Those of you who have been following the blog posts over the last while may have seen my two-part ‘bucket list sightings of Londolozi‘ post where I highlighted some of the more memorable sightings one can have here. On that list, one that I mentioned was viewing a herd of elephant at Finfoot Crossing and, rather ironically, just a few days after I wrote the post, I was lucky enough to experience it first hand!
On this afternoon we were treated to a spectacular display of warm afternoon sunlight breaking through a blanket of low-lying, dark, ominous clouds. These dramatic skies are what we usually expect in summer as thunderstorms roll in over the horizon in the late afternoon. It’s amazing what effect light can have on the mood and overall atmosphere of an experience. We had been tracking a leopard that was seen earlier that day but were coming up with little luck. As the golden light broke through the dark clouds we decided we needed to enjoy this moment down by the river. We had seen a large herd of elephants moving in the direction of Finfoot Crossing earlier on and tracker Euce and I made the decision to give up the search for the leopard and see if the herd had reached the river, as it had the potential to be a breath-taking scene.
Our hopes and predictions paid off. Before we even reached the riverbed itself we bumped into a few of the trailing members of the elephant herd we had seen earlier, slowly ambling down towards the water’s edge. We continued through the riverine thicket and after passing under the large mahogany tree, drove out onto the sandy ‘beach’ that hugs the southern bank of the river. There, the bulk of the herd were spread out over an area bigger than a football field. Some were wading in the shallow water, occasionally enjoying a drink while others had their trunks deep inside the phragmites thickets, feeding on their long stems and green leaves.
One of the highlights of the sighting was a young female approaching a small sandy embankment, trying to reach the water. Elephants, as you can imagine, are not the most supple creatures and steep down hills are not the easiest features of the landscape for them to negotiate. Their heavy bodies often throw them off balance if they’re able to stay on all fours and so to combat this, they usually slide down on their backsides. However, this time, the loose sand posed a different threat and fell away from beneath the elephants feet before she could prepare herself for it. She casually slide down the bank in a gradual but uncontrolled fashion until her front feet were in the water. I’m not sure if elephants feel embarrassment but we got the feeling that she would be blushing a bit had she had the cheeks to do so!
As the herd slowly began to wander off away from the river and into the thickets we rolled further forward into the water and watched as the last of the elephant were still feeding. Just as they ventured out of sight, so the light began to fade and the moment was over. We certainly got more than what we bargained for on this afternoon and decided to head up one of the nearby crests and enjoy an evening drink to see out the rest of the day.