Published: September 25th 2011September 25th 2011
The final straw!
The moment when I accepted the fact I don't like elephants
K - Some time ago I alluded to my newly formed elephant phobia. This is one of the causes.....this photo is not zoomed. We had just engaged in a Mexican stand-off with this large Bull elephant from about 3 meters. You do not reverse away from an elephant that close (well, you don't do it twice!) and because 3 other cars had already blocked the road in front we were unable to move past it. Instead we were locked eyeball to eyeball waiting for one of us to do something. Finally I guess the elephant blinked first - moving towards us before neatly sidestepping us and walking sedately through an improbably small gap millimeters from our wing mirror.
This was our second close encounter in Etosha (Namibia) and is about the last time I saw an elephant without screeching "S*** there's an elephant!" and engaging in a three point turn / reverse or other diversionary maneuver.
To give context, elephants are really dangerous (only hippos cause more human deaths) and they can be very aggressive – especially when they have babies with them. Solo males are also best avoided. Elephants are the only animal that the wildlife parks issues
warning leaflets about - the basic message – stay as far away as you can!
We really did try but it can be difficult. Our day had already started interestingly, watching a large herd included a cute little baby elephant cross the road. We started off about 100 meters away but that didn't last long. The older elephants ignored the boring vehicles but little Dumbo was very attracted to our car - wandering right up to my side and waving his trunk towards the half open window. The engine was off so I could not close the window. It was all very sweet except for the fact that the baby was accompanied by a not so cute Mummy elephant, 2 Aunties and a rather aggressive young Bull who had already been startled by another vehicle. They were not quite as enchanted with us. As Dumbos trunk came into the top of the window they gave him (rather than us) a sharp nudge and he traipsed quickly on but it was far too close an encounter for me. I was shaking for about half an hour (and Mark was looking a little ashen too!). I couldn't even take photos of
my new friend - every movement was drawing daggers looks from his protectors- but there are loads of photos of us in the albums of various Italian tourists - there's nothing more fun than seeing someone else going through too close an encounter from a safe distance!
The elephants in Etosha are apparently quite docile and tolerant but this not the case elsewhere. We opted for a (wonderful) riverfront boat trip at Chobe (Botswana) partly because I was completely over encountering elephants - and watching them from a safe distance was definitely the way to go! However, it wasn't so easy to avoid them in the Kruger (one of the restcamps is called Olifants for heavens sake!) and Mark's patience was tested when we came across another solo Bull strolling down a road towards us. This time we were several hundred meters away and my spotters of cry of "I don't believe its another b******* elephant" provoked a marital discussion. Mark wanted me to wait as he thought it would move off the road - I was not convinced and wanted to depart while I still had time. As I was driving I "won". One three point turn and
This could have been us!
He is driving SO slowly! Could have been us but for my nifty 3 point turn an hour earlier
an hour later after a very silent and unsatisfactory diversionary drive where we saw about 3 Impala and a warthog we were back at the junction where the elephant had been heading. I agreed under duress to turn back up there "to see if it's gone" only to immediately see the scene in the 2nd photo below. How I laughed! The elephant was still walking straight down the road but was now sandwiched between 2 cars, both going beyond slowly and with clearly petrified drivers! The elephant finally decided to swing off the road and one of the cars did a 3 point turn and headed back down the road - clearly he had been forced to come down it by the elephants refusal to budge. Kate 1; Mark 0 on that one.
Apart from elephants I have loved every bit of our safari adventures - we have seen lots of lions, rhinos, hippos, buffalo, crocodiles, zebra, giraffe etc etc. The leopard we saw was from a distance, in the dark though - after 2 trips to Africa it looks like I am not going to see a leopard or cheetah up close.
There are more photos below