Observing a herd of African elephants (Loxodanta africana) foraging for food, self-grooming and enjoying a watering hole is really an amazing thing to watch. Even though they are the largest land mammal, elephants can be very difficult to locate, especially after the rains when food and water become abundant as this stops them from concentrating at their usual water points. When it’s lush they can feed, drink and mud bath anywhere. Also, during this period, small herds tend to join up and form large groups.
Elephants can subsist in virtually any habitat that provides adequate quantities of food and water and the proportions and kind of forage eaten vary seasonally and according to availability. Generally elephants select the most nutritious and palatable of the plants available in quantity.
A few days ago I went for a game drive and we saw almost every animal we wanted to see with the exception of elephants. We drove for hours looking for them but with no joy. I decided to drive back to Banyini Pan where we had started, after my sixth sense instructed me to do so. As I approached the open area of the pan from the eastern side, l heard some rumbling sound coming from the mopane bushes, so stopped, switched off the vehicle and listened. The cracking sound of the trees was followed by the trumpeting of a baby elephant and I knew it was definitely a breeding herd! The brushing sound of the bushes was slowly approaching and all of a sudden the elephants appeared in the open area. I positioned my vehicle for them to walk in front of the vehicle but the wind changed and they decided to walk behind us. Almost 80 elephants with babies emerged from the trees and walked into the open areas of Banyini. In more like single-file formation, they walked towards the main pan for a drink. This was the biggest herd of elephants I’ve seen for a long time. They all rushed to the water – it was an amazing sighting observing them drinking and bathing. They spent some time enjoying themselves as elephants are water lovers. Then they slowly dispersed in no formation as they headed towards the bushes.