Yesterday we left the delta as dirty pigs and had to get back on the bus for a five hour journey to our next destination. Let me tell you – layers of sun block, bug spray, sweat, dirt and leech water makes a girl feel pretty dang nasty!
Scenery on the Kalahari Highway (if you can call it a highway) is getting very different. Animals roam across the road at all times. During the drives we’ve had to stop for cows, horses and goats to cross the road, but yesterday it was like we were in a movie. Elephants who trumpeted their trunks, giraffe in herds and a lone ostrich passed right by us. Unfreakingbelievable!
But what is truly unbelievable is our next destination. It is called Elephant Sands and it’s just that.Elephant Sands For years and years this area is has been a route that elephants pass. It usually has an abundance of water and elephants pass through constantly. This isn’t one or two elephants, it’s hundreds! Unfortunately there has been a massive drought and the Elephant Sands Lodge pumps water into the holes for the elephants. In a big semi circle there are about 15 luxury tents. The tents are on stilts and contain beds, furniture and a washroom just like any other hotel room. You unzip all the windows and you have a 360 view of the wildlife. On the other side of the semi circle is a restaurant, bar and pool. And right smack in the centre of it all is the water hole!
So as we pulled up there were about 5 elephants right in front of our eyes. This ended up being nothing because as the evening went on we had more and more elephants come out and put on a show.
After the most glorious shower of my life we all sat at the bar with front row seats to the latest installment of National Geographic. The grunting and pushing and screeching these animals were doing truly gave us the best show ever. At times they would face us head on and start flapping their ears as if they were going to charge. You’d have to slowly stand up and walk backwards so they wouldn’t think you were aggressive.
They can sense the water from the pipes and the facilities have to shut the water off in our tents at 9 because elephants frequently have come and pulled out pipes and toilets with people in the tents. As well, the swimming pool is often empty of water because the elephants will just step up to the bar and drink it all. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could literally touch them.
At one point during the night we had a visitor from a special elephant named Ben. Back in October this elephant walked right up to the bar/lodge and was clearly injured. It apparently had an abscess on one of his feet. The owner decided to risk it and try to help the elephant. He got a hose and tried to clean it out and the elephant let him. They called Rangers and had the elephant tracked. By the next day they found the elephant laying down and really sick. They tagged it and got the elephant to some sort of vet(not sure there’s an elephant clinic, but you get the idea). After they nursed the elephant they let it back out into the wild. Ever since Ben comes to the lodge every single night for water from the owner. He won’t let anyone else touch him or feed him and even charged another guy when he tried. The owner has a special bond with Ben and feeds him from the water hose while talking to him and petting his trunk. These elephants are migratory so they’re never the same ones coming back, but Ben clearly won’t leave now. So after dinner Ben came up to the dining area and stuck his head in. For over an hour we had an up close and personal show. Other elephants then saw what was happening and they would try to push their way in. The owner, Mike has this special grunt and was able to shoo them off. It was absolutely unreal. Ben’s eyes would just look in at us and his trunk would be right there.
As the night went on there were at least 20-30 elephants at the hole all jostling and pushing for their chance at the water hole. As I lay here in my bed right now the sun is starting to rise and I see elephants right in front of me. I can’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather be. This is completely surreal and something I wish you all could experience first hand!!!