Close encounters of the elephant kind

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Nov 30, 2011

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saturday morning, after a couple of busy days in Victoria Falls, it was time to depart on the second leg of our African overland adventure to Nairobi. Unfortunately, in Vic Falls we had to say goodbye to Maria, Val, Steve and Dana. We'd had such a great time together over the past three weeks that it was really sad to see them all go. Eleven people proved to be a perfect sized group for the first leg, so it will be interesting to see how we get on with a much larger group – 19 passengers - for the next three and a half weeks. I’m not looking forward to travelling in such a large group.

Despite my reservations, our first morning together went off well. Camp was packed up quickly, with almost all of the tents packed away perfectly. Everyone was keen, and pitched in to help, which was good to see. After a quick stop to see the grand Victoria Falls Hotel, we headed for Hwange National Park.

On the way to Hwange we made a stop at the Painted Dog Conservation Centre to see, and learn about, the African wild dog. These animals are hyper-carnivores, which means that they survive exclusively on what they can hunt and kill. Unfortunately, they are becoming very rare in the wild now, with the number of viable wild dog populations across Africa declining all the time, as hunting packs are reduced due to deaths in poachers snares, generally meant for other animals – it’s a sad situation. I thought our visit to the Painted Dog Conservation Centre was both worthwhile and educational. It was also nice to see a couple of African wild dogs, as they’re very rare and difficult to spot in the wild.

We arrived at our camp in Hwange National Park around 2.45pm, with just enough time to pitch our tents before our 3pm afternoon game drive. Andy, our guide, was incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and took time to talk about the animals, birdlife and plant life we saw, and showed us various animal tracks as we went along. The landscape near the Main Camp was generally very scrubby and covered with thickets, which meant that there wasn’t a great deal of wildlife to see. After a couple of hours driving around checking animal tracks and listening to Andy’s tales we came across a large herd of elephant, before also spotting some giraffe and zebra. Having seen the elephant, Andy was keen to go and check out a nearby waterhole, but we arrived to find a number of vehicles already stopped at the viewing platform alongside the waterhole. With the large crowd around Andy was keen to move on after a quick stop for some refreshments. But before we could leave he was summoned into action to go and remove a cobra that had made its way into the men’s bathroom.

Having dealt with the snake, we unfortunately didn’t have any more time to go animal spotting before we had to exit the park, but all in all it was an excellent afternoon, despite the lack of animal sightings. Andy was incredibly informative and entertaining, and he made the afternoon really enjoyable.  

After dinner, Andy offered us the chance to go with him on a night drive. He said he was going on the night drive regardless, but if we wanted to come we could. Kerry was keen to do another night drive, but I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. I just couldn’t face another cold night drive after the average returns we got from our freezing night in Etosha. Without a definite return time – Andy had said that they could be out as late as 1am depending on what they saw - and the fact that we had to be up for breakfast at 6am, and another early morning game drive at 6.30am, I preferred to have some time to myself, and get some sleep, rather than worry about trying to stay warm in the open jeep.

I was well and truly tucked up in my sleeping bag when Kerry finally returned just before midnight. She really enjoyed the night drive, and apparently saw much more than we did in Etosha – including elephant, buffalo and lion - but even so I was still happy with my decision to stay behind.

Sunday morning everyone was dressed warmly, carrying sleeping bags and duvets, when Andy arrived with the jeeps. As soon as the gates opened we headed deep into the park. It wasn’t long before we spotted a few zebra – disco donkeys in Andy’s language – and a couple of giraffe, and a kudu. But we were in search of elephant, lion, leopard, and other big game, so we pressed on. Again, as we got deeper into the park there wasn’t a great deal of wildlife to see – some baboons and impala, but not much else. The bright early morning light however was great for photos so we were able to entertain ourselves with some amazing landscape photography.

By mid-morning we’d only happened upon a few elephant, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, an ostrich, a jackal, and another kudu, before we had to turn back to our camp. Fortunately the journey back was a little more interesting and eventful. As we drove back we spotted a small herd of sable antelope walking down to a waterhole. Sightings of sable antelope are quite rare, as they are relatively few in number, so Andy was excited. Kerry and I had glimpsed of a couple of sable antelope in the bush when we entered Chobe National Park earlier in the week, but now we could finally see them out in the open in broad daylight – amazing. The sable didn’t stick around for very long – they were clearly perturbed by our presence at the waterhole and decided to wander off. As the sable left, a young male elephant emerged from the tree line beyond the waterhole and proceeded to wander up to drink. While the jeep carrying the other half of our group pulled away, having seen the sable, Andy wanted to stay and watch the young elephant. As Andy stepped out of the jeep to answer the call of nature, the young elephant proceeded to break into a jog, rounded the waterhole, and began to approach the jeep. As soon as Andy saw the elephant 'mock charging’ the vehicle he bellowed at it to "Mind your manners!". The young elephant retreated briefly, but was clearly agitated, and didn’t want us there. We weren’t in any serious danger, but the elephant clearly didn’t like the jeep as close to the waterhole as it was, and was making his feelings known, so we pulled away and left him in peace. The best part of the encounter with the elephant was that Roman had the foresight – or perhaps luck – to get the whole exchange on video. It was very reminiscent of our encounter with the elephant in Etosha.

By the time we’d made it back to camp, we’d been out in the jeeps for over five hours – a consequence of Andy’s infectious enthusiasm for Hwange National Park. Despite our relative lack of success sighting some of the big game, we all enjoyed our Hwange experience, thanks to Andy. His willingness to share his insights, knowledge, and stories, made the safaris enjoyable regardless of whether there was wildlife or not.

Our next stop is Matobo National Park, for another safari with Andy – this time a walking safari, as we go in search of rhino.

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Silver Jewelry Jaipur on

amazing park really so nice and cool and great

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