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.
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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