The roadtrip that roared #14: The stealth of an elephant

Mana pools elephant print

In my last post, I described our eventful night up to this point: we’d been prevented from returning to our lodge because of an elephant blocking our path, and when we finally got going again, we had a special leopard sighting. Now, safely back at the lodge, we were in for another treat.

It was now pitch black, with only the stars and the faint light of the lodge to help us see. We shone a bright torch across the surface of the dark river in front of us. The night before, a hippo had been in the water directly below the bank where we stood, his pink head gleaming, and we wondered if we’d see him again. In the beam of the torch, we saw what looked like a long log floating downstream. It was drifting widthways rather than parallel to the banks, which was our first tell-tale sign that it wasn’t a log at all.

As it got closer to us, we realised it was an enormous crocodile, with its head facing the far bank, keeping its body perfectly straight, its tail pointing to the other bank. Its eyes were fixed on the on the bank while the flow of the river moved him along. It was terrifying to see such calculation – the crocodile was clearly waiting ‘til it saw an unsuspecting animal on the bank, when it would spring forward using its powerful tail, pulling the animal to its death.

As we stood wondering at the crocodile, we heard a rustling of leaves behind us. We couldn’t see anything nearby, and concluded that it must have been the monkeys moving around in the trees. We sat down on the deckchairs, and no sooner had we done so than we turned around to see the dark outline, as high as the roof, appear between us and the lodge. It was as if an enormous boulder had been rolled into the clearing. It was, of course, an elephant, happily pulling branches out of trees, enjoying its evening meal. He was so silent, so huge, and so beautiful.

Although we were only a few steps away from the elephant, we simply stayed put and didn’t attempt to try to get to the lodge – we didn’t want to startle him. We kept quiet too: one charge from this guy and we’d have nowhere to run. Those few minutes of mutual silence allowed us a few peaceful moments to take in the size and splendour of him.

He moved away and we felt so lucky to have seen such majesty so close. We were reminded again of how special it is to be able to be in the animals’ environment rather than them being in the completely unrealistic and unnatural environment of a zoo – this is another way Zimbabwe is so much more authentic in what it offers to visitors.

Mana Pools elephantWe had other great elephant sightings on our trip too – we saw an elephant in the typical Mana Pools pose: reaching up on its hind legs to pull branches down from a tree. This is something that the elephants in Mana Pools are renound for. Here’s my photo, taken a few moments before the elephant got on its hind legs. Next time I go, I’ll have my new camera and hope to take some up-close shots.

The sounds of Mana Pools

Although the elephant had been silent and stealthy, we loved hearing all the other noises of the animals at night. The impala were in rutting season and barked and whooped at all hours – if we didn’t know better, we would’ve thought it was an angry lion catching its prey.

We heard a lion’s roar and wondered how close it was, and whether it was a male from the pride we had seen a few days before. The hyenas were behind our lodge every night too, whooping to each other in glee as they found tidbits to eat.

The sound of the cicadas’ whistles, hippos’ grunts, monkeys’ chattering and cape turtle doves’ cooing – all of these created the soundtrack to our time in Mana. Many people imagine the bush to be a quiet place compared to the city’s noise, but in fact it just has a different type of sound. It’s a sound of peace; it’s a reminder of all the other lives that share our planet. A sound which I can imagine now, even though our holiday is gone.

Return to first post of series to see a map of our roadtrip: The roadtrip that roared: intro
Or see all posts tagged ‘Mana Pools’

Mana Pools elephant crossing

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Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

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