Our second day in Livingstone we went on an elephant safari. Really, this was just a meet and greet with the elephants and then we went on about an hour ride along and through the Zambezi. We saw lots of birds, of which my guide knew the name and habits of every one, but no other game. But, it didn’t matter, for the first time I felt like was I was just strolling through the “real” Africa. It was wonderful.
Coincidentally, the next stop from the Lilayi elephant orphanage in Lusaka (where we saw the baby elephants) is this place! They come here when they’re about 2-3 years old and then when they’re about ten years old the hope is that they’ll join a wild herd of elephants. In the meantime, they have a safe place to call home.
Kevin’s elephant bent down on its knees and he got a leg up and jumped on a very large bull’s back. Thom and I used the platform to get on our elephants.
I chose the small-ish mama elephant. She was adorable and “talkative.” Elephants mostly talk by rumbling their stomachs (and sometimes through trumpeting). It was so fun to feel her “talk” to her baby elephant throughout the whole ride.
It was a serene and peaceful ride in and out of the Zambezi river.
Of course, the Jaynes can’t go on any excursion without some sort of adventure happening. In this case, Kevin’s elephant, which was bringing up the rear, decided it wanted to go for a swim. It headed for the deep part of the water and started walking in. Kevin’s guide yelled to Kevin to lift up his legs, presumably so crocodiles couldn’t snatch him off the elephant.
Just at that moment my guide pointed to what looked like a large rock in the middle of the river about 75 feet from Kevin and said, “look at that huge crocodile watching them, he’s about 18 feet long.” Sure enough, that croc had his 4-foot-long head out of the water in the middle of the river and his eyes were locked on the elephants crossing the deep part, which was Kevin’s large bull and the tiny baby elephant.
I yelled to Kevin, “there’s a croc,” which only added to Thom’s and my amusement of the situation, but Kevin practically balled up on top of the elephant, making sure the guide’s limbs were more dangly than his. My guide said, “the crocodile is checking out the baby elephant and deciding if he can grab it.” I asked what would happen if the croc attacked the baby. My guide said that all of the elephants would stampede and rush to the baby’s rescue and that the croc would probably let it go. By this time the baby was swimming with his trunk sticking up high like a periscope. Kevin’s elephant never got deep enough to swim (presumably because the guide kept hitting him with a stick to get him to stay in a shallower section of the deep part).
Well, you’ll be glad to know that we all survived yet another adventure intact, including the baby elephant, who trotted joyfully after Kevin’s elephant, proud of his little swim. When the ride was done we spent about 45 minutes interacting with the elephants, feeding them, petting them, and learning more about them. (Here Thom’s feeding his elephant.)
At this point our camera died and I really wish it hadn’t, because I got to sit on my mama elephant’s knee (they had her lie down) and toss food into her mouth. She explored me with her trunk and I swear that for a moment there she looked deep into me with one long-lashed eye (remember, I was sitting on her knee so she and I were staring at each other about 15 inches apart on her right side), knew exactly what I was feeling (pure delight!), and then stroked my shoulder and arm with her trunk as if to say, I love you too.