Having already spent about a full day tracking desert elephants without success, I wasn’t too excited when our guide Piers spotted signs of elephants in the incredibly beautiful dry river valley. The scenery and rick formations in particular were spectacular, at least to me, bringing back memories of my Geology undergrad which I never used beyond situations like this. As we turned the bend in the river, I was surprised to see a herd of elephants up ahead. We stopped the vehicle and Vaughn, Piper and I climbed onto the roof and off we went towards the elephants.
My first encounter gave me a special feeling, one of awe and respect for this magnificent creature. Easily bigger than any other wild animal I had seen and yet majestic in its own way but not nimble. Sitting on the roof of the LandRover it felt I was at eye level, I can imagine being overwhelmed at ground level. My camera gave me the chance of some fabulous views and I remember taking lots of pictures, typical of when I first got my camera but this was such an overwhelming experience I didn’t want to miss anything and my response was shoot, shoot, shoot! Looking back I am pleased with some of the pictures, they create a vivid memory for me.
Setting out for our next stop two days later, Antonio, our local guide spotted the herd again, at least he thought he did point up into the plain leading away in the distance towards the mountains. I couldn’t see anything and we decided to wait and see. Gradually a herd of five elephants came into view moving down the desert plain towards the dry river bed. A bull led the group and the rest followed in a semi organized way, the “Colonel” in the Jungle Book wouldn’t been impressed! Piper and Piers decided to place the GoPro video cameras to catch the action and sure enough they got a close up of an elephant walking right past, in fact so close it knocked it over with its trunk creating so great footage that could so easily have been crushed camera instead.
Meeting this herd in the desert plain you would be wondering how they survive since nothing appears to be growing on the plain and from our vantage point I could see they rely heavily on the green trees and bushes lining the river bed for their food. I also noticed the sign at the local campsite warning campers not to leave food where it can be smelt by the elephants. I didn’t realize they had a taste for our food, they truly are very smart animals!
Andy, I collect pictures of elephants and these are some of the best I’ve ever seen! Including my own!! The light on several of them is just magnificent. Well done my friend.
Wow, what an amazing experience you had, Andy! Thanks for sharing and for the gorgeous photos.
Hi Andy, I’ve really enjoyed your posts! I was in Namibia with two other professional photographer friends of mine about 15-20 years ago. We really only spent the time in Etosha except for driving west where there were Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras which are rare. I just thought of something when you were talking about the elephants and getting on the roof. Really good you weren’t on foot, because you never know. A good friend of mine and well known photographer, Boyd Norton, was leading a tour there with a company called Voyagers which is no longer in existence. Anyway his group got out of the vehicle and walked up a hill to see elephants below by the stream. Two of the men stayed behind but got out of the vehicle. What no one knew was that there was a rogue elephant in the woods nearby, and it came charging out and threw one of the men up in the air, killing him. The other one was also attacked but did live. There was a big lawsuit afterwards… Anyway elephants are my passion, but I also am cautious and think the driver-guides should always be, particularly with all the poaching that is occurring which would alter elephant’s behavior. What a trip you must have had and how exciting for you! It’s interesting how life-changing some experiences can be… Must close but happy shooting and all the best! Barbara
Yes, we were very fortunate catching the first group in the late evening light and the second one at early morning. For once dumb luck was in my favor. 🙂 Thanks as always for the feedback and if there are any you would like, please let me know.
Thanks for sharing the story Barbara and I can now appreciate why you are so passionate about these amazing animals!
We met you your first night at Desert Rhino Camp. Looks like you had an exceptional trip.
Hi Sally, we were very lucky to get close to a Black Rhino the next day, in fact much closer than planned, followed by two encounters with the desert elephants. We had a fabulous time and I hope your trip also exceeded your expectations!
So beautiful – looks like a mum and her calves – did they tell you that the herd is lead by the matriach and that elephants mourne thier dead – all interesting and lovely creatures
Hi Andy, Hope you have many more great photographic safaris.
However, a decent qualified safari guide should have told you that it is totally unacceptable to be on the roof of a vehicle, in the presence of wild animals. It is usually against the rules of most National Parks. In the 4×4 clubs we name and shame , if photographed you can be banned from all South African Parks for doing this.
Great pictures but as one geologist to another ,please avoid this , pictures can and should be taken from inside vehicles.