Goas waterhole, Etosha National Park. We sit and we wait, full of reminiscences of what we’ve seen here in the past – a pride of 15 lions, elephants scratching their bottoms on that dead tree over there, a spotted hyena, an anthology of zebra and buck.
Kalkheuwel waterhole, the following day. It’s 10.30 and there’s already lots to keep us entertained – zebra and a harem of impala that seem to be in the throes of a takeover attempt judging by the agitated barking, lip curling and tail flashing of the male with the big horns.
A lone gemsbok joins the throng and five giraffe sashay in on stilts. One of them has two large scars on his flank telling of a lucky escape at some time past. A handful of timid kudu join the throng but don’t stay long.
Suddenly, the impala are scattering and zebra hooves rattle loudly on the calcrete stones around the waterhole. After the first mad rush, they stop and look back, heads all facing the same way, ears perked. We look and we wait. Nothing.
Twice more this happens before there’s a rustle of grey skin and the first elephants are upon us, walking from a path behind us right next to the car. One of them turns towards us, not three feet away, peering in at us in a slightly unnerving way.
They have a number of babies with them; one is so small that he can’t be more than a month or two old; he still fits under mom’s tummy with space to spare. They’re quiet and orderly, the bigger ones on either side of the littles to protect them.
There’s no pushing and shoving at the waterhole; they seem to know their place, these 45 elephants. They drink long and hard, the littles slapping the water with their trunks more than drinking, two teenagers breaking off for a little head butting practice. After 20 minutes they start to gather at the edge of another path into the thicket, waiting patiently for the rest to finish so they can leave together. There’s safety in numbers. Even though their only real non-human enemy is the lion, he’s a formidable enemy for a small elephant.
And so we get what we came here for and I’m at peace. Etosha isn't Etosha without elephants.
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