Curious Elephants and a Taste of Honey

Curious Elephants and a Taste of Honey

Curious Elephants and a Taste of Honey

Christine MacDougall

Africa Travel Consultant for Tribes Travel.

Last November, I was a very fortunate lady and travelled to Botswana. Like everyone who visits new and exciting destinations, there were favourite moments. The slight catch is that there were so many I can’t list them all, but I can give you a small insight.

“‘A very close encounter with a large bull elephant while on a foot safari”

CHRIS MACDOUGALL

  • A helicopter flight with the doors removed flying over the Linyanti Marsh.
  • A very close encounter with a large bull elephant while on a foot safari.
  • A long overdue sighting of not one but two honey badgers closely followed by an all-singing, all-dancing (literally) candle-lit bush dinner.

From the small plane I travelled in from Johannesburg to Maun, the land below constantly changed and only from the air did I grasp the enormity of what lay below me. I just loved the fact that a land so large has so few people in it.

I lost myself in Bots this time, mainly emotionally. Why you might ask? Well, I am not one for spending endless hours sat on my bum in a vehicle, I was itching to get out on foot. It’s not often I am stumped for words, and at times I was completely unable to string a sentence together. No human nonsense to be seen, at one in the wild, and I could be there, just me, nobody else around (except of course for my trusty tracker and guide). I loved the smells, the small things, the sounds of chattering birds – even the essence of carcass or poo has a sense of authenticity and truth. I felt alive. Botswana is stunningly beautiful, with heart stopping experiences to be had. There is an astonishingly high number of predators and prey, birdlife is superb, and the guiding outstanding. I was hooked by the guides’ enthusiastic and genuine love of nature.

“The ele was a long way off but was quickly making his way across the plain towards the river. It was clear he was coming our way.”

CHRIS MACDOUGALL

A 3.5km walk at a slow speed (due to the heat) delivered a hyena den complete with three sleeping females. We got incredibly close before they woke up. We detoured around a large herd of buffalo, saw countless raptors and lots of browsing giraffe. My walk was completed with I have to say a heart in the mouth experience: a close and personal meeting with an incredibly relaxed bull elephant. Dutch, a very experienced bush guide, and I spotted the ele almost at the same time. The ele was a long way off but was quickly making his way across the plain towards the river. It was clear he was coming our way. Dutch had to make a quick decision and after a very short discussion (something along the lines of ‘do exactly as I say when I say, do not move, don’t take photos as the clicking camera might spook him and DON’T run’) we positioned ourselves behind the only bit of cover there was on the parched landscape – a dead tree which had fallen over. The elephant knew exactly where we were and in the most incredible way, came right up to the tree, put his trunk over the bough and sniffed us. Had I stretched my arm out, I would have touched the end of his truck. But my hand was actually over my mouth in an attempt not to squeak. Meanwhile Dutch was making very gentle clicking sounds to alert our ele that we were there. He kicked a little bit of dust and then moved slowly and gently away towards the river. It was a very precious moment shared with the largest and most gentle land mammal in Africa. I was completely overcome with emotion.

Botswana is home to the largest number of elephants left on the African continent a phenomenal testament to conservation. It is impossible not to see these mighty and majestic creatures on a holiday in Botswana. My trip was not all about wildlife but knowing that these huge yet gentle animals are still here gave me great comfort.

My trip as rounded off with what I thought was just a drive back to camp at dusk. I had pestered Dutch a lot about seeing a honey badger, and suddenly, when we rounded a corner, there in the road was not one but two of them scurrying along the middle of the road. We were able to follow them for about 3 minutes.

Thinking nothing could top this fabulous visit, I spotted a few very subtle lights in the distance and was trying to work out what they were. As we got closer it dawned on me what was happening. The entire camp crew, guides, kitchen staff, waiters and managers had set up the perfect bush dinner with candles placed in sand-filled paper bags. Dutch switched the engine off and we were welcomed by the entire crew singing a few traditional African songs. The perfect end!

“I was completely overcome with emotion.”

CHRIS MACDOUGALL