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…
Jess, I saved the elephant, I saved the elephant🤗
Jess, I saved the saved elephant, James Tyrell, and saved the James Tyrell🤗
What a lovely meditative piece. Thank you Jess – and the photos are so evocative of the scene that I can almost hear the bush around you and feel the space to breathe.
Hello Jess! Beautiful written and beautiful photos! It must have been a fantastic moment to sitt near him! Thank you for sharing!
Great photos and a wonderful story.
I love your blogs Jess. You write beautifully. A lovely experience with the elephant bull. Great photos.
Great pic of the elephant reaching!
Nice video but we only went to Botswana to see lions only. Paid plenty but it was well worth it. You have no lions?
Jess, What a great experience! Just like a puppy dog looking for a treats, the elephant was doing the same thing only on a much larger scale!
Great pictures and commentary. Many thanks for brightening our day!
Simply Lovely 🙂
serendipity is my husband’s (Guido van der Groen) “stopword” , ask James Souchon 🙂
What an experience you had watching that lone bull elephant, especially when he lifted his head up to warn you and then reaching higher up for the marula fruits. Spectacular sighting. Beautiful foto’s and story. Jess do you now how many toes an African elephant have on their front feet, and how many toes on their back feet.
How fortunate you were to have the time and mobility to experience this wonderful time with a bull elephant. It’s these peaceful moments that nurture and feed our souls, especially in these trying times. Your images are lovely, soothing in their colors and simplicity. I’m not sure who came away with the best morning- the solo elephant feasting on the marulas, the fork tail drongo gobbling up the grasses’ insects or you……
Ooh, Jess, what a beautiful moment you got to share with him. I’m in goosebumps. That would be a dream come true for me. I’m sure you treasure that silent conversation you had together. Great photos!
This is beautifully written and the photos are truly spectacular. Thank you!
What an experience and many thanks for sharing. Absolutely magical to be so close to this seemingly gentle giant. Your photos took my breath away and your narrative was like actually being there with you. Much appreciation.
How true. Take the road less traveled and you will be all the better for it.
Thanks for a wonderful post Jess. The photographs are marvelous and the words encapsulate my feelings when asked what I would most like to look for on a game drive, and my silent answer is usually nothing in particular but I am sure that something lovely will turn up. It takes all the angst out of not finding what you are looking for, and then you find an elephant on his tippie-toes or myriad other things which just make your day. How are those hornbills doing?.
Lovely blog Jess. Would have enjoyed being at this sighting with you.
Beautiful photos Jess and an enviable experience!
Wow, this is really something magical. It is such an exciting sighting to have witnessed.
Lovely……I find Ellies so very peaceful to sit with….
Thank you Jess. My dream of visiting Africa began at age 10 after reading a book. As a farm girl in the plains of the U.S. it was a very distant goal. But my passion for animals led me study animals, primarily domestic, in college. I’ve worked, played, rescued, rehomed, released, and continued to educate myself about animals while slowly shifting me focus more on wild animals.
In my 50’s I finally fulfilled my dream and experienced safaris in several Southern African countries. It was more brilliant than I could even imagine. Your post reminded me of a moment during that trip when I had a desired to stop searching for wildlife and instead spend hours, quietly in one place, just observing nature unfold. On my next visit I hope I can find a way to do just that.
Jess, your story reminds me of 17 May 2019 when I was driving around Sinamatella and descended to a low-level bridge and close to the bridge on the right was a group of 6 or more Elephhant standing on the sand bed of river with their trunk ends buried in the sand. One closest to the bridge turned its head to look back at me without removing it’s trunk from the sand and turned back to the matter at hand or should I write “at trunk”? I sat there, alone, until they left. Sadder for their departure but time, tide and Nature waits for no mere man.
Wow, incredible photo captures, and very sage advice!!
That looks so special!!
Jess I’m glad your dream came through with this sighting. What makes me happiest for you was that it occurred when you were alone. Zero distractions of any kind with plenty of time. It’s a lifetime memory that you will never forget!
Lovely shots and how wonderful to sit and spend time with this ancient species!