Elephants of Etosha
An occasional grunt or yap of a foraging jackal punctured the surrounding silence.
It was early evening and the air was oppressive as we sat mesmerised, taut with the expectation of what we would see of this promised show.
Two floodlights directed from our camp lit up the waterhole; evening shadows enveloped the surrounding trees.
The giant stage was set.
We were at the Okaukuejo camp in the Etosha game park in South West Africa, soon to be named Namibia. It was August 1990.
Our journey had taken us North West from East London in South Africa, more than two thousand kilometres from home, through Uppington and its huge dried fruit centre, through the magnificent Augrabies Falls and past prehistoric kookerboom (quiver) trees near Keetmanshoop;
We had seen pre-historic two- thousand -year old Welwitchia plants, had dined in quaint German restaurants in Windhoek, climbed the Waterberg Plateau and driven on to Etosha, via Tsumeb, whose mines produced one hundred and eighty four different minerals.
We had side tracked through two hundred kilometres of farmland, opened and closed sixteen gates to view the largest known meteorite in the world- the Hoba Meteorite;
It weighs fifty tons, is almost three metres long and up to one metre thick, and supposedly struck the earth eighty thousand years ago.
Yet none of those wonderful sights could match the sheer wonder that we felt when we viewed the elephants of Etosha.
Travelling through this huge park, we saw game en masse. The pans were low on water. There is no cover such as there is in the Kruger National Park and game was easy to spot.
The temperatures were in the high thirties and we were grateful for the cover of huge thorn trees when we needed to refresh ourselves in our camper van, our travelling home.
We had finally arrived at Okaukuejo camp’s entrance and after our evening meal, had walked over to watch at this gathering place.
Two jackals crept silently to the water hole, glancing behind them as they made their way across tree stumps, dried holes and ruts. Next came two black rhino, both trotting with heads held high.
The first sign of the elephants was a pungent smell of dung that drifted over the water and our eyes gradually focused on the herd coming out of the dark shadows of the trees.
Quietly and softly they trod, each following the other in a straight line. They numbered twenty-five in all.
Mums, Dads, Aunts, teenagers, toddlers and babies came into the clearing.
The leader, a huge tusked creature would throw its trunk into the air-moving it about like a telescope.
The herd surrounded the waterhole as three male elephants stood guard, each with its back to the waterhole. Mothers pushed and pulled babies out of trouble, while toddlers lay or rolled in the mud.
Teenagers tumbled together, gambolling and splashing through water, tugging at each other’s tails. Aunts kept watchful eyes on babies brave enough to venture into the water.
The leader now stood on three legs, keeping this position for several minutes, like a pointer over its master’s kill, repeating the process again and again; he trumpeted occasionally to let his presence be known.
We watched in awe for more than an hour and it occurred to me that we humans could learn a thing or two from this group, with their strong family ties, the camaraderie and the male reliability in its readiness to defend.
The elephants drank their fill and retreated as quietly as they had arrived.
The last elephant to leave was the big bull, feet marching firmly on the ground and trunk still waving, looking out for danger.
Young calves hooked their trunks into the calf in front, and Mums and Aunts shoo’d them along.
The black rhino drank on, quite unconcerned.
The jackals had disappeared only to re-appear later in our camp to chew a tent’s rope and steal my sandal.
I think of that family of gentle elephants often and realise how privileged we had been to be able to be part of the audience that evening.
If only the human race could be as caring.
©2021 gentlelifehacks.com| Author| Doreen|Memories of Africa