The morning was clear with a promise of blue sky and sunshine. Our guide had called past and told us that a small herd of elephants had moved into the area overnight and we should be able to get a good look at them this morning. The elephants sighted near the band of thick scrub on the other side of the camp. He also said there had been a lion through the complex that night, there were big foot prints through the camp (so I wasn’t imagining it)!
Six of us with our guide in a very robust four-wheel drive had traveled for only about fifteen minutes from camp, along the dusty track, when unexpectedly a young elephant ran out in front of the vehicle. It lowered its head, then threw its head back lifting its trunk and trumpeting loudly and flapping its big ears. We all laughed and thought how cute he was! He repeated this performance twice coming three steps closer each time. Our driver had reversed back gently. He said this was a warning from the elephant that we were encroaching on its territory. I guess the little fellow was practicing?
We laughed again at this young elephant, as he just wasn’t big enough for us to feel threatened. Our laughter died quickly as the next moment a huge Bull elephant charged out of the scrub in front of the young elephant. With its head raised, tusks protruding, huge ears flapping, and trumpeting loudly the bull elephant charged towards us. Our driver reversed the vehicle frantically. The elephant stopped, and then charged again. We were still reversing at an accelerated speed and watching petrified as this huge beast continued its charge, thundering towards us. I had visions of the vehicle being overturned by those huge tusks, with trampled bodies lying bloodied and crumpled in the dust. The elephant seemed to be gaining; nobody had uttered a word. I think we had all temporarily stopped breathing thought my heart was pounding through my chest fit to burst.
Suddenly the elephant skidded to a halt then trumpeted another warning. We were still in reverse and didn’t stop but the elephant made no further moves to threaten us again. I guess we must have put enough distance between us and them.
The vehicle slowed to a halt. Then from behind the bull elephant, approximately where he had started his charge, the herd emerged and crossed the road in front of us before disappearing into the thick scrub on the other side. We held our breath hardly daring to move and watched as some 25 elephants crossed the path in front of us. An awesome sight.
There were elephants of varying sizes including two beautiful baby elephants protected on the inner flanks of this little procession by the adult elephants. The bull elephant seemed no longer interested in us once the herd had crossed safely. His job done, he threw his trunk around disdainfully at us before lumbering around and heading off after the herd.
It is amazing just how well they camouflaged in the scrub, so many of them and so quite that we were completely unaware of their presence until the young elephant had puts its head out.
James our driver turned the vehicle around and we headed back to camp. I think he must have realized that we’d had enough adrenalin pumping for one morning. He assured us that the bull elephant was just warning us off to keep our distance. I think at that time we all had a few reservations, but what an adventure!