Much has been documented recently about the latest rains bringing an end to the drought conditions experienced at Londolozi over the past few seasons.
We have seen considerable changes to water levels both the major waterholes and the Sand River, along with the mud-wallows and pans that were previously barren and lifeless. Taking advantage of this surplus of standing water have been Londolozi’s pachyderms; the elephants.
It is widely known that elephants are no strangers to water and are highly capable swimmers. Contemporary research points to the possibility that elephants evolved from an aquatic ancestor that used its trunk as a snorkel whilst spending a significant period of time submerged beneath the water. Modern day elephants, having adapted such techniques, are able to stay in the water with their trunk exposed for hours at a time. Such theories suggest that elephants are closely related to, and have evolved from, aquatic animals such as the Manatee and Dugongs. Although it is somewhat common to view African and Asian elephants swimming in other parts of their respective home continents, the lack of deep and large enough bodies of water at Londolozi make such a sighting relatively rare.
Recently, upon approaching Shingalane Dam on central Londolozi, we saw that a breeding herd of elephants in the distance was making their way directly towards the water. With great excitement, I explained to my guests that they may well be coming to drink and suggested that it could be worthwhile to sit and wait for them to approach. Whilst the herd was still some distance away, tracker Freddy Ngobeni suddenly exclaimed that there was an elephant in the middle of the dam, and to everyone’s amazement, upon rounding the corner, we noticed a large number of elephants already frolicking and playing gracefully in the water.
The large quantities of water now present in the dam resulted in deep central depressions where the elephants were unable to stand, but they proceeded to spray water all over each other and swim beneath the surface, with what seemed absolute pleasure and satisfaction. It was certainly one of the most enjoyable sightings I’ve been witness to in recent months!