A few days ago a blogger twitted that while in a South African national park she encountered an elephant. Someone asked if she wasn’t afraid that the elephant could charged towards her, and she answered that she was so excited that she hasn’t thought about it. This mini-conversation got me thinking and recalling our experiences with elephants. Something was clear to me, we didn’t get along at first, but we didn’t give up on them and kept trying.
The first time we saw an elephant
Our first encounter with elephants was when Nacho lived in Angola, we visited Kissama National Park and from that visit we have a lot of elephant butts in our pictures. We didn’t care really, the excitement of seeing the pachyderms was above what ever memory the picture will leave us (or that was how we felt back then). In that first safari we didn’t see many elephants, the war in the country for so many years displaced the wildlife and at that moment they were trying to restock the parks little by little.
Get away! Those are my calves
That same summer we travelled for the first time to Malawi, we did a road trip around the country starting in the South. When we stopped at Majete Wildlife Reserve after a few days of landing in the country, Damiano welcomed us (and we remember him as if he had welcome us yesterday) the ranger that would show us the park. So we got into our car, Nacho was driving, I was on the back and Damiano and his weapon on the frot too (the weapon is only used to scared the animals if people are in danger). It was here where we saw lots of animals and much more than elephant butts. However, at a certain point we stopped in the way to admire the elephants in the far distance and it was then when a adult male got mad at us. He started to flap his ears and kick the floor leaving the area all dusty, and Damiano urged us to leave. When we got far enough we could see the reason for all that anger, there were calves around the elephants (which we couldn’t see from were we stood) so we stopped there to watch. But.. the jeep that was behind us started to use the horn “GO, GO, GO!” they said, the elephant was just behind them on the road but we couldn’t see them. It was scary at that time, but with time, it has become a good story that we laugh at.
It can see us, but it can’t smell us
Our route continued up to Liwonde National Park, another piece of jewel in the country. And there we did a safari on foot, it really doesn’t get inside the park much but it is worth doing it. Our ranger this time was wearing some flip flops and a bowie knife. If he wasn’t really prepared, why would we think we could encounter an animal that could endanger us? He showed us the big baobab trees along the way, impalas and lots of birds while he was tracking an elephant, and suddenly… STOP, we stopped. An elephant ahead of us just 20 meters away from us, it lift its trunk and smelled, but unsatisfied, it got closer; and we walked back with no sudden moves. Both the animal and us kept doing this dance for a while: our ranger was looking for a way out, we were having that silenced but nervous laugh… Nothing happened, but later our guided told us that it was inappropriate to wear something red for a safari as it can easily be seen by the animals, that was how the animal saw us, it tried to smell us but the wind was coming from its back towards us and not the other way around. Since then we never wear red or any other bright color while on safari!
Scared to death
Our third encounter with elephant was when we reached Vwasa Marsh Natural Reserve, a forgotten paradise with difficult access as there is not much public transportation. Only another couple and two more tourist were there, a quiet place in front of a pond where animals gather to deal with their thirst. And when night falls, the place is pitch dark, there is no electricity, so that is how the 6 of us had dinner with some candles (and a few flashlights). Suddenly we heard steps around us, so we turned our flashlights towards the noise: an elephant pack. We turned the lights off, there were calves and it is not the time to bother anyone, or so we thought. One of those mentioned tourist, a man in his fifties decided that there is no better time to get an elephant as angry as possible and with his flashlight starts to flash the elephant’s eyes. Just imagine that you are in absolute darkness and someone decides to turn on and off a light at your eye sight, wouldn’t you get angry? Well, an elephant would feel the same! It moved its ears, kicked the floor, barred and even pushed a tree that was near us. All this happened while we were trying to get the flashlight from that silly tourist or while we were picturing our life passing by. It really felt that it was going to charge towards us and there was no escape (at list we don’t have the night vision skills to have escaped alive).
With the first story we laugh, this last one still leaves us uneasy and it’s mainly because we can’t understand why someone would try to agitate an elephant. But at the same time we learn for good the signs elephants do before charging: moves its ears, kicks the floor, bars… and if we ever see an elephant doing any of these things, we step back because we can’t get a beautiful animal like this one so angry.
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