What would you do if you saw a 12,000 pound elephant bull walking towards you? Run, cry, scream, cry?
A few years ago, my husband and our two teenage sons were lucky enough to be on a walking safari in the Linyanti region in Botswana. Doing a walking tour at an African safari camp is a family travel experience I would highly recommend. It was truly interesting for both age groups, adults and teens (and an activity that appeals to both parents and their children is sometimes pretty hard to find!).
Before leaving on our 2 hour hike we went over the rules and expectations. The rules are fairly simple. Do not walk in front of the Guide, walk in a single file, do not touch the leaves on the trees, do not be loud and noisy, and most importantly keep your eyes open for the most amazing walk you will ever take.
A walking safari and a Jeep safari are very different experiences. While in the Jeep, you are always looking at the horizon, up in the trees, outcrops, bushes rivers etc. Focusing on the large macro experience and, in general, large animals and birds. However, when on a walking safari it becomes the smaller micro creatures, the bugs and the smaller fauna, you are watching for.
Early in the morning our family started our guided tour with our extremely competent rifle carrying guide. With open ears and eyes we followed and listened to his incredible knowledge about the little things; the bugs, the scat, the foot prints, birds, trees, leaves and trails is what we focused on. We learned how certain leaves are used like a toothbrush, and other leaves are poisonous if eaten or even touched. We learned about how many bugs are camouflaged to protect them from being eaten. The list of facts we learned are endless. As we walked through the tall grasses, about ¼ a mile away we noticed a massive large bull elephant lumbering along. Seeing it was so far away, our guide was not too concerned about it. However, he did caution us that at any time the elephant could turn his direction. Sure enough, within seconds, the elephant was walking straight towards us! Our guide took us out of the tall grasses and put us out in the open. My first thought was why would we want to be in the path of the elephant? However, it is better to be seen by the elephant, than the elephant be startled by us and confront us. Silently, single file and petrified, the four of us stood behind our confident, in control, guide as the massive elephant walked within 100 feet from us. WOW WOW WOW! Is all we could say once he had passed. Listening to the massive feet walk past us, watching the elephant’s lumbering gait and his flapping ears, smelling his odour and being so close to him was over the top incredible. It certainly was the most exciting, and nerve wracking walk I have ever taken.
Safari guiding is one of the most difficult, knowledgeable, and demanding jobs. After being on many safaris, I have a huge respect for the work safari guides do. I am often asked why I enjoy going on safari so much? Haven’t I seen everything? My answer is always the same. When on safari no minute is ever the same. Every corner you take offers you a different adventure. I have seen hundreds of elephants, but every guide I am with always teaches me something new. The knowledge about birds, animals, and the flora is unmeasurable. The ability to explain and answer questions from the guests and to keep them entertained is a real talent. I can hardly wait to meet my next guide.