Even for an experienced safari guide, a few tense seconds of face time with a large elephant must have gotten the blood pumping!

Filmed at Sausage Tree Safari Camp in South Africa's Balule Private Game Reserve, and shared on YouTube by Latest Sightings, the clip shows an incredible encounter between Balule guide Eswe Ras and a massive bull elephant, known in the park as "Ezulwini".

The group approached the small herd during a tracking excursion back in February, but Ras assures viewers that his crew kept their distance. "We parked about 30 metres away from them, respecting their space," he told Latest Sightings. "They gradually started moving closer to us; this is when Ezulwini (the elephant bull) approached the vehicle to pass on by."

Ezulwini topped off the close encounter with a sniff, wrapping his trunk around Ras's ankle. "It was certainly quite intimidating having such a huge animal so close to you and touching you, but I never felt that I was in any danger," he says.

This particular animal has a reputation for being very gentle, and Ras was able to read his behaviour for any warning signs. Still, large tuskers can be aggressive, and it's important to remember that Ras has experience interacting with this herd. A bit of knowledge goes a long way, and a basic understanding of elephant body language (and the ability to pick up on a few behavioural cues) is often enough to prevent a potentially fatal encounter. Agitated elephants usually display several warning signals, such as ear-flapping, bush-bashing and trumpeting, before launching an attack. So if the ellie looks angry, it's best to move away.

Of course, to be safe, your best bet is to avoid getting too close in the first place. Respecting an elephant's space is the first rule of going on safari (here's what not to do).

In this case, Ezulwini seemed mostly curious, and Ras was lucky enough to experience a seriously close-up encounter. "This was a unique experience for me," he recalls. "The feeling I think would be best described as complete awe and definitely an adrenaline rush!"


Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr