The Washington Post

First family takes in safari in South Africa

MADIKWE GAME RESERVE, South Africa -- The first big game that Michelle Obama and her family happened on here was an elephant.

It was a young buck only meters from the two open-air off road vehicles she and her entourage of security and aides sat in.

It was an unusual sighting, the family’s guide said Saturday. Elephants are rarely in the particular area of the sprawling park that the Obama family spotted them. They do not like the taste of the brush in the western region of the park. The soil is full of tannins and it makes the brush bitter to the elephant’s palate.

The sighting lasted only a few seconds. The first lady and her family, including daughters Sasha and Malia, mother Marian Robinson, and niece and nephew Leslie and Avery Robinson, were on their way to a photo opp with the press traveling.

As they ooohhhed and awwwwed at the elephant, a photographer and video camera man approached hurriedly hoping to get a shot of the first family looking at the elephant.

The first lady’s game reserve guide saw the press moving toward them on foot and called out: “It is dangerous for you to be out here.”

The photographer and camera man turned to run. The young elephant did the same.

“The press scared the elephant,” the first lady said.

Her aides erupted in laughter, said the first lady’s communications director Kristina Schake.

Aside from hippos, elephants are the most dangerous animals in the reserve. If spooked, they begin to run and trample anything in its path.

After the frightened young elephant ran away from the first family, they posed for a picture quickly then headed back to their vehicle.

It was a bright, crisp day. The family returns to Washington on Monday.

“Let’s see the animals,” Obama said with a smile as her vehicle drove away quickly into the brush to hunt more big game.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.


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