May 7-10, 2008 - Around The World, Days 12-15 - Elephants, South Africa

May 7, Timbavati
Amazingly, we didn't see any elephants during the day on our first safari in South Africa.
That meant We were so excited that night to see them on the night safari.
It may not be the best shot, but it was our first of the pachyderms - and it was at about 100 feet in pitch black. (The rangers won't shine the lights in the eyes of animals out of respect.)

We got back to camp and ate in the boma (the one with all the lanterns hanging off the trees). The lodge managers came around to our tables very quietly and told us that there were elephants at the watering hole at the edge of camp. (Remember the small wading pond about 30 feet from the porch?)

There were about 20 of them. They were so loud as they sloshed around in the water, drank, shot water around, and trumpeted quietly. It was awesome. We watched for probably 30 minutes until they finally had their fill and left.
It was at this time that a honey badger wandered through camp. We were so entranced by the elephants that we didn't go see the other animal. (I kinda wish we had, but I am not upset about it.)

May 8, Timbavati
And so begins the onslaught of elephants. They were everywhere from then on.
We saw no less than 10 on every drive after then, but we always stopped to watch - and never got tired of seeing them!

I found this one's ear really interesting.

The flapping of the ears cools them not from the fanning, but because they pump so much blood through their ears. Check out the blood vessels.

I think she may be eyeing me.

This is her friend.

I still love the ear, but these animals are overall simply amazing.

My, what a fine backside.

May 8, Sabi Sands
Another yoga position: Downward Facing Dog

I'd say this one is about 30 feet behind Jill. Frequently, they were within 10 feet.

Apparently, she likes the camera.

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr Deville."

Whoops. Too close. May 9, Sabi Sands

Just outside camp, we saw a strange track...
This is the footprint of a medium-sized elephant and the marking as he dragged his tusk along the ground, playing.
The tracker and ranger could tell it was a male because of the small drops on the ground (near the bottom of the picture, just left of center).
That's the glandular secretion of a male elephant when they are in a strange time - a kind of frustrated heat, where they are very aggressive and dangerous.

Still early in the morning, we happen upon a large group of mostly females.

Here's an example of one of the frustrated bull elephants.

We find the babies adorable!

The quality sucks because of the light, but we just loved the little ones...

Zooming out to show our vantage point.

We frequently see elephants wearing socks (from the 2-foot deep water they were wading in).

We watched this one drink for a while.

It is amazing how they can move that thing!

At the end of the walking tour, we ran into what we thought was two elephants.
The only thing the rangers are really scared of encountering is more than one elephant.
We waited by the side of the road behind some trees until our tracker came to pick us up in a rover. Right around the corner we saw the herd - probably 15 elephants.

...including some babies and this rather upset-looking female.

On our last evening, we're greeted by a gorgeous site of an elephant playing at sunset.

Amazing. What a great last sunset!