For elephants, the secret ruler of savannahs and even deserts, we visit the northwest of Namibia. No other animal can be watched their intensive behavior pattern. For days we sit next to water and mud holes and fascinated observe their habits and behavior. This results in thousands of photos.
The observations are not always voluntary. Once we fully underestimate a situation on the Chobe River. One of the pachyderms is approaching our jeep to take a mud bath three meters next to the bank of the river in a 2 x 2m hole. What does such a big elephant want in such a small bathtub? We are very quiet. All windows are open. The engine is switched off. Looking at the rear-view mirror, I feel queasy, the pulse is rising. A herd of about 40 elephants with six babies approaches the tiny mud hole. A minute later we are surrounded by all these elephants. We do not move a centimeter and make no sound. One can forget the cameras, even if the shutter is set to quiet. We do want to risk that in the presence of the babies. They stand very close to our windows, so we only have to stretch our hands to crawl them on their trunks. We resist the temptation. The mud spectacle lasts two hours. This takes place in the midday heat without any shade and we are sitting in the parked car. If 40 elephants want to bathe in a 2x2m hole, the project takes time. They all have fun. We rather less. Before us the river, and behind us the embankment. “Escape” is not to be thought of. The only picture shows the three last elephants of the herd. Unfortunately, only as a backlight shot.
Only the next morning we have the pleasant feeling of a pulse in the normal range and the adrenaline level has decreased.
We react as relaxed as it is ten meters behind us in the bushes, while we are about to photograph a mongoose family with their offspring, near our sleeping place. We do not see anything in the bush, can only hear the sounds. Then a grown elephant bull comes out of the scrub. For us, we are rigid for a few seconds. Now just do not run. Keep Calm. We slowly start the flight in the reverse direction. Now just do not step on branches and cause noises. The bull is totally relaxed. He takes his lunch and follows us, still chewing. Fortunately it is only 20 meters to the jeep. The terror still sits in our limbs. Now we know what it means that elephants can make themselves invisible.
We have a similar experience, but at dusk at the Lynianti marshes, during the dinner preparation. The table and chairs are protected by the jeep so that nothing can happen to us in the realm of wild animals. Right in front of us is the river and the swamps. I turn around and beside the jeep stands a big bull. We look up at him and feel terribly tiny. He strolls past our table five meters away and disregards our green stuff on the table. He takes a splashing bath for the next three hours and we have to forgo a relaxing evening at the camp fire, because the search for firewood is now cancelled.
This has been our fifth encounter and slowly we get used to the pachyderm in close contact. It is THEIR home, we are the intruders.