Getting up close to,these majestic creatures is an experience in itself, but if you head to South Africa, you can climb on the back of An elephant. and see the surrounding wildlife from a whole new angle.
Climbing on the back of a six-ton animal that could crush you with one stamp of its foot can be a daunting experience. But don’t let that put you off. Elephant safaris are an increasingly popular way of seeing the countryside in South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia because not only do you have a bird’s-eye view of the savanna or jungle, but you also get closer to other wildlife than you would in a jeep or on foot.
This is because the scent of an elephant tends to overpower that of a human. Most safaris take place in game reserves, and the sunrise and sunset tours are best for game•viewing and heat avoidance. You have an experienced elephant driver holding the reins and. although it isn’t the most comfortable ride, there’s a saddle to hold on to, so the best thing to do is relax, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the veldt.
Ride on an ostrich
If you visit Safari Ostrich Show Farm in Oudtshoorn, South Africa you can learn more about the life of the planet’s largest bird, and even try the unusual sport of ostrich-riding.
Ostrich farming dates back to the 1880s and during the heydey of seriously large hats for ladies, South Africa’s exports of feathers ranked fourth after gold, diamonds, and wool.
These days, ostriches are more prized for their meat and hides, but you can still pick up a feather boa at the ostrich farming capital Oudtshoorn. It’s the live ostriches that most visitors come to see and a tour of the farm shows you every stage of their development, from giant eggs to fully grown birds standing up to 9ft (2.7m) tall. During the breeding season you can also visit the incubation room and watch chicks hatch.
The highlight is the Ostrich Derby in which skilled local jockeys race the giant birds. They may not match thoroughbred horses but can reach speeds of up to 40mph (6s Kmh) over a short stretch. If you’re brave enough, you can even try it yourself. The mounts selected are semi-tame—riding the rest of the herd is not recommended as they on deliver a vicious kick.
Head to an ancient horse festival
Naadam is an annual celebration based around the ancient Mongol warrior pursuits of horse racing. wrestling, and archery. For visitors it’s a chance to watch feats of athletic prowess and experience a great nomadic culture. Each year between July 11 and 13. the whole of Mongolia stops work to celebrate its three national sports in a huge and colorful festival. While the biggest and most famous celebration is in the capital Ulaanbaatar, this is a participation event in every town and village. It is not just the men who compete—women and children also participate in the archery and horse-racing.
One of the most spectacular events is the lust day parade, in which athletes, monks, and other people dressed just like Genghis Khan (or Chinggis Khan to use the preferred spelling) march to the capital’s main stadium for the grand opening ceremony. The horse-racing is the main draw for Western visitors. Mongolians start riding as babes-in-arms, but nothing quite prepares you for the sight of a small child (maybe as young as five) riding a 12-mile (20-km) race bareback. The racing takes place a short distance outside the capital, and many mounts and their jockeys have trained for months and traveled vast distances to attend. You may see as many as 400 animals competing in each event—an awesome sight as they gallop across the plain. The crush surrounding the competitions all adds to the atmosphere, with families descending on the capital to camp out, have a barbecue, and enjoy traditions that seem miles away from the Soviet-era skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline .