About the Author

Diana DeVaul

Guest contributor

Diana is a wife, mom and freelance writer. She grew up in the cornfields of midwestern America feeling deeply connected to the nature surrounding her. She studied psychology and social work at the university level and uses her education and previous work experiences ...

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26 Comments

on Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

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Vin Beni
Guest contributor

We had a similar experience with the Klaubers (frequent bloggers) in Botswana. A large, frisky bull came very close to our vehicle- ears wide and trumpeting. Equal mixture of fear and excitement.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

It’s the size that got me. At any moment he could have easily flipped our vehicle. I imagine that trumpeting sound is one that stays with you.

Vin Beni
Guest contributor

Sound definitely with us-similar to the first time we heard a lion roar nearby.

Brian Everitt
Digital Ranger

Absolutely beautiful thank you for sharing

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

Thank you so much for reading. I’m grateful to have written this story to make sure I never forget my fateful elephant encounter.

Victoria Auchincloss
Digital Tracker

I can only imagine what you must have felt!! What an incredible experience and kudos for being brave and not simply hiding your head. Well done everyone including Bruce and Robert. Victoria

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

Thank you! I find it fascinating that even as I wrote it, I felt fear creeping up my spine. Even though I know how it ends, I have a hard time reading it, too. Bruce and Rob were/are incredible.

Leonie De Young
Senior Digital Ranger

That was certainly a heart stopping experience you all had Diana, however, it is one that you will remember for the rest of your life. You were all fortunate that he decided to amble off and find love elsewhere. Thanks for sharing with us – I can honestly say I was holding my breath while reading this.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

I have never lifted a camera so heavy in my whole life as the one I lifted that day! It took every ounce of my will power to get that one photo. It is one of my favorites. I reminds me that I can be brave when faced with the unexpected. Hopefully this will carry me well through the coming New Year. Happy New Year to you, too!

Ginger Brucker
Explorer

I love how you share the process one goes through on safari-from the initial anxiousness to settling into nature’s rhythm and beauty and then these moments of exhilaration (and slight fear). Brings me right back to my seat in the Rover.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

I’m hoping it is helpful to others considering a safari adventure. It is amazing how quickly we acclimate and can relax into the beauty of it. We are able to do this and hold the possibility of the unexpected. The calm we experience is like breathing in life itself; the twists and turns are what keep us fully engaged. It is a truly beautiful process. Thank you for reading.

Denise Vouri
Guest contributor

Any close up encounter with an elephant can be exhilarating or terrifying, depending on the circumstances. Reading your blog, you experienced the latter, although bull elephants are generally more bluff than action. Through your blog I could feel your angst, but you were wise to look to your guide and tracker for assurance. Your image of the bull throwing dust was terrific. At least he was far enough away to capture the shot. My closest encounter was a female new mother, looking after her days old baby, when she approached the Landy, thrusting her trunk into my lens- needless to say, I missed that photo!! but as she moved away, I was in awe of her actual gentleness. After all, she was in protection mode.

I hope you have many more experiences enjoying the exhilaration one feels, touched with a punch of natural apprehension, in viewing the wonders of the African veld.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

I love that you could easily find the mother elephant’s gentleness. After having some space from the experience, in my head I know our bull elephant was just playing around with us. But in that moment, it felt exactly the opposite. That’s why the bushveld is magic. Equal parts wonder/beauty/fear.

Joan Schmiidt
Digital Tracker

Diana, what horrible experience. I was in Kenya when an elephant charged us, and knocked of my hat, it was a harrowing experience, just as I am sure yours was!

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

I can’t believe you lost your hat! Thankfully, ours never charged but he always made sure to let us know he was the one in charge of the situation.

