Terrifying Moment Safari Car Followed by Angry Elephant Breaks Down


Tourists, including a 3-year-old child, on a safari trip in Ghana, western Africa, were left terrified after their tour car broke down and an elephant began charging towards them.

The nail-biting moment, which took place at Mole National Park in the north of the country, was captured in an October 12 viral clip shared on TikTok by 34-year-old Danielle Reijnen, known as @travelwith_daan on TikTok and Instagram. She was one of the four tourists in the car, including the toddler. The three female tourists, one of whom is the mother of the child, were traveling together, accompanied by a park ranger and a driver, Reijnen told Newsweek.

A message overlaid on the video reads: “POV [point of view] your car breaks down during safari and there’s an angry elephant that’s following you.” A caption shared with the post adds: “Don’t think I’ve been this scared.”

The clip begins with a view of a car wheel that is nearly detached from the side of the vehicle. Two women, one of whom is holding the child, are seen trying to climb off the car, while the two safari staff members are stomping their feet to scare the elephant away.

Additional footage that Reijnen shared with Newsweek shows the elephant in the bushes walking towards a vehicle, while standing just steps away from it, the closest it had got to them. A voice in the video is heard saying, “Go, go, go, go,” as the car drives away.

Elephants might be known as gentle giants, but they can become aggressive when they feel threatened or vulnerable in some way. The mammals are among the deadliest animals worldwide, having caused 500 human deaths in 2022, according to data compiled by Statista, the global data research firm.

In different parts of Africa, elephants are increasingly entering farmlands in search of food and water, especially during harvesting seasons.

The Elephant ‘Came Closer and Closer’

Reijnen is a Dutch “digital nomad working as a virtual assistant.” She left the Netherlands two years ago to go traveling, and she is in Ghana to support the Tumi Ghana, a non-governmental organization.

Reijnen said the tourists and guides encountered the elephant initially from a distance. The ranger didn’t seem concerned as they thought the elephant was going very slow. However, it later “came closer and closer and started charging, or at least showed us he wasn’t happy with us there by flapping his ears and making noises.”

Before the incident unfolded, the ranger had noticed there was something wrong with the car, so he called a colleague to come pick them up. They were about an hour’s drive away from the park’s visitor center. It’s unknown why the vehicle broke down, but the tourists were later told that the park struggles with the condition of their cars.

A screenshot of a video showing the elephant seen in the bushes at Mole National Park in Ghana. Danielle Reijnen has shared footage of the incident with Newsweek.DANIELLE REIJNEN
A screenshot of a video showing the elephant seen in the bushes at Mole National Park in Ghana. Danielle Reijnen has shared footage of the incident with Newsweek. DANIELLE REIJNEN

Reijnen said the group first spotted the elephant from when it was around 650 feet away. The animal “was on the only road, so our driver drove backwards to turn and choose another way.” The elephant didn’t seem angry and “we started to drive backwards to give him space,” Reijnen added.

When the car stopped working, the group all had to exit the car. That’s when the elephant started heading towards them, clapping its ears and trumpeting, only 33 feet away.

Reijnen said: “We got scared and didn’t know why the driver didn’t drive away, but seconds later I looked at the elephant and saw that wheel [was] out of the car.”

She added that “the axle was loose, causing the wheel to stand around 5 feet away from the car. Our ranger quickly told us to get out of the car and tried to scare the elephant away by making noises, as you can see in the video.”

‘I Was Very Scared’

Reijnen said the elephant’s reaction was definitely triggered by their presence on the road “because we weren’t able to leave his territory.”

She added: “I think if we would’ve been able to drive away, the elephant would’ve just stayed in the bush.”

The TikTok poster said the group walked away from the car and “luckily the elephant was more interested in the car and our belongings.” They kept their eyes on the animal while walking down the long, straight road.

Reijnen said: “I was very scared because I didn’t think there was anything we could do if he [the elephant] decided to attack us. We also couldn’t see if there were any other animals on our route, so it was a risk to keep walking.

“I’m sure the elephant was only showing us his irritation. Otherwise, he would’ve tried to charge us and could’ve done that since we were out in the open with only a small rifle for the ranger,” she added.

Danielle Reijnen and one of her friends walking away from the safari car after it broke down (left); a back view of the driver of the vehicle for the trip (right). Reijnen told Newsweek that they kept their eyes on the elephant while walking down the long, straight road to get away from the car.DANIELLE REIJNEN
Danielle Reijnen and one of her friends walking away from the safari car after it broke down (left); a back view of the driver of the vehicle for the trip (right). Reijnen told Newsweek that they kept their eyes on the elephant while walking down the long, straight road to get away from the car. DANIELLE REIJNEN

It took a while for a second vehicle to arrive to pick them up because this was an early-morning safari, with no other visitors around, and “other drivers weren’t ready to go yet.”

The new car finally arrived around 50 minutes after their vehicle had broken down. The ranger drove back to the original car while the elephant went into the bushes. “The ranger wanted to get our luggage, but we told him to just leave it. We didn’t want to risk another encounter just for our stuff,” Reijnen said.

The driver later drove past the car to see where the elephant had gone, and it was still very close. However, its attention was directed at the bushes and not towards them. That’s when the group quickly grabbed their belongings and drove back to the entrance of the park. “Everyone got out safely, and nobody was injured,” Reijnen added.

The TikTok user said that the ranger “didn’t seem very concerned” during the whole time of the latest incident. “He kept an eye on the elephant all the time and told us he would fire a warning shot in the air if he would come closer. Luckily, that was never necessary,” she added.

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This article by Soo Kim was first published by Newsweek on 3 November 2023. Lead Image: Three women, including Danielle Reijnen who spoke to Newsweek, and the 3-year-old. The tourists are seen in a safari tour vehicle at Mole National Park in Ghana before the car broke down. DANIELLE REIJNEN.





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