elephant standing by our tent??

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Monday, August 29, 2011

DOMINIQUE HERE: Okavango Delta Day One

Day : 460
Temperature : 30 degrees
Weather : Hot, dry and dusty

Let's make a few important points before we begin this blog.

Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana's Okavango Delta is unlike many other game reserves in other countries, such as Kruger or Etosha. Campsites in Moremi are also unlike their counterparts in other countries as well. The reason? No fences. There are no fences around Moremi Game Reserve. The animals roam freely. There are also no fences around the campsites to keep us visitors safe and well. No, this is WILD. Animals are free to wander around your tent, sniffing you out before devouring you for dinner if they are so inclined!! He he! Who wants to be safe anyway?! This, was the safari experience that we were after.

And so we were very excited as we drove to collect our new 4x4 for our wild adventure over the next few days. Unfortunately I managed to dampen our excitement just a tad when I locked us out of Bucket (our South African hired Bakkie) and left the keys sitting on the passenger seat in clear view. Ooops. As you can imagine Kevin's mood deteriorated somewhat.

Thankfully, this kind of thing happens frequently around here, and within half an hour an "expert" was on the case, prising open the door. Let's just say that I covered my eyes when I realised what his method of unlocking our door was. However, within two minutes flat we were both very much relieved to not only be holding Bucket's keys once again, but to also find that Bucket's door was still in one piece. Crisis over. Phew.

We were soon on our way to Moremi. Now, we always knew that Moremi and the Okavango had a fantastic reputation for game viewing. We'd been here four years previously, and had had an incredible time. However, we did have one or two concerns because we'd spoken to a couple of people who had just returned from Moremi and had told us that they were very dissapointed because there were no animals at all. They'd planned on staying several days, but left early because there was nothing to see.

As we approached the South Gate Entrance we suddenly came across several giraffe on the road. We excitedly stopped to watch and take a couple of photos just as another car which was leaving the park passed us by. They wound down their windows and said to us something along the lines of, "Enjoy it, there's very few animals inside the park". Well, you can imagine our reaction. Undeterred we continued onwards. At the entrance gate we completed the forms and handed over our permits as people from another vehicle were signing out. We asked them how things were looking inside and were given a somewhat unenthusiastic reply of, "well, we've seen some elephants and impala, but nothing else...and no cats". Kevin and I eyed each other. There was nothing to be said. We had already invested this time and money and we would just have to see how things went.

We drove on into the depths of the park as the sandy tracks deteriorated with each mile. It was great! This time, we had no worries of getting stuck. After about half an hour we drove past a large lagoon which was surrounded by a huge herd of elephants. Fantastic! We pulled off the road and wound down the windows to watch. There were adult elephants and baby elephants all having an afternoon drink, covering themselves in mud and the younger ones were frolicking around play fighting. After some time we drove onwards passing zebra and wildebeest, more giraffe and the odd bull elephant. This was not dissapointing so far, it was great. We drove along through the deep sandy tracks, getting lost frequently...there are no road signs here and often the tracks are impassable due to flooding.

Eventually we found Third Bridge Camp, which consists of a reception building, a toilet and shower block, and 10 well spaced out clearing amongst the bush. The first thing that we noticed were the elephants that were freely roaming around between the camping sites. The few people that were in camp were moving around very slowly, quietly and cautiously. Awesome! Elephants in camp already! I was given a disclaimer to sign which basically read that it's dangerous, there are wild animals, and if we get injured or killed then the campsite company is not responsible.

We were given campsite number seven. We drove along and found a clearing, parked the car and set up our tent. A few minutes later, the receptionist walked towards us to tell us that this was infact campsite number 6, and campsite number 7 was about 200m away pointing us in the direction of our correct campsite. Since our tent was already erected we decided to pick it up and carry it across to number 7. Just as we neared the clearing I suddenly saw out of the corner of my eye a huge shape moving. I froze. It was a huge elephant about 10 metres away. "KEV! Stop!" I shouted in a whisper. "There's an elephant next to us!".

Now if you have read our previous entries you may remember that the last time that we were close to an elephant was in Etosha in Namibia. We were in our car about 20 metres away, and it turned and charged us without warning. Here we were, me in bare feet, NOT in a car, carrying our tent, 10 metres from this elephant, our car was 150 metres away, and the elephant is just standing staring at us. We stood frozen to the spot for about 10 seconds, deciding what to do. And then we slowly continued onwards, cautiously moving very gently, past the elephant, making it with much relief to our camping spot. The elephant was still in the same place watching us. I wonder what he thought our tent was?!

After dinner we went to bed early, exhausted after the excitement of the day. Just as we were both drifting into sleep the noise of something moving towards our tent shook us out of our slumber. We heard the footsteps getting closer until they were directly outside of our tent. Kev and I sat still and silent in our tent. I was hysterically laughing in silence, my hand and my sleeping bag muffling the noise of my laughter. This, was CRAZY! And then we heard the typical soft groan and heavy breathing of an elephant right next to our heads. And I mean, right next to our heads.

Have you ever seen Jurassic Park? Imagine the scene. People hiding from the dinosaur which is right behind the door and all they can hear is the very heavy breathing and growling from the dinosaur. This, was Jurassic Park in Botswana...only with elephants! Insane!

And then the elephants (there was by now of course more than one) started to rip apart the tree under which our tent was erected as twigs and branches began to fall on our tent. We sat in silence in the pitch black for the next two hours as elephants came and elephants went. It was obviously a very popular, and very delicious tree. What can I say? We will remember this experience for the rest of our lives!!
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