Our African safari expert, Susan Blum, joined an Abercrombie & Kent tour to East Africa in 1999 and has returned many times since to explore all this great continent has to offer. A trip to Africa is a life-altering experience with endless opportunities for adventure, discovery and relaxation. What follows is Susan’s retelling of her first visit to Africa, where she fell in love with the “ellies”.
From Kariba; my travel companion, Mary Frances, and I were on separate flights to Ruckomechi. Arriving first, the porter carried my way-too-heavy bags to our luxury tent and I began to unpack. With experience, I have learned you can live for two weeks with less than 30 pounds of luggage, including camera equipment! The tent was beautifully designed with large screened walls that offered access to a lovely veranda behind the tent, bamboo doors to a dressing area and another to the en-suite shower and toilet. It was certainly a huge surprise when I entered the bathroom, looked out the nearly floor to ceiling window and came face-to-face with a huge elephant eye! My first instinct was to bolt from the room and slam the bamboo door behind me. Leaning with my back against that door, it was clear that if the elephant wanted to be in the tent, the door was not going to stop him! I moved slowly to peak around the wall for a view of the veranda. Guess who was peaking around the outside wall at me? Truly a standoff, but, fortunately, the ellie decided I was not that interesting.
This was a wonderful story to tell Mary Frances and, of course, she was disappointed not to have had the experience until we opened the door to leave for dinner. Guess who was just a few feet from our front door? The teenager was showing his stuff by swinging his trunk and head and making threatening noises, his mother in the background watching her son practicing how to be tough. Of course, we knew he was tough! Fortunately, if you don’t show up for dinner, someone comes looking for you. Our guide arrived, rifle in hand, shooed away the precocious teenager and escorted us to the dining tent where we enjoyed an elegant candlelit dinner. The only visitor was a young hippo that emerged from the nearby river, curious and wanting a handout!
It was in Hwange National Park that I lost my heart to the elephants. Our very young, yet experienced, guide Owen “Squack” Evans drove us several hours from Giraffe Springs camp to observe the ellies in a rare setting. The land was very dry, parched white sand with some scrub grass and numerous large holes that in some areas were nearly craters. We parked, opened the back of the vehicle to prepare sundowners and Owen immediately spotted a herd of elephants approaching the water hole area. From a distance of more than 10 miles, we could see the dust and as the elephants drew closer, we heard the sounds of the lead females trumpeting their arrival. New to remote safari experiences, the elephants mesmerized me as they dove head first into the holes, sucking water into their trunks from underground springs to drink and spray on their backs. Mothers allowed babies to drink first, gently pushing them aside as each member of the herd took a turn at quenching their desert-like thirst. The teenagers were not so polite and would often push and noisily demand their own space. Within a short time, in the distance another family of elephants headed to the water holes. When this herd was clearly visible and the trumpeting audible, the original elephants began to move away in the opposite direction. From mid-afternoon until nearly sundown, we observed numerous herds politely sharing the scarce resource necessary for their survival. My thought was, “If only humans could be so civil”.
Contact Susan Blum, African Safari Expert for Boscov’s Travel.
Phone: (610) 779-8640 or (800) 755-8020