When the lodge is quiet, the rangers will often go out into the bush by themselves or with a couple of colleagues to work on their tracking, birding, or simply to be out in nature.
It can be almost spiritual to find a quiet spot and just… be…
One morning, I went out alone to go see what was happening in the northern parts of Londolozi, especially as the Sand River was due to rise because of the anticipated heavy rains from Cyclone Eloise. I set out with no real intention of looking for anything specific.
While driving along a grassy crest I noticed a lone elephant bull feeding in the distance.
I had been about to turn at the next fork but I stopped and thought of how I have always wanted a landscape photo with a big elephant in it to create an extra emphasis on scale.
I turned back and headed to the bull, positioned the vehicle and sat with him for a bit while he carefully picked up Marula fruits one at a time with his trunk. A Fork-tailed drongo fluttered from a tree branch and swooped down next to the elephant as he flushed out insects while moving through the grass. The clouds were a dramatic grey and blue which contrasted with the green grass, creating the perfect canvas. I took in all my surroundings, appreciating the fact that I can just sit alone with this enormous animal that was at peace with my presence, and carried on with his role of eating and providing food for the smaller animals (in this case the Fork-tailed drongo).
Each were performing their role in the ecosystem, right in front of my eyes.
Finally, picking up my camera with a smile, I attempted to capture this scene that I had envisioned when I had initially headed towards him.
What happened next was a great surprise for me. He lifted up his head as if to warn me that I was too close or to signal to me that I should move off, but instead of following through with a head shake (often another warning sign to give them space), he reached his trunk up to a high Marula branch to get to those fruits that hadn’t fallen down just yet; they were just too high and he had to go almost right onto his back legs in order to get his trunk higher.
I have always been envious of people witnessing the elephants lifting on their back legs to reach for the pods of the Albida tree in Mana Pools. This bull didn’t quite get to that level to grab the Marula fruits, but it was still worth that u-turn for me, because it was still spectacular to see his efforts.
Gentle sun rays started to shine through the clouds as I snapped a few last shots of him; it seemed like it was the last rays of sunshine we were getting before the rain washed the landscape.
I guess if there is any message to this other then that it was a unique sighting, it’s that the simple beauty is often overlooked as we rush through life; take that road you want to even if it was not planned.
You never know what unexpected journey you might find yourself on…