A Little Big 5
It was a beautiful July morning at Kapama’s Buffalo camp. My four guests from Australia were eager to get their next game drive under way. They climbed on the Land Cruiser, took up their seats and expressed how eager they were to witness my tracker carry out his skills again today.
The request this fine morning was to see elephants. Kapama spans over 15,000 hectares of wilderness. A game drive is very unpredictable, so you are never guaranteed of what you will spot on a game drive but my tracker was sure up for the challenge.
It was such a vibrant morning. The tracker seat was the perfect vantage point for him to survey the land and pick up on any trace of the elephant. My guests enthusiastically snapped pictures at every turn, completely submerged in the cool crisp air of their African surroundings. I knew, however, that their hearts were set on seeing the gentle giants of the bush.
After a few more calculated instructions from him, of turn here, go this way, turn that way, his body language soon showed a glimmer of hope that we might be on to something.
As we took a corner, my heart skipped a beat. Eureka! His fine bush knowledge and experience resulted in success. From the reaction behind me on the game vehicle, I could sense how excited the guests were to tick one of the big 5 off their list. It’s always a good feeling when you are able to please your guests. However, I did not quite understand why they were so excited. That was until I saw, what they saw.
Not only had we come across elephants, but we had come across elephants…..with a baby calf!
There was so much joy, excitement, and amazement from my guests. But, if I was completely honest, my tracker and I were just as excited. It does not matter what kind of young animal you come across on an African safari. A baby animal always puts a smile on your face.
It was a unique opportunity for my guest to see the social behavior of elephants. They were able to witness how the bigger elephants tried to bond with this tiny, young, curious calf. Another trait that became evident was how protective the other elephants were. Not only of the calf but also of its mother too.
I turned again to look at my guests. As a ranger, watching how my guests experience the wonders of our beautiful country and all that nature has to offer is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I watched as they all had their cameras focused on the little giant. The young elephant was trying to figure out how to use its trunk to graze, wobbling from side to side not quite sure if he had to use his mouth or trunk. From its attempts, we could see that he still had a long way to go before figuring things out.
The older elephants, however, kept grazing non-stop, shaking the grass with their trunks before putting it in their mouth, obviously having mastered the art over the years. We will eagerly enjoy observing how this young elephant calf learns the same traits over the years to come as he grows older. We felt very fortunate to spend quality time with these magnificent creatures, observing every move they made, giving us a chance to get closer to nature.
Before we left the sighting, I checked with my guests if they were happy to move on. I realized that one guest had become a little emotional. It dawned on me how special this sighting had been and how difficult it was to tear ourselves away.
After a few more stolen moments, we decided to let the elephants and the adorable calf get on with their day and their feeding.
The rest of drive back to camp was filled with the exhilaration of a successful tracking mission and crossing an unexpected little big 5 off the list. The pictures and captured memories forever cemented in our minds and heart.
Story by: Jeffrey Mmandi
Video by: Alister Kemp