Remember Steve the super-chilled out elephant? Well, while we were in Makalali we met a more typical musth-y bull.
We saw him several times over our 3 days. The first time he was still pretty relaxed and just kept eating. The only way we knew he was in musth was the distinct smell.
The next time we saw him, still no big deal. Loderick explained that the rest of the elephants were in the south of the reserve, so unless this bull started walking he was going to stay lonely.
But the third time we saw him he was starting to get cranky. He was eating some trees and then huffed with his trunk, did a 180, and then glared at us. And then started walking straight towards our vehicle.
Loderick simply backed out of the way and all was well, but it was definitely a different experience than watching Steve.
When a bull gets fully into musth he actually starts to swagger, leaning side to side as he walks and draping his trunk over his tusks. This bull wasn’t quite there yet but give him a few days and he’ll be full on.
When it rains, the elephants head to the south end of the reserve in order to feed on the grass that will pop up afterwards. Last week it rained and we’ve stayed in the north, so it’s been a few days since ellies. But they’ve started moving north again, so we set out to intercept them. There’s something pretty cool about sitting in a forest, hearing the telltale snap of branches, but not being able to see the elephants that you know are all around you. Like I said before, they can be quite stealthy.
It’s also cool to see them peeking out of the trees, smelling the air with their trunks.
We ended up seeing elephants from 3 different herds, including a cute little calf.
Elephants are constantly moving, even throughout the night. They also tend to not want to deviate from their course. Thankfully our vehicle has a new battery, so we could back up if needed.
The last ellie we saw was a big bull. Even after seeing a few dozen elephants before him, he was still quite big!
We had just spent about 5 minutes watching and IDing this bull elephant named Cheeky…
… when I turned around to discover that this group of elephants had snuck up behind us. It’s crazy how quiet these guys are!
It seems that Imagine Dam is *the* place to be seen if you are a Phinda elephant. We came across this group of mostly bull elephants recently, in the same spot as the last pool party
There definitely seemed to be more rough housing with this group, including locking tusks, mounting each others’ backs, and making big splashes with their trunks.
I could watch elephants swim all day!
Yesterday we saw the biggest group of elephants we’ve seen so far: 2 herds together for about 27 ellies total. A couple of young bulls were play fighting and got a bit close to us, but backed off before we had to back up.
Meg recognised one of the herds as Dentine’s herd, so we kept our eyes out for baby Dynamite, a 4-month old calf. And here he is in the middle:
It looks like Dynamite and his friend noticed the paparazzi:
But they all kept moving. It was cool to see such a big group altogether. Bye Dynamite!
One of the most magical things I’ve seen so far is a herd of elephants playing in the water. We stumbled across Vee’s herd at Imagine Dam one afternoon.
The elephant coming towards us out of the water in the photo above didn’t seem terribly happy to see us, as you can see in this pic:
There was also some foot stamping, so we decided to move to the top of the dam instead.
The pictures don’t quite capture how amazing it is to see these big animals frolicking but video will have to wait til I have better internet.
Meet Steve, a bull elephant who is tall even for an ellie.
At the moment Steve is in musth (full of testosterone) and he recently lost a tusk. Either of those alone should make him quite aggressive and together, well, you can imagine. Thankfully Steve is incredibly laid back and doesn’t seem bothered at all. That was especially good to hear given that he came rather close to our jeep.
Still, best to keep our distance. Here’s Phinda’s version of traffic.
See ya Steve!
There are 100 elephants at Phinda, 75 of which have been id’d. We came across Vee’s herd after a thunderstorm one afternoon (Vee is the matriarch who leads them, named after the big V ripped in her ear).
This is when I learned that elephants can be “irritating.” That’s the scientific term for when one ellie harasses another, locking tusks and wrapping trunks like in this
But all’s well that ends well, and the herd of 9 elephants wandered off into the afternoon