Destinations Magazine

Tembe Elephant Park: My TOP Travel Adventure of 2012

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

Mother and baby elephants in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa

My favorite travel adventure of 2012 was at Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa!

This speaks volumes for Tembe considering that it beat out my other Top Travel Adventures of 2012.  There was some serious stiff competition, like diving with sharks – without a cage!

Tembe Elephant is home to the largest elephants in Africa, the tuskers!

In the early 1900s the great tuskers were commonly found throughout the African continent, but now less than 40 remain in all of Africa because they’ve been hunted for their huge ivory tusks. Tembe is home to some of them, including Isilo, the largest elephant tusker in southern Africa!

But there’s more to Tembe than elephants!

(Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the elephants). Tembe is home to the Big 5 and the highly endangered wild dogs (which I didn’t see since they were hanging out in the opposite end of the 300 square meter park).  What I did see though were three lions.

Lions in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.
The male was off on his own a bit, while the two lionesses appeared bored and uninterested as our safari jeep pulled up.  It’s incredible how interesting lions can be, even when they’re doing absolutely nothing!   Fortunately, one of the lionesses decided that we deserved a little action and starting cleaning the other lioness:
Lionesses cleaning in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.
Apparently this worked up her attitude as she got up and started to stalk…nothing.  At least that’s what I thought at first.  Then I slowly saw it, an antelope almost totally camouflaged in the tall grass.

Lioness hunting in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.

Lioness hunting an antelope hiding in the grass (it’s the brown thing just left of center).

I was seeing a lioness hunt!

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted her hunt to succeed or not.  Unfortunately for her she didn’t.  She then made her way back and moved onto a much easier target – the three safari jeeps full of slow-moving un-camouflaged tourists.  She stared us down and parked herself less than 5 meters away – never taking her eyes off of us.  One lady in the jeep behind us was so scared that she hid under her jacket on the floor.  I was in complete and total awe.  There was nothing from stopping the lioness from attacking our safari jeep, yet she didn’t.  Having said that, there’s no way I would have been getting out of the jeep to take a bathroom break!

Lioness stalking a safari jeep in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.
Some time later, our jeep moved on, our guide whispering something into his radio to another guide.  They had spotted something else and were moving up.  I was annoyed and wanted to stay with the lions.  What could be more incredible than observing lions, seeing a lioness hunt and being stalked by a lioness?

How about a large herd of Tembe’s most famous residents?

Elephant herd, including two newborns in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.
I lost track of how many there were, but there were over easily over 20.  As luck would have it I got to see the large herd crossing the road as they moved into the forest for the night.  Incredible!  And then something even more incredible happened!   I got within 10 meters of not one, but two baby elephants   And get this:  they were only three days old!

Yes, I was THISCLOSE to two-three day old baby elephants…in the wild!:

Two three-day old elephant calves in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.

Two three-day old elephant calves in Tembe.

I couldn’t believe all that I had experienced in a mere three hours at Tembe and I still can’t!

Anyone who has ever done a safari knows that there can be periods of long waiting, often hours of just seeing the odd antelope. Our luck in Tembe was incredible!

A herd of elephants got very close to our safari jeeps in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.
Visitors to Tembe Elephant Park can sign up for two jeep safari drives daily, but animal enthusiasts craving more can make their way down to the watering hole and a hide where visitors can spend the entire day observing everyone who comes to the watering hole including bird, antelopes…and of course some of Tembe’s 200+elephants!  Be sure to check out the 24 hour web cam of the watering hole in Tembe Elephant Park.  After viewing it for less than 30 seconds I started planning my trip to Tembe!

Elephant at watering hole in Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa.

Elephant at watering hole in Tembe. The webcam is on the watering hole 24/7. I find it highly entertaining.

Despite seeing elephants in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park in South Africa and lions in Hlane Royal Park in Swaziland, I left Tembe in complete amazement.

Tembe Elephant Park  was truly the most special place that I visited in 2012 and a travel experience that I will never forget.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog