Elephants are known for their spectacular memory. And a herd of them is also called a “memory”… The third of the “Big Five” animals to spot while on safari, Mrs. MM and I had seen elephants in other parts of the world, mostly in zoos, and I have ridden domesticated elephants at least three times in the past. But there’s nothing like wild elephants in their natural habitat.
On our second safari drive, in early morning, we came across some rhinoceros then shortly thereafter, noticed some large trees and tall grasses moving in a peculiar way. A family of perhaps 4 or 5 elephants were feeding on the fresh leaves and tall grasses and came into view. Rather small elephants, these were youngsters perhaps, along with one or two larger adults.
We got unbelievably close to the animals, with their trunks swinging say 2-3 meters from our heads and we were sort of sitting eye to eye with these magnificent creatures. The one thing that really struck me is how LONG and THICK their eyelashes were, apparently to help them avoid thorns as they fed on trees or bushes. I bet the eyelashes were at least 3 inches long!
This little youngster seemed to be putting on a show for us, and after looking us in the eye, playfully swung his trunk from side to side and in our direction. They also seemed to grab at clumps of grass that give them a violent shake, apparently to remove most of the soil around the roots, so they wouldn’t have to eat the soil.
After observing this family for some 15-20 minutes (Mrs. MM took a photo of one taking a dump even), we decided to move on, only to see an even larger memory or herd of say 25-30 elephants crossing and blocking the road ahead of us less than 2 kilometers away from the first sighting. As some larger elephants crossed, one smaller one moved purposefully towards our vehicle, as if to stop traffic, or to send a warning signal for us to stay back.
We were just amazed by the size, number and majesty of these creatures. They look pretty docile and calm, but we were told they can really get quite annoyed and charge vehicles and people with potentially disastrous results.
This crossing took less than five minutes, and I our guide got some news on the radio of something nearby so he was a bit anxious to speed ahead to a rather unusual sighting…
Wonderful looking creatures.
On another day, we drove by a rather large river and from a distance of say 400-500 meters spotted some 8-10 elephants eating all the lush greens.
Then a special moment was when our guide pointed to a distant hillside or mountainside and said “look at all those elephants!” and we couldn’t see a thing and thought he was jiving us. With the help of binoculars, we noticed some puffs of dust and lo and behold, some 20-25 elephants were walking in a sort of line, young elephants in tow. Again, a scene from a TV special. The photo above taken with 14x zoom on Mrs. MM’s point and shoot — can you spot 8 or 9 elephants in one photo? We would see even more elephants on the crest of a hill another day from over a kilometer away during the stay…
On an afternoon drive, we got REALLY close to a rather large elephant, wandering around on his own. He was under a tree a few meters from the road and he backed up when we stopped our vehicle. He then curiously came to within a meter or two with his trunk and probably didn’t appreciate that we had blocked him off from crossing to the other side of the dirt road, but he hung around for us to appreciate.
The lady taking a shot of the elephant that was just a few feet away.
This elephant was rather curious, and totally unperturbed by our presence.
His ivory tusks were impressive up close and they continued on under that flap of skin. This was a medium sized elephant (compared with all the others we saw) and our guide said African elephants were typically much larger than Asian elephants.
Our guide moved the Rover about 20 meters forward, I thought so that the elephant could cross the road, but instead, he asked for our cameras and he took this next shot of all of us with the rather cooperative elephant in the background!
A total of 6-7 separate sightings of elephants in a three-day stay! You’re darned right we fully realized we were having a trip of a lifetime!