If you've ever been on a walking safari in Africa, you'll be familiar with Rule Number One: if you come across a potentially deadly animal, DON’T RUN. Of course, when there’s nothing but a few metres separating you from an angry elephant, Rule One quickly fades into a distant memory.

In this clip filmed last year on the Mphongolo Backpack Trail in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, experienced field guide Wayne Te Brake and his co-guide demonstrate exactly how to handle a close encounter with Africa’s biggest land animals. Seriously, they nail it.

The guides are leading their tour group back to camp at sunset when they come across two elephant bulls. Initially, they trail the animals at a safe distance, but before long, one of the bulls somehow picks up on the group. “He turned and started approaching us with his companion in tow, and because we were in an open area without much cover, we decided to stand our ground rather than retreat,” Te Brake told Africa Geographic.

And so the standoff begins. A third bull arrives to investigate the commotion and suddenly the group is facing off against a formidable trio. “It is imperative in these situations to not show weakness and back down,” Te Brake explains. “Elephants read your body language very easily and any submissive behaviour usually results in the animals trying to push home their superiority.”

After a mock charge or two, Te brake encourages his guests to remain calm and suggests that they talk softly amongst themselves (sure, Wayne, we’ll just talk about the weather while those elephants over there prep for a good ol’ trampling).

We tip our hats to Te Brake – the keep-it-cool strategy pays off, and the elephants, unsure how to react, back off enough to allow the group to escape. “The guests must be commended for keeping their cool and listening to all instructions to the letter,” he adds. “If any of them had panicked and tried to run, the situation could have turned out very differently.”

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Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr