Midway through Botswana I find myself promising that I’ll have to come back here once this trip is over. It feels a bit like an unfinished visit.
Growing up in Africa you often take nature for granted, however my last job working on a film project in the Sabi Sands, Kruger National Park, has recently rekindled my love for ‘the bush’ all over again.
Here in Botswana there’s something special though – a relationship between humans and nature that I’ve never experienced before. An understanding of the importance of preserving wildlife, and living side by side with wild animals. An almost deep knowing of our interconnectedness.
It’s too much to put in limited words here, but my feelings are summed up on our last night camping just outside the Zambian border, about one kilometre from the outskirts of the nearby town.
It’s about 2 am when I’m woken by the sounds of cracking branches. I immediately know it’s elephants from the strong, yet very deliberate and almost delicate snaps. I freeze. The rain sheet of our tent is off and through the mosquito mesh, aided by a near full moon, I can see quite well.
I sit up slowly and see that Jordan is already up. His eyes are big. As big as mine. I’m about to whisper to him when suddenly the moon disappears. A towering black mass against the dark blue sky sways gently in front of us. I feel tiny. Somewhat squashable. I move only my neck so as to face her straight on – I’m sure it’s the matriarch of the herd, and she’s here to suss us out. I can hear Jordan’s breathing quicken.
Neither of us is afraid, but we also know this could always go ‘bad’. It’s very unlikely, but the potential is always there.
Five minutes later and she’s okayed our presence. Suddenly we’re surrounded by the herd. We watch for about half an hour, feeling a oneness with nature I’ve felt very rarely.
It’s a surreal moment that is suddenly broken by Don snoring. For a moment Jordan and I again hold our breaths, not sure if it will upset them.
But in a truly hilarious response they begin to grumble back as only elephants can. We muffle our laughs, which also join the belly chorus. The elephants are totally fine with us being there, and they almost come past one by one to check us out. Even the little ones, their curious trunks almost brave enough to touch the tent.
They’ve become so relaxed we can move quite freely now, and so we wake up Don to share the experience.