Phil Schultz
Senior Digital Ranger

I had 3 close encounters similar to this on my southern African safari in 2016: 1 in Botswana’s Okavango, another in The Linyati, and one at Londolozi. The Londolozi bull in musth was using his trunk to tear off high branches in a red hue near sunset as we watched from the vehicle nearby. After five to ten minutes of eating, scratching itself on the trunk, it decided to leave the tree as our guide immediately started the engine…..good idea because the Ellie took one……..two……walking steps before breaking into a faster mock charge straight at our vehicle which was already picking up rpm’s. Looking back beyond the back seat was not unlike Sam Neill in Jurassic Park looking into a rear view mirror labeled “Objects are closer than they appear” as the T-Rex giving Chase bore down on his vehicle from behind. The speed with which the elephant closed the distance from tree to vehicle aided by its huge strides was a firsthand lesson in what my chances would be in terms of time available to “climb a tree” as all the books advise in such a situation. I give people the line you used early in your article all the time: that it’s not the lions and leopards I’m worried about when on foot, but the elephants and the poisonous snakes. But don’t let such statements scare you away from a safari. Like the author stated, watch your guide. If there not nervous neither need you be. As an example of a more nervous guide, I offer a brief description of the first elephant charge in the Okavango. As is typical, several vehicles joined for our evening sundowner and we had all exited the vehicles and snacks per usual. I had walked 20 meters away and had picked up the sounds of breaking sticks coming from a palm forest 75 meters behind us. This went on for 15 minutes. I reported the sounds to the guides, but the sundowner continued. Suddenly the tusked head of pachyderm broke through some trees no more than 20 meters away from our position. When I looked at the guides, they immediately grabbed the sundowner table and bolted for the jeeps. In such situations, words need not be spoken. Instinctively, my legs had also picked up haste as I ran and jump-climbed up, over, and into our jeep as the posturing pachyderm shook it’s giant head and trumpeted the end to our sundowner. Once in the jeeps, we remained parked watching the display as I noted the guide’s fingers were on the keys in the transmission readying a great escape should it be necessary. In this case it wasn’t and after two or three minutes we allowed our cooler heads to prevail and in the siding driving away.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

Wow! You’ve had some incredible moments with the elephants. Thank you for sharing your encounters in such awesome detail. It put me right there with you. As always, the guides are what get us through these situations so we can live to adventure another day.

Johanna Browne
Explorer

What a great article! It really brought me into the moment and reminded me that for me, being immersed in the experience of the moment is more transcending then stopping to take a photo to share later. Meeting up with a musth bull is not on my bucket list, however hearing about it was exciting enough! Thank you!

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

You are so right. Being immersed in the moment-to-moment unfolding is often more powerful than taking pictures of it. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful perspective.

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

Diana, Thanks for sharing your amazing experience! We had a similar connection with a Bull Elephant at Londolozi a few years ago while riding with Byron. The lumbering giant decided to sniff Terri up and down while standing next to our vehicle! No photos were taken that time for sure! We think it was curiosity in our encounter – or maybe Terri’s perfume!

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

That’s not something I ever thought of. I certainly won’t be wearing any perfume on my future safaris (fingers crossed these happen)! Hard to describe the mixture of fear and exhilaration so I’m grateful you understand from personal experience.

Joanne Wadsworth Kelley
Master Tracker

One hears of the dangers of an agitated, hormone driven elephant, but being right next to one is an entirely different experience! I’m so glad you and your husband had this experience, especially since it turned out positively. The one I felt sorry for was hiding in the back row of the rover. Your one image tells it all….so close! Many thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

Yes! Our high-seated safari-mate about lost his marbles as the bull rushed past us (we all did). I was so thankful we were in the front. I may have fainted otherwise! Thank you for reading.

Pam Chandor
Digital Ranger

Love, love. love this story Diana! I also felt like I was right there with you while I was reading. While we were on safari our rangers had spotted bull elephants who were looking to mate and we traveled several miles out of our intended path to avoid them, so I can imagine your predicament! Thank you for sharing!

Diana Devaul
Digital Ranger

It was just the luck of the draw, one random turn and ‘boom’, we were right in his path with no easy exit. Thank you for your kind words. Here’s to many more adventures to come!

Mj Bradley
Senior Digital Ranger

Wow, what a memorable sighting! A once in a lifetime! Congratulations!

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