November 6th: Coming to Africa people have different expectations of what they really want to see and hope to see as they go on Safari. For some it’s the big cats and for others it’s the Big 5 or maybe its Giraffes and Zebra’s.
Now I love animals and have been excited to see them all, luck permitting, but Elephants in the wild were something that was on top of my list of things to see. My expectation was to see them a few here and few there and maybe get lucky and get close to some.
Now I am writing this blog after 6 weeks of overlanding in Africa, and my word, what I first thought about seeing Elephants just keeps getting us surpassed!
I won’t bore you with recanting every tale and sighting but it is worth filling you in on a couple. The first major encounter was in Kenya a week into the trip. The day had started particularly badly with an hour long debacle at Barclays bank including Steph’s card getting eaten up by the ATM and the slowest service in history behind the counter that caused us to delay the whole truck and obviously piss off everyone in the process….But a few hours later through divine intervention we were driving through Queen Elizabeth National park and there was a shout off “Elephants 10 o’clock”, the truck bumped to a halt! Off in the distance about 100 meters away there was a herd of about 30 Elephants, Awesome! But what followed took our breathes away, over the next 15 minutes the entire herd, slowly wandered over to the truck and crossed the road some 4/5 meter’s to the rear. The smiles and amazement of everyone on the truck was obvious! It was a very special moment and I was chuffed to bits, we even had others on the truck thank us for the Bank delay earlier on! Ha!
Now we have seen many Elephants since this point but not in such large numbers, Leaving behind what I thought would be the Safari highlights of Kenya and Tanzania for Elephants we rolled into Zimbabwe and we were heading to Hwange National Park, I had no expectations of anything above what we had already seen (see Steph’s blog on the Serengeti).
In Hwange we were Driven and Guided by Brian and Tracy, the nicest couple in the world. It is dry season so they had explained that the concentration of the animals would be at the watering holes in the park, so we entered for an afternoon Game drive. We drove to the first watering holes that have pumps to keep flow going during the dry season to help the animals, having seen no animals we approach the watering hole. On seeing the hole Brian informs us the pump is not working and what is left is sludge, we see 3 dead baby carcasses who have died from appears to be lack of water and exhaustion, we see one Giraffe that searches the sludge for some king of water, we move on. The Next hole the pump is working, we see 2 elephants playing in the water and a couple in the distance, it was cool to see but the group was a little disheartened at the small numbers of animals after a few hours.
Brian says we’ll move on and try another one with a viewing platform, with some hope we motor off. As we approach the hole we can see the brush and trees thinning and in the distance the viewing platform, as we get closer the shout goes out (quietly of course) “Elephants 2 o clock”. In the distance we see what looks like a small herd at the water hole, as we get closer the “small mass” in the distance turns into approximately 50 elephants, what a sight, the smiles return. We drive up to the viewing platform and head straight up to watch. After a few minutes as our eyes adjust we start to see movement in the distance from a few different angles. What emerge are more herds b-lining to the hole and the precious water. What unfolds in the next hour is simply amazing we watch at least 200 elephants arrive, leave and play in the water, even a few fights occur. This is a truly an unforgettable and special moment that blew me away, after 10 minutes of intense snapping, we all just settle down and watch this Elephant soap opera unfold!
These are just two special moments with elephants there have been many more including seeing a herd swim/walk across a river and seeing them saunter along for a nighttime stroll. I can’t share them all but enjoy these and the photographs.