Spur-winged Geese
Spur-winged Geese

Lunch at a waterhole

Surprise visitor for lunch

March 1979

 It was lunchtime on a nice warm day, with no sign of rain. The rainy season was a while off with less than 5mm predicted for the whole month. After about 30 miles the guide pointed for us to drive into a small area of trees so that we at least had some cover. He knew of course that there was a waterhole hidden on the far edge of the trees. There were a few birds at the waterhole but unfortunately no game. Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis) in the photo and egrets off camera.  Definitely none of the 'Big 5'. Still the birds were worth a photo.

Out came the trestle tables to be set up beside the truck, on the side away from the waterhole. the kettle was on, and food quickly prepared. Lunches are not normally long drawn out occasions, there is so much more to see and do in the short days of the tropics, and this lunchtime was not planned to be any different.

People generally milling around the side of the truck, finishing lunch, and somebody noticed an elephant approaching, one of the big 5, without a doubt. We kept quiet and watched in awe as it got to the waterhole and started drinking and washing, or prehaps cooling down. Such a treat.

We watched and took photos, still by the truck as that was quite close to the waterhole anyway. Nobody had to crawl through the undergrowth to get a better view. I think I had a 135mm lens on my Pentax film SLR.

Then things changed, it noticed us and was not happy sharing its space. Ears out and flapping, trunk in the air, it started to approach us. We opened the other door on the cab, both ears out as it were and sent the EMs to the relative safety of the back of the truck. There was no way we could board and drive away before it got to us, and absolutely not including packing up. I took a few more photos at the front of the truck beside the guide. The last image I saw through the viewfinder, from a full frame elephant, became a full frame elephant eye. Oh no, that did not respond to the button. Slide 37 had been and gone, the last in the series below, and 38 was just wishful thinking. So no actual photo. Time to put the camera down, on the seat in the cab, and apply a little focus of a different type.

The problem was how do you dissuade a young bull elephant intent on doing damage and getting ready to charge from doing exactly that and hurting people, the truck, and itself in the process. It may have been young bull elephant by the size of the tusks, but as it approached it was evident it now had an extra leg dragging in the dirt, fully identifying it as a bull. You throw a stick at it apparently. Well that is what the guide did, and it had the required effect. It stopped in its track. Turned, and walked off. Not used to having that sort of response I guess.

Elephant arrives at waterhole


Elephant washes at waterhole


Elephant at waterhole spots us


Elephant at waterhole not happy


Elephant at waterhole approaches


The elephant gets closer and the photo sufferes from camera shake before the camara gets put down.


Then it was with some relief that we quickly packed up, got everybody on board, and returned to the track. On our way again, before it changed its mind.


To see the photos of this article in HD follow this link to my photo gallery site. Click here.

To see a map of the approximate route,  click here



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