Friday, April 24, 2015

Casual Fridays

Yesterday my niece was over and we were discussing our favorite animals. Because hello, what's more fun than favorite animals?! My favorite happens to be the elephant. And I was telling my niece about the time I got to ride a real, live elephant. And then I started showing her the pictures from when I did that. And then I realized that it has been exactly five years since that memorable ride. 

So I decided to dedicate today's Casual Friday post to one of my favorite memories. Taking an elephant-back safari in Sun City, South Africa.

For those of you reading who may not know, I spent 6 months in Johannesburg, South Africa from October 2009 to May 2010. As I was nearing the end of my time in South Africa, I found out about this place you could go to take a safari while riding an elephant. First of all, it had been a major bucket-list goal of mine for quite some time to ride an elephant. I am that girl who always wanted to ride one in the parking lot of the local festival that was traveling through or who would spend the whole day at the zoo watching the elephants--forget about the other animals. So when I heard about this, I had to do it. I mean, how many people get to ride an elephant through an African game reserve?? I got online, booked my excursion, got some directions, and did it. I remember the long drive there was gorgeous. Fields and fields of sunflowers in full bloom. I wanted so badly to get out of the car and snap some photos, but the better part of wisdom said, "Hannah, stay in your car and keep driving, white girl." And for once in my life, I listened. 

Somehow, I found Sun City without getting lost, met my guide, and was driven out into the heart of the African plains. Turns out I was the only one who booked a ride that day. Winning! I then was introduced to 6 of the most gorgeous creatures I had ever laid eyes on. These huge beasts walked right up to me and surrounded me. It was a wee bit intimidating, but also the coolest thing I have ever done. I was told that I'd be riding Michael, the very biggest one, and then shown how to mount him. (It involved climbing steps to the top of a wall I had to stand on in order to get on his back.) I will never forget the sensation of being so high off the ground. It was awesome. Two huge elephants walked in front, then Michael's handler and me on Michael in the middle, and two more huge elephants behind us with a little 13-month old elephant walking with us. I was amazed at how they all walked in a line and how the baby would just walk right underneath us, through and around and under the legs of all the adult elephants. So cool. We spent about an hour riding these guys through the bush, walking right by other incredible animals including rhinos and zebras. It was breathtaking.

chatting it up with Michael
After we finished our ride, I was given the opportunity to interact with the elephants in a bit more up-close-and-personal fashion. I even got really brave and fed Michael.

As you can see, this involved putting the majority of my arm inside his mouth. No big deal. I remember that as I was sticking my hand inside his mouth, one of the handlers mentioned that one of the elephants likes to snap down before you can get your hand out. Excuse me?! Fortunately, I walked away with all my limbs intact.

Me and Michael ~ April 16, 2010
All in all, it remains one of the very coolest things I have ever done, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What is your favorite animal? Or what crazy item have you been wanting to check off your bucket list? Feel free to share something unique you've done in the combox, and have an extraordinary weekend!


  1. Giraffe!! The closest I have gotten is feeding them at Busch Gardens, though.

    1. What?! You did?! How old were you? Were their tongues incredibly long? I've heard that they are ridiculously long.

  2. In Georgia, I went to a drive through animal feeding place (very descriptive, I know) and got to feed zebras, ostriches, giraffes, deer, donkeys, and other animals out of the car. The giraffe had such a long nose and LITERALLY STUCK HIS ENTIRE HEAD IN THE WINDOW. It was scary awesome. :)

  3. Wow, what an odd variety of animals. That is so cool though. I want a giraffe to stick his head in my car. Maybe. =)

  4. I was around 13-14. We had passes and YES! Super long!!!!