“Om serves to open and clear the mind for meditation. It brings about an ascension and expansion of our energy” – Unknown
I had already been walking for about four hours and it had rained for at least three of those. My shoes squelched with each achy step, wet hair clung to my face, and my rifle sat weighty and uncomfortable. I knew I had another eight hours of solo trekking as I explored the very southern part of Londolozi’s concession as a training exercise and at that point, I was not happy about it. So I decided to do what any sane person would do in a situation like that – sit down under a tree and eat a Bar One chocolate.
I made my way to a little clearing with a small water pan and a single tree, carefully propped my rifle up against the sturdy trunk and began scratching through my bag in search of my morale saving chocolate. By the time I looked up again, the bull elephant was mere meters away from me curiously inspecting this unexpected individual. I froze. A moment suspended as we stared at one another, uncertain of the other’s presence: each of us unsure what our next move should be. He initiated by taking a few steps forward and raising his trunk to within inches of my face, giving me (and my chocolate) a good sniff. I sat dead still, locked gaze as the grey muscular nose circled my face. A few steps to his right and he turned his colossal head back in my direction and gave his trunk an almighty flick, sending globules of elephant spit flying past my ears! Again he peered down at me, clearly recognising human smell but not understanding my crouched, seated form. He was curious and by no means angry. I breathed deeply, relaxing as at this stage as his behaviour had relaxed. In that moment, there was an energy shift and we shared a mutual recognition of each other: two earthly beings truly seeing each other in the ultimate of ‘om’ moments. I saw myself through the gaze of an elephant and I was completely at peace. He slowly turned and made his way down to the little pan for a drink, happy with my nearby presence. It was a magical encounter and one I keep close as a constant reminder of why I do what I do. And of course, why one should always have a chocolate stash close by.
Today is World Elephant Day! These days that are dedicated to a particular species, really do encourage us to remember moments like this – where we are totally awe-inspired and humbled by another creature. Elephants hold such presence and it is no wonder that I am not the only one to have been moved by encounters with this fascinating mammal. There have been a few stories in the past that have really highlighted incredible family relationships, the intensity of motherly care, personal reflections and a look into their incredibly gentle nature. There is something magnetic about the energy of elephants and we are truly lucky to view these animals on an almost daily basis.
What has been your most memorable elephant encounter?
Written and photographed by Londolozi Ranger, Andrea Campbell