A view from an elephants back – 1998

Saturday morning has traditionally been the time when people stagger out of bed with sore heads and parrot-cage mouths to adorn bad, fitting track suits and throw themselves around various sporting type places in an attempt to get fit and to lose all those calories that got piled on by the previous night’s excesses. I used to fall into this category but have since matured, (or become extremely boring, whichever way you want to look at it) and now get my weekly Saturday morning exercise by being dragged down to the vet by my two over enthusiastic mutts.

It was therefore with a little apprehension that I allowed myself to be hauled out one Saturday morning by our extremely fit and healthy editor!!! Any exercise with Ed other than the lifting of wine glasses is cause for concern so I was slightly bemused to find that not only I, but also an assortment of children (Eds. and otherwise) were coming as well. Near Chinhoyi, (just an hour and a half out of Harare), we pulled onto a dirt track and stopped at the beautiful farmstead of Rory and Lindy Hensman. It was here, theoretically that our inner thigh and calf muscles were going to be toned with at spot of exercise.

The Hensman’s have, amongst a variety of other animals, seven orphaned elephants who have been trained by Rory. Actually they have more than even, as they also own elephants near Victoria Falls. The elephants, I was informed, would be here the exercise bit came in, and before I knew it, we were two meters high and indulging in the awesome experience of riding, the world’s largest beast. None of the ‘sitting in seats and gently swaying with the motion’ type stuff here. This is more the ‘bare back on a sack or two and hold onto your handler in case of emergency’ scenario. As we strolled through the bush along the ‘Manyame’ river with the sound of the birds and insects for company, it made me realise why it is that so many people become besotted with this continent of contrasts, me included.

The two males and five female elephants range in age from two to ten years. They have handlers who spend all day walking the elephants around the farm ensuring that they do not demolish any one area too horrendously at once. Brilliantly trained and with a never-ending appetite for horse nuts, the elephants proved to be as amazing in themselves as the riding was.

This is not however the only activity available at the Hensmans’ farm. Jill and Peter Pocket have been fortunate enough to go into partnership with the Hensmans and now have a variety of other options on offer, They have one and two day trips,‘where not only can you participate in elephant rides, you can also go canoeing on the Manyame River’, game viewing by, horseback or fishing for Tiger. On the highest point of the farm the Hénsmans have built a beautiful stone and thatch lodge which boasts hot running water, electricity, a bar, kitchen, ‘dining area, one double and two twin rooms. From high up here the view across the surrounding countryside is stunning, made perhaps even better with a glass, of chilled white wine (I knew there must be some exercise involved somewhere) and a brilliant picnic lunch.

Jill and Peter also run up market tours in Mana Pools, and are more than happy to accommodate individual tour requests. So if you feel that the shorter trips are too short, or you want more close up encounters with elephants, or maybe‘ catch that bigger Tiger, why not carry on past the farm and indulge in a three or four day Mana Pools safari.

Enjoyable though it was, a visit with Ed put on, rather than took off the calories and consequently, I’m very much looking forward to being dragged to the vets next week!

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