Playing chicken with Africa's largest land mammal can have car-crushing consequences, but for experienced safari guides, sometimes all it takes is some strategic stick-waving to send a curious elephant on its way. (Don't try this on a self-drive safari, folks).

[Friendly warning: There are a few choice words that slip out during this confrontation.]

Filmed by Anja Lehmann, author of the travel blog "Never Seen Before", this thrilling encounter took place in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park earlier this year. The bull elephant determinedly approached the vehicle, cueing a chorus of hushed gasps and furtive whispers from the guests inside.

"We have an incident here," said one of the tourists as the group became concerned about the bull's proximity.

"No, no – it's okay," came the reassuring response from the Africa on Foot guide.

An agitated elephant will usually give off several warning signals before following through with a full-blown charge. If this young bull had been flapping his ears, trumpeting, shaking the nearby foliage or spraying dust around, it's likely that the guide would have retreated in a hurry – especially considering that this large male was on the lookout for a mate.

"He's definitely coming into musth; he has a swagger about him," the guide explained. When bulls enter the aggressive state of musth, the urge to mate often kicks into overdrive, turning the gentle giants into testosterone-fuelled rage dispensers. In this case though, the bull's behaviour did not appear erratic or overly aggressive.

As the elephant approached the vehicle, the guide could be heard thumping the door to help deter the inquisitive pachyderm. The tracker meanwhile – perched in a hood-mounted seat and staring directly into the face of a 6,000-kilogram giant – waved a wooden stick in the air to shoo the bull away.

"It is imperative in these situations to not show weakness and back down," explained field guide Wayne Te Brake when a similar incident played out in the Kruger last year. "Elephants read your body language very easily and any submissive behaviour usually results in the animals trying to push home their superiority."

While this sighting ended peacefully, elephants (particularly bulls in musth) can be dangerous, and it's always best to maintain a respectful distance if possible – especially if you're not well-versed in reading the animals' body language.

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Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr