Elephant road train, Khaudum National Park, Namibia
It’s fair to say that I have seen many many elephants in the past 5 months, but I never recorded any of their behaviour here anywhere else. I realise that this is a hot, dry and dusty land. However, elephants behaviour here is very different from others in my travels.
I watched these two younger ones in the dried out riverbed off the Khaudum River. It was still relatively early and these two seemed quite relaxed. Not much later, I noticed a dust cloud in the high grass behind them.
A larger herd off elephants came running as fast as they could, whirling a thick cloud of dust.
Even the young ones were at full speed. At first, I thought a pride of lions might have spooked them. Or the burn off fires further north that were closer than expected. None of the two scenarios occurred. Most of the herd ran on towards my side off the riverbed, a few hundred meters west.
A smaller group scared the two previous elephants off and wasted no time to get to the tiny waterhole. Seemingly enjoying the water and mud, the small ones dived in almost head first. ‘Oh wow, these are really thirsty elephants’ I thought. It is hot and dry out here, there’s no denying. The larger part of the herd made the most off some waterholes further up.
The older elephant off the smaller group then realised that Zimba wasn’t a real Zebra.
Blowing her trunk, alarming the troops, they all started running again.
This was quite a spectacle to see. They passed the two previous occupants, who were munching on some high grass.
Full steam, or better dust ahead, this giant elephant train was in motion again. The small ones and the tail end of this road train got fully covered in fine dust
until they reached the rest of this large group a bit further up.
The first two elephants I saw this morning gently walked back to the waterhole as if this is their daily morning routine. Maybe it is?
I watched the larger group on their usual waterhole behaviour,
drinking, mudding and a lot of dusting.
However, they were a little far off and scrubs were in my lens. I started Zimba to drive a little bit closer.
This caused another panic running reaction. They really are scared of cars or humans. Possibly both. Scaring these thirsty elephants off wasn’t what I wanted.
I switched Zimba off again, which resulted in confusion.
The elephant train stopped right on the road tracks and didn’t move for a good 5 minutes.
Realising there is no danger, they turned around and emphatically ran back
to dust off.
The dust clouds were so thick that elephants disappeared in them.
Others enjoyed the mud more. Bless. Eventually, yep, they ran off again. These elephants are really skittish. Running in these hot and dry conditions surely doesn’t help to keep your cool.
One last spray, then they were done and dusted. As amusing as it was to watch, the largest land mammal on earth ran from their worst enemy. A very sad thought.
The next candidate was this fairly young bull. He was all by himself when I saw him fairly close to the track.
I switched Zimba of once more which wakened his curiosity.
He wasn’t quite sure about Zimba’s painting, but when he realised it wasn’t a zebra, he ran off trunk whistling to warn his small family resting nearby in the shade.
They really couldn’t care less. Wow, this is such radical behaviour. Things that make me go ‘mmhh’.?
A well constructed Hyde was located at ‘Tsau Waterhole’. Sitting up high and with Zimba out off sight, I watched this elephant herd arriving at steady pace to these cooling waters.
No time wasted to spray their backs and to roll in the mud by the young ones.
This is always a sight for sore eyes.
The youngsters were helped out of the slippery slope and the herd moved on a few meters.
Literally, the same scenario happened there.
A few sips of water,
whilst the youngsters disappeared in the muddy waters.
The small ones needed everyone’s help to get out again.
The edges really are slippery.
On dry land at last.
The water seems to be clearer here, elephants can be really picky if they have a better option.
They were moving in my direction, circling this fair sized waterhole.
I don’t think that they actually saw me,
but they did pick up my scent, blowing right in their direction.
Rather calm they passed me one by one,
not too far away from me.
The young ones sure had a big grin on their faces. So did I, watching them pass. Just too cute.
Eventually, they reached the man-made, drilled waterhole. This is where the freshest water is found. Clearly seen, they all enjoyed drinking this water most.
One youngster took a trunk full too much and spilt some water.
He got a slap from mom straight away. I couldn’t believe to witness that. ‘Don’t waste that precious water’! How amusing.
These wells are almost an elephant proof design.
Long enough for many to drink from, not too wide and separated in different compartments, for no one to get or fall in. Small ones however…!
The slapped one showed off his trunk acrobatics in the mirror, whilst the rest moved on.
A little young and old stepdance duo ended this very amusing drinking session.
At least they weren’t running off.