Just a bit north from the coastline of the Eastern Cape, you’ll find a game park called Addo National Elephant Park. While it boasts of the Big Seven (adding the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark, which can be found in the park’s small coastal section, to the typical Big Five), it’s named what it is named for a good reason: elephants abound. After first spotting a solitary bull male elephant casually strolling down the road and passing by our car so close that I could have reached out and touched him (or, seeing as he was absolutely enormous, I probably could have driven our car under him!), we arrived at a watering hole, where we happily found a large family group of about 20 elephants, ranging from teensy baby elephants to full-grown adults.
Having just recently read a National Geographic article about elephants and the way they interact in their groups (September 2008 edition, I believe), we were very content to just sit and observe the elephants. We watched as one elephant stood watch, as the tiniest baby elephant hid entirely underneath her mother, as multiple elephants splashed in the water, and as a couple of juveniles playfully trunk wrestled. We heard them grunt and bellow and even trumpet. It was cool.
But that was just the beginning. Apparently an elephant meeting was scheduled for the day at this watering hole, because just after noon, a parade of elephants lead out from the trees, down the hill, and to the watering hole. It was a seemingly endless parade, elephant after elephant, one behind the other, dust flying, and the grey of elephants poking out over the trees for as far as we could see. By parade’s end, probably somewhere around 50 or so more elephants had peacefully joined the approximately 20 already there. It was incredible.
We observed for nearly an hour before finally pulling ourselves away. At that point, one of the groups was beginning to depart, but plenty of elephants were still joyfully frolicking in the water.
On the rest of our drive, we spotted a few other animals, some we’d seen before (zebras, kudus, leopard tortoises, ostriches, black-backed jackals), and some that were new to us (meercats, as well as the dung beetle, which, by the way, has right of way in the park, so please don’t run over the poo!).
We also found another watering hole, where another group of elephants was cooling off. Though not as numerous as the group at the first hole, they were still fun to watch. Somehow it never gets old. Even though I have now, at this point, seen literally hundreds of elephants in the wild, I don’t tire of them. They truly are magnificent creatures.