Walking among Elephants
Working at a safari camp within one of Africa’s most awe inspiring wildlife destinations will always result in a number of incredible experiences, things that you will never forget and that don’t get to be enjoyed by most normal holiday makers, even in Africa.
Elephants are one of my favourite animals in Africa but they also happen to be the one thing that raises my heart rate in a second, especially when you accidently walk round a corner to be face to face with one. They are not something to be taken lightly and their docile reputation can be misleading. Elephants can be an incredibly dangerous creature to live around and what is more they move through the bush almost silently due to an elastic layer of skin on the bottom of their feet. For an animal so large to move so quietly seems almost unnatural. Somehow this king of the jungle vanishes into the bushes and at the start of the dry season elephants can be hidden behind even small bushes, only to be seen at the last minute.
These days I normally hear elephants before I see them and I make an effort to never be in a rush so that I can stop and listen for the distinctive and deliberate snapping of branches that comes with a feeding elephant, they may walk silently but they eat noisily. In the half light of the mornings when I walk to camp I have learnt to differentiate the rustling noise of baboons coming down from their chosen spots in the trees after a nights rest from the noise of an elephant just behind the next bush.
My first close encounter with an elephant was just behind our camp, I was in the process of preparing for a wedding taking place in our ebony grove and was just taking a walk to check out how the casual workers were progressing with the clearing of the ground. I walked past a bush to see that there were three individuals feeding about 10 metres from where I was stood, I was lucky and they had not seen me, it was only as I noticed them that I realised I had left my phone on charge in the office and had not picked up my radio, I was about 200 m from the main area across rough ground. Every guide, scout or resident in Africa will tell you that you do not run, but try telling that to your adrenaline soaked brain. I ducked down and quietly crept backwards keeping my eyes firmly on the bush, when I got about 50m away I slowly stood up and walked away, it was the calmest I have ever been in this situation but it is one I would find myself in more and more as the season wore on and elephants started to be almost a permanent feature of the area between camp and our staff accommodation.
Every single experience that I had working in the bush in Zambia taught me something, whether it was about myself, the incredible surroundings I was in or the wildlife that I love and respect. Most of these are experiences that I would not have had without spending the amount of time I have in Africa, however, we have perfected the art of getting people in the right place to maximise the experience that suits them, whether it be walking safaris, photographic trips, family holidays or first time explorers.