day.
- Females can become pregnant from around nine years of age.
- Pregnancy lasts 22 months.
- The leader of the herd is a cow known as the matriarch.
- An elephant has no sweat glands and uses the mud trapped within the folds of its skin to be it cool.
- They throw dust on themselves to get the flies away.
- Their trunks have over 100,000 muscles.
- Their trunk has no bone or cartilage.
- Their trunk can hold up to 8.5 liters of water.
- Elephants are also called ‘ellies’.
This elephant park was set up due to the huge amount of elephants in Kruger Park. To get the population down in Kruger they
were going to start killing (or ‘culling’) some of the elephants. Instead of resorting to this, elephants were sent to Knysna. The
elephant population in the Knysna Forest had decreased to approximately 3 by the year 2000 and this was a solution to
bringing them back into this area. Knysna Elephant Park opened in 1994 and is a controlled free range environment. It has
saved 15 elephants from culling. Most of the elephants that are at this elephant park are orphans that came from Kruger
We had fruit and pellets on hand to feed these gentle giants. These are smart animals and their trunks were going wild
knowing that we had food to offer. What to say about the feeling of the end of an elephant’s trunk rubbing up to your hand for
food? This is what is to say…it is just plain gross and slimy. But once your hand is covered with ellie slobber, what’s a bit
more…right? We continued to feed them both by trunk and by mouth. We petted them and even kissed them. They are truly
sweet animals. Well, I guess that’s unless there is a herd of them running after you. But luckily none of us had to experience
After spending a little bit of time in the town of Plettenberg Bay, we were off to spend time with more animals. This time it was
Monkeyland (how adorable is that name?) is the home to twelve different breeds of monkeys. Many of these monkeys have
come from zoos and some have been pets. Monkeyland was set up so that they can dehumanize the monkeys and get them
more used to a ‘wild’ habitat. This is a monkey heaven for people that love these animals. Lori definitely falls into this category.
And for those that just ‘like’ monkeys, you end up loving them by the time you have to leave (I know this because I fall into
this category). There was the black and white lemur which reminded me of a panda monkey and then there was the ringtail
lemur that I associated with a raccoon monkey. Most of the other monkeys looked like…well…monkeys. We watched them
mark their territory by making their noises. We also saw marks that they make on the tree trunks that also show whose
territory it is. We learned things such as the Zulu name for the knob tree means ‘white woman’s breasts’ because apparently
that’s the ‘knobs’ remind them of. You know…the important things.
Anyway, on our way across a long suspension bridge, Amy saw one of the monkeys. Instead of continuing to walk across like
we were told to do, she wanted to take a picture. This would have been fine and dandy if the monkey to be photographed did
not have his focus on an object of his desire. The item in question was my water bottle. As I am in mid-sentence saying
something to Amy, I feel something…though it is still a bit of a blur. What happened was the monkey jumped at me. Well, it
jumped at my water bottle. It grabbed it from me and I let go of it without a fight. If that’s what the Capuchin monkey wanted,
I was not going to get in its way. Sadly for the little guy, I hadn’t drunk enough of it and the 1.5 liters was more than his little
monkey hands could handle. He dropped it almost just as quickly as he snatched it from me. I was still too frazzled to look
back. After they informed me that the monkey had ran off from the bridge, it was only then that I could look back and see my
water bottle laying on the bridge. That little guy had given me a bit more excitement than I had bargained for.
We wrapped up our day by zip-lining and we are now at our backpacker’s lodge in Stormsriver Village. Upon arrival, Lori had a
surprise. Her backpack! British Airways had finally found it and had it delivered. This was also great news for me as this
backpack has been housing my Lonely Planet India book and my Lonely Planet China book. Good times for all...
A baby ellie.
A ring-tailed lemur monkey.