The Evolution of The Camp Jabulani Elephant Experience

We previously wrote about changes afoot at Camp Jabulani ( ….and more specifically around their elephant back safaris.

Well, the time has arrived and on 01 April, Camp Jabulani will move away from elephant-back safaris to a more immersive interactive experience.

So what does this all mean?

Camp Jabulani has shared some information and answers to frequently asked questions which we share with you below.  In the words of Camp Jabulani, ‘The very word ‘evolution’ implies progression, and this is exactly what the new experience is all about. It is important to understand that we are losing nothing. We are enhancing the quality of the time spent with our elephants, for a more immersive interaction where man and elephant meet one another on equal terms.’.

• The First Meeting: A personal orientation with the Jabulani ‘mascots’

This first interaction, directly at the Lodge, is always a very powerful one where emotive bonds are instantly made. Guests also meet the elephant keepers, each of whom has a fascinating story to tell about his unique and touching journey with the elephants. During this interaction, visitors have the opportunity to touch and feed the elephants, and to have photographs taken in very close proximity.

• In Their Element: Elephants swim at the waterhole

This is one of the most popular aspects of the current Elephant Experience, and is one which will remain unchanged through the transition. Guests are transferred to one of the waterholes on the reserve to watch the elephants enjoying their daily swim. This is when their really playful nature comes out and to see them splashing, spraying and trumpeting is simply delightful. This is an excellent opportunity to capture some very special photographs and videos!

• Following Gigantic Footsteps: Elephant tracking

Guests will join a senior trails guide, a senior elephant keeper and their ranger to track the Jabulani elephants within the Big Five Kapama Private Game Reserve. Tracking takes place from the comfort of a safari vehicle. Under the guidance of the Jabulani team, guests learn how to use their senses to find the animals out in their natural habitat. Once the herd have been located, the afternoon is spent watching them and hearing more about the their individual stories, their personalities and how to identify them.

• Sunset and Goodnight: The stable experience

Guests meet up with the elephant herd as they enjoy their last drink at the dam at sunset. A very special moment, where the view is as beautiful as the sight of the animals in such a relaxed and contented space. As the herd makes its way back to the stables, guests follow at a short distance (although Jabulani likes to linger behind with ‘the humans’).

The Jabulani Stables are unique as they have been custom designed and built for the herd. The Elephant Manager will explain the stable layout, how it is cleaned and refreshed on a daily basis, and how the elephants are grouped into camps (based on their preferences), highlighting the relationship clusters that have formed within the herd. A particular treat is watching the babies at their bedtime!

• Getting ‘In The Know’: Elephant research in practice

Did you know that an elephant’s stress levels can be established and monitored through its dung? We have been conducting research for the last year, in an effort to understand the physiological and behavioral impact that human interactions have on the Jabulani herd. Although it sounds simple, it’s an intensive and really fascinating process, based on the comparison between free-ranging elephants on the reserve, and the semi-captive animals in the herd.

Guests join their ranger on a safari vehicle or on foot to search for elephant dung on the reserve. After hearing more about the sampling process, they get the chance to conduct their own research.


  • Why are the rates not reducing if you are losing elephant-back safaris?

The evolved Jabulani Elephant Experience is a more interactive one, where more time is spent with the elephants in their natural environment. Nothing is ‘lost’ with the termination of the elephant-back safaris. On the contrary, we are confident that the new experience will be a more enriching one.

  • When do the daily elephant interactions occur? And what else can guests do?

Interactions usually occur from mid to late afternoon. Guests may also enjoy morning and afternoon game drives on the Big Five reserve; guided bush walks; spa treatments; a visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre; or simple relaxation around their private plunge pools.

  • Where do elephant interactions occur?

The venue is different each day, and no two days are the same. Interactions take place either at the lodge, out in the bush or at the stables.

  • How do I sell Camp Jabulani to my clients?

The Jabulani Elephant Experience is the only of its kind, where guests get to interact closely and very personally with a semi-captive herd in a natural Big Five reserve. Beyond being a life-changing experience, guests also contribute to the survival of the herd. This experience exists to sustain the elephants.

Camp Jabulani is a proud Relais and Chateaux accredited luxury lodge which offers an intimate five-star leisure experience with a strong focus on superb cuisine, personalized service, impeccable accommodation (6 Luxury Suites and the exclusive Zindoga Villa) and conservation.

  • Is the Camp Jabulani story a success story? What is it about the Jabulani herd that is unique?

Camp Jabulani’s proudest achievement doesn’t only lie in the successful rescue of a herd of orphaned elephants in 1996 from strife-torn Zimbabwe, nor in the the intensive rehabilitation of tiny elephant calf, Jabulani (who is also the namesake of the herd). Our success rather lies in our dedicated 20-year journey through which invaluable experience has been gained, enabling us to evolve and refine a successful model of rescued elephant care, with specific focus on infant rehabilitation.

The unique background of the rescued elephants resulted in the establishment of a positive atypical family structure for the Jabulani herd. There are strong ties between both male and female animals, and clearly established matriarchs have assumed responsibility for all infants – their own (5 babies were born to the herd), as well as new orphans. A number of babies have arrived over the last five years, and they’ve been successfully introduced to the herd with minimal human intervention. We’ve come to realize that the Jabulani rescued elephants themselves are the perfect solution, and have plans into the future to continue to help to rescue and rehabilitate elephants in need.

And there you have it….  At Thompsons Africa we are proud Camp Jabulani supporters so we would like to wish them the very best in their new and extremely exciting adventure!

Contact a Thompsons Africa travel expert for more information or to make a booking.

Camp Jabulani Interaction 1

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