A Night Time Encounter with an Elephant

Traveling in Africa is a life changing experience. The exotic animals encountered, their shear numbers and wild antics and behaviors make every observation unique and exciting. But every now and again something really really incredible happens and if you’re lucky enough that something just might happen when you’re on safari. I have had a few such encounters on my trips to Africa and one of the most memorable happened during my last trip.

Traveling the wilds of Africa in daylight truly is amazing, but traveling at night takes one into a whole new realm of enchantment. Undertaking game drives at night is not a regular experience of most safari travelers. Predators are out and appropriate precautions are necessary, permits must be acquired and special expertise is needed. I have experienced only one night time game drive in Africa and that was way back in 2001. I’ve always wanted to do another night drive, but have never had the opportunity. Recently, while out on a day drive in Chobe National Park during a GrassTrack safari, we were experiencing animal sighting after animal sighting and lost track of time. Suddenly we were engulfed in darkness, miles away from camp and as we made our hurried way back we encountered a large elephant in the road, directly in front of us. Our guide killed our vehicle’s engine and headlights and all of us wondered what in the H-E double L he was doing as we coasted to a stop within inches of the massive animal.

In the darkness of the African bush what’s out their can see you, but you can’t always see it

In the darkness, it was obvious that the elephant was confused. It reached its trunk out to us, swaying back and forth, appearing to access the situation for any signs of danger. Slowly she made her way around the front of our vehicle and as I peered through darkness to see the ghostly beast move past, I imagined I was experiencing something much like a boat passenger might feel as two massive ships pass at night on the open sea. It really was remarkable. We all strained to see the elephant as it moved along side us only inches away, while with every slow and methodical step, the elephant cautiously reassessed the situation before her. Within minutes the experience was over, she was gone, disappeared into the darkness, but in our emotional exhaustion everyone in the vehicle knew we had experienced something very special, something we would remember for the rest of our lives. It is surprising how such a simple encounter can hold so much meaning.

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