In the presence of majesty
It’s mid-afternoon at Tembe Elephant Park, and we’re watching a number of elephant bulls milling around Mahlasela Pan. Occasionally the peaceful scene is disturbed by two or more of the younger bulls mock-fighting and testing one another’s strength with heads held high and tusks and trunks interlocked, sending nervous nyalas and impalas running for cover…
Slowly, royally, a magnificent tusker moves out from behind a clump of bushes to drink from the pan. The day before, when our guide Patrick asked us what we’d most like to see at Tembe I was very quick in replying “Isilo please!”. And now, perched in the game-viewing vehicle, we’re speechlessly admiring South Africa’s biggest living tusker – a wish granted, a prayer answered. We’re looking upon one of the most awesome animals in all creation and nothing could wipe the smile from our faces.
Isilo. “The King”. What an apt name.
We watch enthralled as Isilo moves around the pan, stopping often to quench what must be a massive thirst. The old gentleman is looking frail; at an estimated sixty years of age, he’d be having trouble eating the woody vegetation that has sustained him all his life. His tusks must weigh about 60 kilograms each, and in excess of 2.5 meters in length – what a strain it must be on the neck to keep those massive ivory pillars from scraping on the ground as he moves. Yet there’s no feeling of pity. This is the King!
Taking his leave now of the pan and the younger company around it, Isilo ambles westwards into the woodland. We follow alongside, hoping to spend as much time in his audience as he will allow. Occasionally he stops to enjoy a tender creeper or succulent young shoot.
My heart skips a beat as Isilo turns towards us, moving ever closer, gently and peacefully passing within touching distance of the admiring humans in the game-viewing vehicle. No one says a word. There’s no need to; the expressions on our faces tell the full story.
As we follow a while, Isilo slowly walking along the sandy track into the sunset, there’s no denying that we’ve spent a tiny fraction of our lives in the presence of majesty. Sala kahle Isilo. Stay well.
We went to Tembe Elephant Park in search of Isilo, and it was every bit the exhilarating experience we had hoped it would be. But Tembe turned out to be so much more: have a read here for more of our impressions of this South African treasure.