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An Elephant in the Bush

 

We were on safari in the Serengeti. Our driver and guide was the unflappable Isaac. Nothing fazed him, and he was quite knowledgeable about the animals we came across. This was our first time in Africa, and we were reacting with the appropriate amount of awe to everything we encountered. Even the zebras and wildebeest held our attention!

When we encountered elephants, we were fascinated – after all, these were the bigger cousins of our Indian ones, and we were spellbound by their large-eared magnificence. Naturally, when we came across a herd in the distance, Isaac stopped and we popped out of the open top of the safari jeep – we were cool like that – and I was shooting away with my camera.

Now, a word about the herd we were seeing. This wasn’t a regular herd – it was part of one. There were four young females and a male elephant. As is the natural order of things, the male was trying to impress the females and they were acting disinterested. As any male elephant worth his trunk and ears is wont to do, he took one look at us and decided we would be the objects of his next activity to impress the so-far unimpressed females.

He strode purposefully up to us, and as he did, Isaac was laughing. Now, when an elephant strides purposefully up to you, wherever you are, whoever you are, your instinct is to stride purposefully away from that place, preferably at a pace that was quicker than the elephant’s. But Isaac was having none of it. He just kept chuckling to himself, and we stayed put. My eye was glued to my viewfinder, and I realized what was happening only after I figured I was no longer able to focus on the elephant – he was so close that I had to duck down, put down my camera with the long lens and get out the one I had for taking landscapes.

As he neared us, the big fellow’s puzzlement was also growing as to why we weren’t getting the heck out of there. He was used to any creature that could move, moving out of his way when he strode purposefully toward them. When we didn’t, it threw him off. Clearly this wasn’t working out the way he planned. However, his name could have been Bruce, for he didn’t give up. He slightly changed his direction and came at us from the side. Curling his trunk around his massive tusk, he rushed at us. Isaac just chuckled and looked at him. We dived down into the jeep and sat in our seats, not daring to stand up.

Isaac said, “Don’t worry – if he was really going to attack he wouldn’t have slowed down or stopped. He’s just showing off for his girlfriends!”

The elephant stopped just short of us. As he loomed above us, we felt like the children in Jurassic Park trapped in the car with the T-Rex bellowing above. He was massive, and we could tell. When even this didn’t succeed in making us move, he stood his ground and uprooted the bushes around him and tossed them aside menacingly. When you are so close to such a massive beast, your body reacts instinctively – our hearts were racing and we were scared out of our wits. Finally, Isaac relented and slowly drove a few paces forward.

And that was it – Bruce took that win and walked away, going back to his girlfriends in triumph. They might have been suitably impressed – we saw him mounting one of them a few minutes later!

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