Let the games begin!
We awoke at 5am to prepare for the much awaited elephant ride. The four of us (Larry, myself, Eva and Oscar) walked through the cottonsilk trees to the front of the resort, where our elephant was waiting for us. Her name was Santicali, and she can best be described as a gentle giant. Neither Eva or Larry could resist themselves, and they immediately rushed over to pet and feel her trunk and rough skin. After the initial shock and awe of the experience set in, I was the first person to climb in the wooden 4 person saddle. With 8 legs dangling down Santicali's sides, our bumpy ride began. I won't lie, at first I thought I was going to end of getting seasick (elephantsick?). We got used to the motion pretty quickly though.
Soon, we strolled past the elephant stable and made our way parallel to the river bank.
What a sight!
It wasn't long after that we saw our first rhino. The view was slightly hindered by the reeds, but we could see the massive armored plates these animals depend on. Its skin looked so tough and strong, I would be surprised if even a determined tiger could pierce it. Pleasantly surprised with our early sighting, we continued on our journey hoping for continued luck. We took in more deer and birds, but it wasn't until we reached a watering hole halfway through of journey that we truly experienced the full potential of the safari. As we went around a bend in the trail, our guide (who sat on the elephant's neck as he steered) quietly whispered 'rhinos' to our group. He had spotted a family of 4 rhinos (2 adults, 2 babies) wading in the watering hole.
Heading into the river
Immediately, the male adult turned its gaze up to us. The 3 others, somewhat oblivious, continued their normal business. As we snapped several pictures from our unique vantage point, one baby began nursing. It was remarkable. We didn't think it could get any better, until we heard a rustling in the bushes behind the watering hole. Out popped a dozen or so wild boar, of all ages. They scampered to the water's edge and began to drink. It was a special moment we will never forget. As for the rest of the safari, it yielded several types of deer, birds,lizards and crocodiles. Mind you, this was all before 8am.
Our day with the elephants wasn't over. In the late morning we had an elephant briefing where we learned all about these beautiful creatures.
Shaking hands with the cutest baby elephant on the planet!
We pulled grass and weeds and fed the elephants until they could take no more. Luckily for us, the monsoon season has been kind to Larry and I. Because it was sunny, the four of us took turns mounting the elephants bareback, sitting on their necks and directing them by itching their ears with our feet. We headed to the river with Santicali, 2 other adult elephants, and 1 ridiculously cute baby elephant that stood about as high as Larry's waist. Once in the river, the elephants did half barrel rolls (as we climbed across them), sprayed water from their massive trunks at us (remember to keep your mouth shut when they do this--Larry didn't!), and basically just played about. The baby elephant joined us as well, and with the water almost up to his eyeballs, all you could see was a long gray periscope like trunk, 2 eyes as big as golf balls, and 2 floppy, soaking wet ears.
We could have spent the rest of our trip in that river.