An enjoyable and perplexing moment from my new book ‘On the road to elephants’
My most special Kruger Park experience happened on the day when I was leaving.
I’d already had a few adventures on this trip. First I got lost in the park after dark. And I had made myself quite sick with dehydration the day before I was leaving. So I departed late that last morning, to first make sure I wasn’t too dizzy to drive.
I was headed South through the park, to exit at the gate down below. And even though I had been told I wouldn’t see many elephants in that area of the park, I had the best sightings of the trip there.
Crossing a dried river bed, next to a dam wall, I observed a rather large elephant with big tusks in the distance, and decided to hang around for a bit.
And it was so worth it. Eventually that big guy came over to enjoy the shade of a big tree nearby. This was pretty much the biggest elephant I had seen so far, or ever. In a way that was an illusion because he was towering above me, because the road was built below that dam wall.
Me and the big elephant had a nice eye to eye right there. He was calm, but yes, a giant. So I think I trembled a bit inside. With my car parked just below him, the elephant, if angered, probably would have just needed to take one big leap to step on me. So here I did not plan to stay long.
But then another, more normally-sized elephant came walking across the plains. And it was doing something curious. It was using its trunk like a snorkel in the air – skilfully waving it about in a controlled way, a bit like an Indian dancer does with her arms. What was it doing? I had not seen this behaviour before.
It turns out that it was sniffing us, me and the big elephant. And it was headed our way. First, I thought for sure that it was signalling to the other elephant, making some kind of communication. By now he was standing very close to me, on the dam wall just above me. And he was signalling to me too!
What on earth, I thought. I was so excited, flabbergasted (and probably a little scared) that I accidentally caught part of the inside of my car roof in the frame, when I pointed my camera towards him.
Then I realized that he was actually smelling me! He was apparently very curious. Taking pictures, my car window was of course open, and the elephant was downwind from me. I felt a little guilty, as I realized I might be smelling of the Impala meat I had tasted at the lodge where I was staying the night before. How barbaric, he might have thought. Elephants are herbivores.
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