• Author: Adele Grunberg
  • Date Posted: Aug 5, 1999
  • Address: Okavanga Delta, Botswana

We were in Botswana in the Okavango Delta. Unlike most rivers, the Okavango does not drain into a body of water such as an ocean, but rather drains into its own delta, a wide, fertile triangle, home to much African wildlife.

As distinguished from many places in Africa where one drives from place to place to see animals, here you take a motorboat or canoe-like vehicle called a Mokoro from one island in the Delta to another and then walk around looking for animals.

So it was on a July day that we went with our guide, Robert, to Buffalo Island to explore. Guns were prohibited and Robert was armed with only a walking stick. We alighted from the motorboat and began walking. There were impalas and giraffes and warthogs, all of whom ran from us once they caught our scent. It felt very different being on foot as compared to riding in a jeep. In a vehicle, the animals don’t smell humans. They are habituated to the vehicles and don’t run from them.

Suddenly, Robert put his index finger to his lips signaling for quiet. He whispered that their was an elephant just around the bend. How he knew this I have no idea but indeed there was. A huge bull, ten feet tall, all alone grazing on a tree not too far away. Being reared on Disney movies, I felt no fear. This was just like Dumbo.

I took plenty of time to put the 400 mm lens on my Minolta and focus. Robert said “take your picture.” Still I fiddled. Until Robert said with urgency “RUN.” He instructed us to zig-zag to confuse the elephant. We were running in sand. The camera equipment was very heavy around my neck. I should have thrown it off. Robert and my daughter disappeared way ahead. My husband was in front of me. My throat was burning. I didn’t think I could continue. But I had very compelling motivation. The sound of the elephant trumpeting so loud, so close, right behind me. I was afraid to look how close. Finally, we caught up with Robert and collapsed panting. The elephant had turned in another direction.

And since then, that trumpeting sound has never seemed the same to me. Every time, it conjures my being chased by an elephant.

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