This is the final post from Zambia before we set off for Botswana.
Dee and I had the opportunity to go on an Elephant Back Safari. The decision to go was not made lightly. Firstly, I always thought that African Elephants were big, dangerous, wild animals, and although baby elephants were rather sweet, their mums and dads would probably kill you if you went anywhere near them. I knew that Indian Elephants were often domesticated working animals, and that they could be ridden, but I wasn’t so sure about the african animals.
Also, throughout our married life, Dee has always been nervous of riding any animal. I think that this fear may go back to an experience with a donkey when she was a small child. I therefore thought that there was little chance of getting her on a wild elephant, even though she has always liked baby elephants, from a distance.
Nevertheless, we decided to grasp the opportunity and booked up for this excursion. When we got to the Elephant Camp we were given a choice of tea, coffee or cold drink, and this was followed by an introductory briefing from our guide.
The next couple of shots show our transport waiting for us. It’s quite a long way up and because of this all today’s photos were taken with my old Sony DSC-H1.
Mostly, passengers mounted the elephants from a tall staging. One of the older male elephants didn’t go for this though. He insisted on kneeling and letting people scramble onto his back, as shown below.
Now I can assure you that elephants are very wide animals. This produced a not inconsiderable strain on our thighs.
The lady in the centre was our Tour Manager, Sharon. She came because she had never ridden an elephant before and she wanted first hand experience to help her describe the excursion to other guests. She certainly seemed to enjoy the ride.
Our ‘fleet’ of elephants, it doesn’t seem right to call them a herd, was a mix of males and females. Several youngsters also came along for the walk. The reason that they were not ‘wild’ was that they had all been ‘rescued’ as orphans for one reason or another. Each elephant had its own personal handler, and these handlers normally lived and slept with their charges. There was a very strong bond between animal and man. Some (at least one) of the animals had had a trial separation from the rescue centre, but had came back after about a year. They were not captive animals, but they enjoyed their life here. I think the youngsters were born here.
So off we went into the Zambezi bush. We were accompanied by men with rifles, who were on foot. The reason for the ‘armed guard’ was to frighten off any herd of wild elephants that we might meet. There was also a cameraman making a video of the event. I wish I could share this, but sadly I can’t for copyright reasons.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Zambezi river again. We spent a while enjoying views of the backwaters of the river and taking photos.
Our guides took photos of us as well.
The elephants then waded out onto some islands in the river. Those on male elephants were able to go through really deep water, and needed to pick their feet up to avoid getting wet. Those of us on female elephants were restricted to shallower routes, partly because the females were smaller, and partly because we had their youngsters with us.
The youngsters certainly had fun in the river. Elephants love water.
We met this giraffe on the way back.
As we returned to the Camp, our handler gave our elephant another little snack as a reward for being so well behaved. The elephants all had their own character. One of the others frequently refused to go where its handler wanted it to, preferring to go a little off route and explore.
The ‘safari’ lasted about an hour and once we were back in the camp, we all had the opportunity to interact with and feed the animals. Dee loved feeding the baby in particular.
When it was all over we all agreed that it had been a memorable experience. The temptation to come home with a video of the afternoon was too much to resist, so we ordered one to be delivered to our hotel in the morning, before we left for Botswana. I can’t include this because of copyright, but you can find an similar video posted by someone else here.
On the way back, Sharon suggested that we might stop off for Sundowners at the Royal Livingstone Hotel before dinner. The Royal Livingstone had the best views of the Zambezi. So we finish today’s adventure with some more Zambezi Sunsets.
Tomorrow we are off to The Chobe Safari Lodge in Botswana. Please come back and have a look. The first post in this series can be found here.