One early afternoon on Ilkley Game Ranch, one of the guys from our anti-poaching unit knocked on my door and asked if I’d like to join him for a bush walk. Always keen for a walk, I decided to join.
Being a hot summer’s day we made a bee-line for a dry river-bed, to walk in the shade.
Not long into the walk, we came across some very fresh tracks of two Elephant bulls, so we took on the challenge of trying to find them.
The tracks were very clear and easy to follow as they had walked in the thick sand all the way along the river and within an hour we had sight of them resting in the shade of some large trees.
As we got closer we noticed a large termite mound right on the river’s edge with an old and very large tree stump protruding from it. The termite mound would serve as a great viewing point as it was downwind from the elephants, we could hide behind the tree stump if necessary and being right on the river’s edge, it was very steep on the one side from all the water erosion, which would prove very difficult for the elephant to climb up on.
For about an hour we sat very quietly watching the sleeping elephants when all of a sudden one of the bulls lifted his trunk to sniff the air. The wind had changed direction and he had picked up our scent! Being curious about the new smell, he decided to follow it and slowly made his way towards us. We had a good 50 meters before he would reach us, which gave us enough time to decide our next move. We decided to stay on the termite mound and hide behind the tree stump in hope that the elephant would soon lose interest.
A minute or so later there we were, the elephant on the one side of the termite mound and us on the opposite side sitting very anxiously behind our stump, wishing the elephant away. All we could hear was the sniffing of his trunk just 4 or 5 feet away! Fortunately we were out of his reach as the bull was standing in the river bed on the steep side of the mound.
After about two very anxious minutes waiting, the elephant turned around and walked away, or at least we thought so. The bull had found a pathway leading out of the river bed and before we knew it, he had sight of us and came running full steam towards us!
The ‘book’ says “DON’T RUN!!”.......YEAH RIGHT!!, if we had tourists with us we would have stood our ground but not on this day, so we took the chance to make a run for it as the surface of the riverbed was very uneven and filled with potholes and just 20 meters away from us was a very narrow but long trench which we could jump across and the elephant obviously not.
We jumped off the termite mound and at the speed of lightning ran as fast as we could while hopping over the potholes and in Olympic-style, long-jumped over the trench where we came to a halt.
Not 5 seconds later there he was, the elephant bull, standing on the opposite side of the trench, trumpeting like mad and not too happy of course.
With a sigh of relief and a clean pair of jocks needed we walked away from our unhappy friend and made our way straight back home.