Let’s talk about elephants.
They rank right next to the giraffe in producing a shriek and sense of awe when we encounter them. We saw them from a distance when we were on the boat ride. To see the Nile River, a vast wild country behind it and then to see an elephant step out onto the scene causes a moment of stunned silence. They are so enormous and move so slowly and laboriously.
There are these trees with long hanging gourds. The gourds are bigger than my upper leg. It is called the sausage tree, and the gourds have a very high alcohol content. The elephants like to knock down these gourds and eat them, then it makes them very drunk! Taban said he has seen the drunk elephants before and they run around like crazy. I can only imagine how much my stomach would hurt from laughter after witnessing a bunch of drunk elephants.
We saw the elephants several times during our game drive. At first they were in the distance, but then later we drove towards the delta where they all like to congregate. We drove up behind two other safari groups and there were several elephants on each side of their vans, and some crossing in front of them. There in the road two young males began to fight head to head, interlocking their tusks and kicking up some dust. I got a good sense of how much power they have. I was fearful for the people in the trucks. When wild animals are riled up into fighting mode, anything can happen to the bystanders whether that’s another elephant or a van load of people. We saw huge trees knocked down along our travels through the park and this damage was caused by the elephants.
Eventually the fighting bull elephants took their tussle across the road and into the trees. We remained to watch the interaction between the group. The two having the problem disappeared from sight but we could see the bending of enormous trees as they played or worked out their differences. Taban explained this is the season of “musth” when the hormones for the males are high and it makes them more aggressive.
Our guide took us closer to the water of the delta and we spotted two elephants in the wide open. One was farther away but the other was close to us. We left the beaten path and drove through the rough terrain to get closer to him. We made noises like monkeys as we positioned ourselves to get the best photo angle. I climbed out of the van to the roof and stood on top to photograph this guy whom we named “studly” because his parts looked like an extra leg.
He became aware of us and slowly, gradually came toward our van. He began to get even closer as he flapped his ears wide in an aggressive manner, my driver, Eddie, said, “it would be good to get down now ma’am”. I never moved so fast as I slipped through that whole in the roof. My husband would have had a heart attack. Studly began to stomp his feet and begin to charge at our van. Our driver revved the engine several times to make a stronger animal sound than his, but at first this didn’t deter studly. I continued to fire of photos, but everyone else was frozen. I asked the men below, “are we in danger?” snap, snap snap. Their reply was to rev the engine louder and louder. Studly swung his head around aggressively and stomped, he turned around in a circle kicking up some dust. There was a moment of nothing when he decided to go away. We won.
Taban, our guide said he carries the gun to shoot it in the air and that is the final fear factor to scare off the wild beasts. He’s never had to shoot an animal in all his years as a guide. When the incident was over we were beyond stimulated. Our heart rates were racing and we were simply dumb struck. It took me several minutes to catch my breath again. What an incredible experience, and I captured it all with my camera. Taban and Eddie laughed out loud when I finally came down through the ceiling hole and they saw my face. It must have shown the mix of horror, exhilaration and elation I felt from our standoff with a bull elephant.