It’s not an everyday occurrence…to stick your hand full of pellets in an elephants mouth that is…but it definitely is one that you will want to do again. After a hearty breakfast, we took an hour drive to the Bayete Elephant Interaction. Hosting a unique elephant encounter every day at 11 am. Bookings are, expectantly, essential.

We went as a group of 14, with most of our group only seeing their first elephant in the wild just the day before. Now they were going to get an even more up close and personal interaction.

Huddled within the shade of the dedicated seating area, we watched two elephants and their human companion’s approach. Adults and children alike sat in awe of their relaxed demeanour. Clearly showing up to entertain a group of 30 or so little humans does not generate an ounce of anxiety…especially when snacks are involved.  

Rambo and Rachel are their names. The ranger and the elephant’s human companions/ keepers explain the history of Rambo, Rachel and the late Jabulani. I won’t spoil it by giving you the whole background history and interesting facts they shared because it is truly an experience everyone should have. In short, Rambo and Rachel are “habituated elephants who were rescued after their herd was culled…”, quoted from the Bayete website, “…when the elephants are not greeting visitors, they are roaming freely within the Manyoni Game Reserve with their keepers by their side.”

It was very humbling to know that these majestic, intelligent creatures allow us to get so close to them, touch them, feed them, knowing full well that they don’t have to be here. They don’t have to do this if they felt like they’d rather just go chill by a waterhole. They are quite wild elephants. They are as free as an elephant can be. Their human keepers are part of their herd- they hike with them, sleep in the bush with them and Rambo and Rachel will fight off other animals to protect them.

After the educational lesson, you are allowed to approach Rambo in groups of 4 or less. You start by feeding him and feeling his trunk. You then make your way under his head to feel his legs, chest, tusks and most impressively, his tongue. You feed him by sticking your hand in his mouth and placing his snacks on his tongue. He seems to appreciate that.

 After posing for a few pictures with him, you move on to meet Rachel. A little cheekier she will demand more snacks if you don’t provide them fast enough.

Right at the end, they demonstrate the power of the elephant’s trunk before wrapping up with a  bottle of complimentary water.

This experience at Bayete is not like cheap tourist traps that you find around the world, where you feel like you’ve been conned into participating in some kind of animal cruelty. This is truly an unpretentious, unique and respectful experience. It leaves you more in love with nature and curious about the animals we share this Earth with.

For more excursions and activites from or at Thornwood, see our excursions list here.