Open safari vehicles are a great way to explore Africa's game reserves: raised seating provides a lofty vantage point and the open windows allow safari-goers to feel the wind on their faces while they absorb the sounds and smells of the bushveld. The downside? There's not much you can do when a 5000-kilogram elephant bull strolls up to the vehicle like it's trying to order a drive-thru meal. Behold a masterful execution of the "silent freakout":

This elephant roadblock greeted tourists on a guided game drive through South Africa's famous Kruger National Park recently. The driver initially stopped the vehicle to allow guests to enjoy some peaceful elephant-viewing – until one of the bulls meandered over to investigate, that is.

"We didn't do anything to catch the elephant's attention, he simply walked towards the vehicle and brushed/lifted it," explains the tourist who filmed the encounter in the video description.

For a few tense seconds, the elephant scraped his tusks ominously on the vehicle's canvas, the only separation between guests and the hulk of grey muscle. A few flicks of the tail later, the animal casually strolled on with its day, prompting a chorus of relieved sighs from the guests.

The tour guide, meanwhile, seemed less flustered by the close encounter. "Good that nobody was sitting in the backseat," she remarked in what seems like an incongruously causal tone. 

The guide no doubt sensed that there were no obvious signs of aggression from the bull; the pachyderm was probably just curious when it moved in for a closer look. An elephant encounter this intimate can easily end in tragedy, and it's always important to give these animals space. In this case, however, there seemed to be no easy way to evade the approaching bull, and the driver – reading the animal's calm behaviour – decided to sit tight and wait for the curious behemoth to move on.

Elephants usually provide clear warning signals when they feel threatened: head-shaking, trumpeting, dust-throwing and ear-flapping are all strong indicators that an elephant wants you to back off. If you're in the way, it's best to make a swift exit.



Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr