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Travel Photo Thursday: Elephants

A lone bull elephant, Mbisa, Zimbabwe

There are more than 30,000 elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe so it’s not a matter of whether you’ll see a few elephants when you go game watching, but when.

We first saw this mother’s baby at the side of the road and stopped to take it’s photo when we heard the unmistakable sound of an elephant on our right. When I turned round, I noticed her ears were fully open — elephants use this technique to frighten other animals, and us. She was so close, I’m not sure how we didn’t see her first but glad I didn’t fumble the shot.

Lone Elephant, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Lone Elephant, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

We were very lucky the day we watched as a herd approached a watering hole. The baby got there first and began drinking right away, totally oblivious to our presence.

Baby elephant at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Baby elephant at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Soon more came and they drank, played, squirted water on their backs, rolled around in the mud and had a good ole time.

Elephants taking a mud bath, Hwange National Park

Elephants taking a mud bath, Hwange National Park

Elephants playing at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

Elephants playing at a watering hole, Hwange National Park

We were very fortunate to catch this scene — several hundred cape buffalo near our camp. As we sat quietly watching the buffalo, we saw a herd of elephants approaching. From the corner of my eye, they looked like a dark shadow but the day was clear so I began looking more intently. Then I saw them. For animals that can weigh up to 7,000 lbs., they are astonishingly quiet and nimble on their feet. Soon, about three or four herds joined buffalos, zebras and impalas at the watering hole. It was a beautiful sight.

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

A lone bull elephant, Mbisa, Zimbabwe

A lone bull elephant, Mbisa, Zimbabwe

Towards the end of the day, we caught this elephant slowly making its way as if he’d had a hard day at work and was on his way home. I hoped that where ever ‘home’ was, it wasn’t too far away.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

A Wordless Wednesday

Elephants and Cape Buffalo
Elephants and Cape Buffalo

Elephants and Cape Buffalo, Hwange National Park

Three Black Girlz on Safari: Elephants at the Watering hole, II

Hwange elephant

Shortly after we started out on our morning drive on the second day at Hwange National Park, we came across a jackal that had just made a kill. It looked up as we approached. From where we had stopped, we could hear the bones breaking as he chomped down on his breakfast. Godfrey thought it probably had been a bird.

Not long after we left the jackal, Sandra spotted an elephant just as it materialized from the bush a few yards from our jeep. Godfrey stopped so we could take her photo. We were so focused on taking photos that we didn’t see another elephant, probably her child or family member, across the path until Sandra called our attention to it.

Elephants at the Watering Hole

This elephant’s not amused

By the time we shifted our attention to the other elephant, the mother had spread her ears so wide, she looked massive. I thought it was an impressive display and a wonderful photo opportunity until Sandra said it was how elephants intimidate a predator or rival. Since elephants are not famous for good eyesight, I’m not sure which she perceived us to be. [Read more...]

Three Black Girlz on Safari: Elephants at the Watering Hole, I

Hwange Elephants - Exiting the mud bath

With 30,000 elephants in Hwange National Park, it wasn’t whether we would see any, but when and how many.

As the sun came down on our first game drive, cold and blackness overtook us immediately. Dixon pulled out his infrared flashlight to make it easier to spot the animals that had become invisible to us.

We were following the flashlight as it darted from side to side, and complaining, through chattering teeth about how cold it had become when we saw what looked like small beads floating on dusty brown mounds directly ahead. Dixon stopped abruptly. I was shocked when the jeep’s headlights illuminated two elephants — they seemed to have just come out of nowhere. Dixon shone the flashlight at them but before they backed away, one shook its head as if were annoyed at being disturbed.

I was a little unnerved at how close we came. It was our first day and our first time being that close and it brought home the fact that in this world, we were the intruders.

Elephants at the Watering Hole

Elephants at sunset

After that first night, we’d see elephants every time we went on a drive. And as days passed, we got better at spotting them even when they appeared to be hiding among the grass or seemed to blend into the foliage. Since it was difficult to see them at night, I’m absolutely certain that we missed many more than we saw.

Despite their size — African elephants can weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds and are about 8 feet tall — they’re gentle animals. A herd could be approaching and you wouldn’t hear their footsteps. It surprised me to discover that.

They’re also very playful. It’s a treat watching them with their babies, or playing with others in the herd. It was always fun watching them at the watering hole.

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