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Travel Photo Thursday: Elephants

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!


  1. Great article 🙂
    Muza-chan recently posted..A Japanese Song per Day: Zi:Kill – RocketMy Profile

  2. Cathy Sweeney

    Wonderful photos! Great job getting that top pic of the mother elephant, too. It must have been such a cool experience.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..High in New YorkMy Profile

  3. I think elephants are very unique and interesting animals. I love seeing the babies around the water hole!
    Debbie Beardsley recently posted..Armored Schloss AmbrasMy Profile

  4. I love elephants and have seen them in the wild on several occasions.I never cease to get excited. Particularly love your sunset shot.

    Hadn’t realized there were so many elephants in one national park in Zimbabwe.
    Leigh recently posted..Don’t Rock Ronda: A Photo EssayMy Profile

  5. Amazing shots! I especially love the ones of the elephants playing by the watering hole.
    Laurel recently posted..Kaese Spaetzle: German Mac and CheeseMy Profile

  6. Thanks, Laurel. Yes, they’re so cute!

  7. Thanks, Leigh. I’m amazed at how lovely they are. It’s great sitting and watching them, especially the way they care for their young.
    Yes, they have quite a large population in Hwange.

  8. They so are, Debbie. Very playful, very protective of their young and very intelligent.

  9. It sure was and it turned out to be a great day for catching elephants doing normal things, like playing in the watering hole.

  10. Thanks, Muza-chan!

  11. totsymae1011

    My goodness, I would’ve been trying to run to somewhere and hide! But I know it would’ve looked utterly foolish. Can’t miss saying that nature sure is something and you were up close without being at the circus. In their own natural habitat. Nice photos.
    totsymae1011 recently posted..On Being Thankful. For Real.My Profile

  12. Hahahaha, I nearly did. But it would have probably spooked her so best to stay as calm as possible.
    After that experience, I doubt I’d want to see any animal in captivity. Glad you like the photos.

  13. Average Traveller

    I always wondered about why elephants are grey, but those pictures near the water have answered that question. Cool shots!
    Average Traveller recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday: Alaska Airlines 737 EngineMy Profile

  14. Wow, these photos are amazing. You’re very fortunate to have gotten up close and personal with these majestic creatures.
    Cheryl recently posted..McDonalds Around The World: Budapest, Hungary.My Profile

  15. What fantastic shots! That must have been a magical day. I’ve spent time with elephants in Thailand and would love to go to Africa to see them in the wild.
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — November 9, 2011 –Through the Eye of A FishMy Profile

  16. These are stunning photos and the highlight is that mom looking to protect her baby… all gorgeous! 😉
    ElizOF recently posted..Humor: Ten Signs To Quit The Silly Jokes…My Profile

  17. Absolutely beautiful photos. Must have been such a special experience. My 10-year-old now wants to go to Hwange. (Immediately, she says).
    Sophie recently posted..Anne Frank still speaks to usMy Profile

  18. Thanks, Sophie. Yes, it was.
    Hahaha, she’d love it.

  19. That maternal instinct is so strong, even in animals.
    Thanks, Elizabeth

  20. It sure was a magical day. I’ve not seen those in Thailand, I hear they’re a bit smaller than the African ones. And seeing them in the wild is so much better.

  21. Thanks, Cheryl. Sometimes when I look back on the photos, I can’t believe I got so close.
    They truly are majestic.

  22. Good point. Yes, they use the mud as protection from the sun.

  23. I just love animals! Your pictures are great and I can’t wait to get my own close-up pictures of an elephant in the wild. This looks like so much fun.
    Michaela Hall recently posted..A Thanksgiving Without TurkeyMy Profile

  24. I love how they survive as a family unit and that they appear playful with one another, too. The more photos and articles I read about Africa, the more I get excited to go there next year. I cannot wait to step foot on this continent. I especially love that refelction, sunset photo – simply beautiful!

  25. When and where are you going? Wherever you go, it’ll be fun, I’m sure.
    Yes, it’s amazing to see how protective they are of their young, just like we are.
    Thanks, glad you like that photo. It’s one of my favorites.

  26. You’d definitely love game watching then. It’s an amazing experience.

  27. totsymae1011

    You know, that whole captivity thing, I don’t care for either. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like going to the zoo. Here, the animals look ill to me. It could be me over-dramatizing in my mind but I don’t like them caged up. This, coming from a person who not into animals like some people are. It just makes me a wee bit sad to see them caged to such limited space.

    But yes, I can see that running would frighten them. Do elephants really smile? They look like they do.
    totsymae1011 recently posted..A Toast to the Winners and A Little Story for AllMy Profile

  28. Like you, I don’t like zoos either. I used to live within walking distance of one and would go very often, especially to look at the dolphins. One day, on my way out, I stopped at the lion’s lair — it really was an open space where theoretically, the animal was free to roam. But as I watched, I noticed that there was an invisible line he never crossed. It just broke my heart. Suddenly, I felt claustrophobic, like I was in the cage. I never went back to the zoo. I’m also not an animal person. But my friend who we went on this trip is, big time. After it was over, I had a whole new appreciation for animals. They are so intelligent, so nurturing, just like mothers anywhere.

  29. Well you’ve experienced my trip of a lifetime! I’m dying to do this. I’m so glad you went on such a beautiful trip. What an experience!


  30. Beautiful photos, Marcia! What a gift to have gotten so close to these magnificent animals.
    Nancy recently posted..A Fast 48 Hours in New York City – Part TwoMy Profile

  31. Thanks, Nancy. I’d definitely love to see them again.

  32. You should, Carla. It’s really a life-changing experience. I’d definitely go again.

  33. Andrew Graeme Gould

    That first photo is so impressive, with the frame filling elephant! The rest of the series is beautiful, too, and I’ve very much enjoyed reading your recounting of the experience.
    Andrew Graeme Gould recently posted..Coquimbo, Chile: Children at the portMy Profile

  34. Thanks, Andrew. I’m glad you did. I love recalling that experience.