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Dawn was breaking and wisps of mist rising through the dense trees as wildlife expert and author Gareth Patterson and I set off into the forest, in search of one of the last remaining elephants of South Africa’s Knysna forests.
The Knysna forest, an expanse of 121,000 hectares of forest managed by South African National Parks, is home to the last remnants of the once abundant herds of Cape Bush elephants that inhabited the Southern Cape.
By the turn of the 20th century, hunters and ivory poachers had thinned out the herds of hundreds to a few score. By 1994 SANPARKS declared officially that there was only one elephant remaining.
But Gareth Patterson’s research and studies in the Knysna forests tends to show otherwise. Renowned for his work on the African lion with “Born Free” author Joy Adamson, Gareth has spent the past eight years covering hundreds of kilometres on foot through the forests, researching the diet, range and distribution of these elusive elephants.
Few people from the outside world come this way.
Most foreign and local holidaymakers heading for the popular Lamu Islands prefer to fly rather than use the road.
Our route is along the Great North Road, the famed Cape Town-to-Cairo highway on what is said to be the only untarmacked stretch on the whole continent – roughly 550 kilometres from where the highway ends at Isiolo town north to Moyale on the Ethiopian border. It has all the wildlife and stunning scenery Kenya is world-famous for, but few tourists ever see it.