Stories and Traveltips

ID #4745

Elephant at Kasane, Chobe National Park, Northern Botswana, Southern Africa.

In the early 70’s a friend, Stuart Forbes, bought himself a short-wheelbase Landrover. Stuart, a friend and I decided to go on safari, first up the Great North Road to Beit Bridge, across the Limpopo into Zimbabwe, northwest to Bulawayo and the Victoria Falls. We were then going to cross over into Botswana and Chobe National Park, travel southwest through Chobe via the Savuti Channel to Moremi Game Reserve on the Okavango Swamps.  From Moremi, we were to travel to Maun, east through the Makgadigadi to Nata and Francistown, south to Gaberone and back to Johannesburg. An epic journey.

There was little space in the Landrover so a few compromises were required. One of which was that all three of us had to sit next to one another in the front seat. Hardly the way to travel several thousand kilometers. But we were young and carefree…

It was early September when we set off. We spent a few days fishing for tiger (tiger fish) at Kasane and then headed along the river into Chobe.  A herd of about 30 elephant cows and calves were drinking on the riverbank. The calves were swimming in the water, trunks flopping around – an idyllic scene. It was hot and uncomfortable in the Landrover, so we were keen to escape its confines. We stopped and spent some time watching them. Stuart, a keen photographer, decided to get some close-ups with his 35-mm camera. I had a telephoto lens and was content to take photographs from a distance, but he had to get much closer -- so close he upset the matriarch, who began trumpeting and fussing with the calves.

Stuart was, by this time, about 100-m away from the Landrover. We had not paid much attention to three large bulls drinking further upstream. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed they were headed our way. I called to Stuart who saw the danger and sprinted back to the vehicle. There was no time to pack the equipment away. We leapt into the Landrover, sitting side by side in the front seat, and slammed the doors closed.

This in no way deterred the bulls. One went directly towards the cows. He was completely submerged at times, like a submarine. A second charged through the shallows, water splashing everywhere. The third charged directly at the Landrover. We cowered in the confined space as he came closer. When he finally stopped, in a cloud of dust, the end of his trunk was a meter or so from the windscreen. I could clearly see his two nostrils and the wrinkles and hairs on the tip of his trunk.  It is only up close that you appreciate how big they are. The entire windscreen was filled with elephant.

Stuart reached down to start the Landrover to back away but it was too late for that – it would only have further annoyed him. I reached down and held his hand to stop him turning the key and could feel it shaking. The bull retreated a pace and then came forward again, shaking his head. He retreated again, this time two paces, and charged again. Finally, after several mock charges, he wheeled away towards the cows.

There was silence in the Landrover for several minutes. We sat in the stifling heat, shaking with fright, not saying a word, each of us captured by our thoughts. Strangely, none of us mentioned the incident again. It was as though we each had a secret we were unwilling to share. Less is more! Alan McIver AXElephants


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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:16
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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