“By simply observing them, the way they lift their trunks to drink, the movement of their large padded feet and the intricate details of their wrinkly hides, you can fully appreciate their grandeur”
There is a time of the day, just after brunch until 3 pm, when you can take a break from the whirlwind of excitement that stems from being on safari. For some, this is a time to kick back and read a book or enjoy a mid-day nap. I prefer to use this time to sit on the deck, binoculars in hand, and observe birds or watch monkeys and baboons, the best entertainers of all, grooming and playing with one another.
However, it was on one of these breaks that I was feeling particularly sleepy after a delicious brunch. The winter sun was streaming through the window and I was tempted to take an afternoon siesta. As I was readying myself for a nap, I happened to catch a glimpse of a herd of elephant passing our room. The herd was moving hastily towards the pan in front of the main deck at Linkwasha Camp in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
My husband and I quickly donned our hats and followed them, trying to keep up. From the main deck we had a good view of the large pachyderms as they began to move toward the waterhole.
Our guide spotted us and ushered us to the camp’s sunken hide, a bunker situated directly in front of the pan. We felt like we’d been let in on a secret mission as we made our way to the hide and settled into a comfortable spot with an eye-level view of our surroundings. I had the camp’s Olympus camera on hand, and had begun experimenting, trying to capture some of the action. It was a thrill to be so close, and yet completely protected, to a wild elephant herd.
The elephants surrounded us on all sides, aware of our presence but completely unfazed by it. They then proceeded to walk into the water, trunks flailing and spraying drops of water in all directions. The most hypnotising moment came when an elephant calf, no more than five months old, lifted its trunk and suddenly charged through the water, splashing all the elders nearby. There seemed to be no apparent cause for this unexpected eruption, and all of us sitting in the hide shared a knowing smile – we were voyeurs of their world, even if just for a few minutes, and we felt lucky to be a part of it.
When watching elephants at eye-level you get a very good idea of just how big they are. By simply observing them, the way they lift their trunks to drink, the movement of their large padded feet and the intricate details of their wrinkly hides, you can fully appreciate their grandeur.
The youngest elephant that had paraded through the water was now an arm’s-length from where I was sitting. He’d made his way right up to the hide and began scenting the air and ‘checking us out.’ A moment later a tiny trunk rested upon my arm, investigating the unusual structure it had come upon. It was an indescribable moment, a curious youngster on my right and large mammoth elephant feet on my left. I moved my head from left to right to try take it all in so that I didn’t miss a second of the action.
Right at that moment, there was nowhere else on earth I would rather have been and nothing else I would rather be doing. To be as close as we were and to witness this incredible tableau made me realise just how few places in the world there are like this, and just how few people live to enjoy moments like this…
I guess it may be time to start sleeping a little less and living a little more! You never know what you may see.
Post courtesy of Kate MacWilliam of Wilderness Safaris