At this time the summer temperatures can rise to over 40°C, making everyone thirsty. It is no different in the wild, where this threesome of elephants were the forerunners of a larger herd making their way across the dusty veld to drink at Rooidam in the Addo Elephant National Park. The elephant on the right has earlier submerged itself in either this or another waterhole nearby – as the darker ‘tide mark’ on its body shows. The darkened trunks also indicate that all three have already tasted the water at least and the dark ‘socks’ on the left elephant indicates how shallow the water is on the edge.
A warthog is taking advantage of the lull in animal traffic to enjoy a quiet drink of water from the waterhole at Woodlands. The water is so calm that it might even be admiring its reflection in the water while it quenches it thirst. All the waterholes in the Addo Elephant National Park are supplied by boreholes. That might be a covered pump next to the warthog. You can clearly see the concrete base of this waterhole and elephant dung in the background.
Sometimes it is not water one needs, but mother’s milk. Certainly that is what this zebra foal wanted in the middle of the day. Note how fluffy its hair is and the loving gesture of the mother placing her chin on its rump – the closest she can come to what we would call a hug, perhaps.
Birds require sustenance too and this Greater Double-collared Sunbird settled down to a good drink of nectar at Jack’s Picnic Place, quite unperturbed at being photographed in action. It visited each flower in turn before moving on to the next cluster.
This is a small family group of a larger herd of elephants cooling down at the Rooidam Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. You can tell from the mud and splash marks that some of them had enjoyed some time either in or near the water. The elephants had been there for a while when this group gathered to move off. Spot the two calves amidst that forest of legs.
Here is a closer view of one of them.
The one on the left is hungry. For the first two or three years the calves are totally dependent on their mothers for feeding.
While this one waits patiently for a gap between the forest of legs.
Despite its name, one cannot be guaranteed to see a lot of elephants – or even any elephants – whilst driving around the Addo Elephant National Park. Sometimes one feels fortunate to see a lone elephant, such as this one, wading through the shallow water in the Ghwarrie Dam or drinking quietly with only water birds for company at first.
Note the thick, dark mud sticking to its tusk. It was later joined by a lone Cape buffalo that wasted no time in wallowing in the mud.
The situation at Rooidam was different, for here a small herd had gathered, waiting patiently while a young one found a deeper hole in which to wallow. It sometimes submerged itself so completely that only the tip of its trunk showed above the water. You can see, from the elephant on the right, how shallow the water is for some distance from the edge.
You will notice that most of the other elephants have already covered themselves with mud or sand, which helps to protect their skin from the harsh rays of the sun (as we would use sunscreen) as well as from parasites.
At Domkrag another elephant cut a lone figure as it drank thirstily from the dam. You can tell from the shadow beneath that the sun was high. A strong hot breeze was blowing too which added to the discomfort of the thirty plus degrees heat.
No single photograph can capture the hundreds of elephants gathered at the popular Hapoor waterhole. Far too many vehicles were parked cheek-by-jowl along the edge of the main watering place for another to get in, so these two photographs show a small section of the hundreds of elephants gathered on the other side of that waterhole where, presumably, there must also be access to watering points.
Note: you can double-click on these images for a larger view.
Farmers do not regard these wily creatures as friends, yet they are a delight to observe in their natural habitat.
Black-backed Jackals tend to mate for life and so, should you see one in the veld, you can virtually be certain there is another in the vicinity. A pair of them trotted purposefully along the edge of Ghwarrie Pan shortly after sunrise one morning. It was at Carol’s Rest though that we observed an interesting altercation between a Black-backed Jackal and a Pied Crow.
The latter had already experienced an unsuccessful attempt to share the small waterhole with an Egyptian Goose that had arrived out of the blue – with no intention of sharing the water with anyone!
Once the Egyptian Goose had drunk its fill and flown off, the Pied Crow was in no mood to be ousted from its drinking spot again and made sure the approaching Black-backed Jackal was aware of this. Doubtless, the jackal was thirsty too and so it kept trotting purposefully towards the water. The crow opted to make a pre-emptive strike.
It continued to harass the jackal until it gave up and moved away to drink from the overflow a little further down the slope.
Elephants tend to move around in family groups led by a matriarch. These elephants in such a group were quenching their thirst at Ghwarrie Pan in the Addo Elephant National Park.
Male offspring are ousted from these closely-knit family groups once they reach the age of about twelve and they start to show a more than brotherly interest in the females. This must be a difficult period for these young bulls until they team up with other bulls or attach themselves to an older bull. This young bull had followed the family group pictured above from a discreet distance. It refrained from joining them, but constantly smelled the ground they had covered.
It waited patiently until the family group had crossed to the other side of the water before moving to where they had been drinking. It was only once his former family group began walking towards the lip of the hill that he finally began to drink from their last position at the dam.
Of course it is always exciting to get close to elephants in this park, where you often don’t really need a fancy camera to get pictures such as this:
Or this one:
Hapoor waterhole is a marvellous place to spend time watching groups of elephants greeting each other, young ones playing with each other, or simply to observe the actions of these majestic animals.
One shouldn’t become too complacent about the apparent gentleness or the tolerance the Addo elephants seem to have for tourists and their vehicles. It is best to maintain a healthy respect for them, to give way to them, and to allow them the space the need to move.
A visit to the Addo Elephant National Park is incomplete without observing some of the many birds in the area. Here are three we encountered recently:
A Grey Heron contemplating the prospects of food in the Ghwarrie Waterhole.
This Rednecked Spurfowl eyed us curiously as we drove past along one of the many dirt roads.
One of three Cape Wagtails bobbing across the lawn at Jack’s Picnic Site while searching for insects.