Getting close (maybe too close)
to all the action
Elephant Sands is a campsite in the middle of rural Botswana, and while I visited many campsites during my month on safari, there are so many stories to tell about this place. All I knew beforehand was that unlike the other places we've camped, Elephant Sands did not have a gate or fence, meaning any animal was free to roam in or out as they chose. The camp itself was very nice and was equipped with solar panels, a large bar, and swimming pool encircling a small watering hole. We arrived around noon and had lunch, set up our tents, and had some free time to lounge by the pool and read Madame Bovary. The afternoon was quiet and uneventful until about an hour into my book I looked up and whisper-screamed for my friends to see the elephant skipping towards the watering hole in front of us.
My entire day hereon consisted of coming up with complex narratives for the elephants before me. It wasn't long before one elephant turned into two, then three, and then a fourth large male came to drink. Before we even saw an elephant approach, the elephants nearby would raise their trunks to sniff the air and determine if the individual coming for a drink was friend or foe. Initially, the two males looked like they were going to fight over space as trunks swung and cries were trumpeted. As more ellies came by to form a group of around ten, we could see that they were all part of the same herd.
I could hardly tear myself away from such delightful theater for dinner, but upon my return to the watering hole after sunset I found about twenty elephants had come for a drink. The outdoor area of the resort is set up so guests are on a sort of platform unprotected except for a few large rocks that would presumably block an elephant's path but in reality probably serve no practical purpose. Most of the time, the elephants mind their own business but on two occasions, one swung his trunk up on the platform where Dain and I had been standing (we were paying enough attention to move) and another time one walked up so close to me I could see each individual eyelash on his great brown eyes just two feet away from my own. It's thrilling to be so close to these magnificent creatures and fully comprehend their power and mass.
We got the chance to see several young elephants, including a baby heavily guarded by its mother and siblings. The males drank quickly and stood a ways back to watch the herd and key an eye out for potential dangers. One adolescent splashed around in the water and ventured in for a swim. It was like being on a National Geographic expedition, but with an open bar.
As we climbed into our tents, we were warned that if we had to use the restroom in the middle of the night to look around extensively before leaving the tent. As mentioned, it's an open campsite and anything can wander around, and frequently does. The week before, a camper found a pack of wild dogs in the showers so I did not want to take any chances! Just as we got into our sleeping bags, I heard a loud roar and the scream of a frightened elephant. It was difficult to gauge how near or far the animals were but it sounded like it was close by!
I slowly unzipped the tent window to have a look around but immediately zipped it back up; if something was out there, I didn't want to draw attention to myself. Shortly, there was another low roar followed by another scream and I was on high alert inside my tent, exhilarated by terror. Nothing more followed, but of course that night I woke up to use the restroom and had enough adrenaline coursing through my veins to sprint to the bathroom and back with my dinky flashlight and couldn't really go to sleep afterwards.