Close encounters with a giant lady

  • 24 August 2015 | By Chasing The Rainbow -

Among the many activities included with our fabulous NMB 5-in-1 passes, is a close encounter with Africa’s largest land mammal at Kwantu’s Elephant Sanctuary. Here you get to touch, feel, feed and even ride these gentle giants.


The Nelson Mandela Bay Pass- a fantastic tool for a family to use when exploring the destination.


Located on the N2, 80km East of Port Elizabeth, Kwantu Elephant Sanctuary is home to four lovely female ellies. Hailing originally from the balmy province of Limpopo, the giant ladies tend to feel the winter cold in the Eastern Cape, and are kept inside a custom-built gigantic elephant stable.


Mounting blocks make it much easier to mount the gentle giant.


When we arrived, our guide introduced us to Marula (23 years old and the matriarch of the little group), Ndlovu and Mujamba (both around 15 years, and having names that mean “elephant”) and Mandebvu (the baby of the group, only 9 years of age).


The four elephants and their mahouts (trainers) gave an impressive display where they showed us how well behaved they are, and how they listen to the voice commands for “right”, “left”, “slow” and “stop”.


Interaction and feeding the elephants feed cubes by hand.


We were split into pairs, and felt really excited as we climbed up the mounting blocks and scrambled on behind the mahout. There are no saddles involved – just a blanket over the elephant’s back, and an experienced trainer in control. Ralph and I rode magnificent Marula, and Luke and Cian enjoyed being on noble Ndlovu, who is apparently the gentlest and most perceptive of the quartet.


Perched on an elephant back is an awesome experience.


Marula had a pretty wide back, and it felt amazing to be perched on top of such an awesome animal. What a completely different perspective looking down at the elegant, gently loping shoulders and flapping elephant ears as she carried us down the path.


Cian and Luke both said that the ride was “really cool”, and Ralph and I enjoyed all the interesting elephant facts and stories that our mahout shared with us on the fifteen minute ride through the reserve.


Elephants show off their skills and listen to the command "Trunk Up" and then allow you to hand feed them pellets.


Once back, we got to reward our noble steeds with buckets of elephant heaven in the form of feed cubes. We were showed three methods of feeding. First up (and the least alarming) was to pour a handful of cubes into the tip of the ellie’s trunk. For the brave, you can raise your arm and say “trunk up” and the elephant responds by tipping its trunk up over its head and opening wide. You then stick your hand into its mouth and tip the food onto its huge tongue. Lastly, you can approach backwards with two handfuls of feed and feed two at the same time.


Marula showing off a magnicent trunk.


It’s hard to say who enjoyed the feeding more – the four of us (humans) or the four of them (elephants). All in all we had lots of laughs, loads of photos and tons and tons of fun. Kwantu provided a completely different elephant experience than our family is used to – and the magic of being so close to these magnificent creatures left us feeling refreshed, renewed and very happy.


Our NMB Passes covered the elephant interaction and feeding experience, and we received a 20% discount on the elephant rides.

Visit for more adventures with the Dirsuwei family - dreamer dad Ralph, bright mom Sarah, fishing-mad Jacob, social-teen Luke and cool-kid Cian.


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