What would you do if you saw a 12,000 pound elephant Bull walking towards you? Run, cry, scream??
I found out what I would do when I was lucky enough to be on a walking safari in the Linyanti region in Botswana.
Before leaving on our 2-hour hike we went over the rules and expectations. The rules are 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 on the most amazing walk you will ever take.
A walking safari and a jeep safari are very different experiences. While on 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, bugs and fauna you are watching for. A walking safari is like being a page in a book whereas a jeep safari is like being a chapter in a book.
Like all morning safaris our guided walking tour started very early. Just after the sun comes up the animals are more active in the morning when it is not as warm out. For your safety your guide will have a rifle and, in some places, you will be joined by a park ranger as well. With open ears and eyes, we followed and listened to his incredible knowledge about the little things. The bugs, the scat, the footprints, birds, trees, leaves and trails is what we focused on. We learned how certain leaves are used like a toothbrush, that certain leaves are poisonous if eaten or even touched, how many bugs are camouflaged to protect them from being eaten. The list of facts we learned is endless.
As we walked through the tall grasses, about a kilometre away, we noticed a massive bull elephant lumbering along. Seeing it was so far away our guide was not too concerned about it being there. However, 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 Savanna. My first thought was “Why would we want to to be in the path of the elephant?” However, the reasoning is that it’s better to be seen rather than the elephant be startled by us and confront us. Silently, single file and petrified the 4 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 incredibly quiet, massive feet walk past us, watching its lumbering gate, its flapping ears, smelling its odour and being so close to it was over-the-top incredible! It certainly was the most exciting and nerve wracking walk I have ever taken.
Guiding is one of the most difficult, demanding job requiring an immense amount of knowledge. After being on many safaris I have a huge respect for the work 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. Ever corner you take offers you a different adventure. I have seen hundreds of elephants, but ever guide I am with always teaches me something new. The knowledge about birds, animals, the fauna, Nature in general is unmeasurable. The ability to explain and answers questions from the guests and keep them entertained is a real talent. I can hardly wait to meet my next guide.