WATCHING ELEPHANTS

Everyone seems to enjoy watching large herds of elephants – there is no denying that their interactions with each other can keep one occupied for hours. It is fascinating to observe how different groups of elephants greet each other upon arrival at a large waterhole, such as Hapoor in the Addo Elephant National Park. Equally interesting is the behaviour of youngsters; and the tiny elephants are especially endearing to keep an eye on. Many visitors halt briefly at the sight of a single elephant at the side of the road before moving on – perhaps hoping to see something more exciting.

It is worth stopping for a while – providing you have assessed the safety to do so – and to watch how the elephant selects its food; to listen to the sound of it plucking grass or snapping twigs; to watch in awe the way bundles of thorny material disappear into its mouth; to hear the gentle rumbling in its stomach; and to breathe in the unmistakeable smells surrounding the elephant. You might be surprised after a few moments to discover that this wasn’t a lone elephant after all, but one of several that had hitherto been hidden in the bush.

This elephant, walking along the edge of Gwarrie Pan, affords an interesting opportunity to watch how an elephant walks; the padded base of its feet; and the way its dangling trunk is curled up at the base.

Here a small family group is kicking up dust as they race across the dry veld to join others at the Hapoor waterhole: were they particularly thirsty, I wondered; perhaps they were excited to meet up with other family members; or the younger ones may simply have been feeling exuberant.

These few were moving off more sedately, having had their fill of both water and company – their lengthened shadows accompanying them as they made their way towards the bushy area ahead.

Lastly, here a small family group are drinking in unison at Gwarrie Pan. Note that the elephant on the left has only one tusk.

It is not worth telling yourself that you are seeing ‘just another elephant’ when driving through an area such as the Addo Elephant National Park: they are all different; doing different things; and interacting with different creatures. Watch their behaviour around buffalo and zebra; or what the youngsters do when a warthog comes too close; how they bath; the way they drink; and how they plaster themselves with mud. It is always worth spending a little extra time watching elephants!

17 thoughts on “WATCHING ELEPHANTS

  1. I once sat in a jeep for 2 hours watching a small family of elephants eating and playing and interacting. There is always so much to see and learn about these fascinating animals.

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  2. Dis so lekker om hier by jou te lees, Anne. Ek is mal oor olifante en die mooiste is daardie sagte rammelgeluid wat hulle maak. Pragtige foto’s, veral die een waar hulle so hardloop!

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  3. Addo’s Hapoor waterhole is definitely one of the best places to watch elephant interaction! The big and cantankerous old elephant bull for which it was named would not have tolerated the human onlookers with such hospitality as today’s Addo elephants though.

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    • You are right about that. Mind you, I generally prefer observing smaller groups of elephants elsewhere, away from the crush of vehicles, loud whirring of air cons, and revving of engines.

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      • I’m sorry to hear that you had such bad experiences at Hapoor, Anne. Thankfully that has rarely been the case for us, and the memory of literally hundreds of elephants congregating at that waterhole is probably my top recollection of Addo.

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  4. They are fascinating creatures. I was disturbed to learn of the 400+ elephant deaths in Botswana. I hope they can determine the cause and address it before many more die.

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