One of the most wonderful experiences one could hope to have in the Addo Elephant National Park is to sit at a waterhole while a herd of elephants arrive, often passing so close to your vehicle that it will take your breath away.
When we arrived on the scene, the hyenas were quite far from the road and only barely visible without binoculars (or a 300mm camera lens). We could see they were eating, but couldn’t figure out what. Then one adult hyena picked up a sizable chunk of meat and started walking towards us, followed closely by a sub-adult with a piece of leg in its mouth. As they came closer we could identify the prey item as a buffalo calf, or what was left of it anyway. Whether it was caught by the hyenas themselves or killed by lions and then stolen we’ll never know. In any event, the hyenas promptly deposited their meat in a drinking trough on the opposite side of the road to where the actual Hapoor Dam is. Caching food in this fashion is quite well-known hyena behaviour.
The hyenas were still tussling in the water, apparently not knowing whether they want to save their meal for later or gobble it all up now, when a big elephant bull appeared out of the spekboom-thicket some distance away. And he was obviously on a mission. In no time the elephant closed the distance to the hyenas, and while the courage of the younger of the two predators gave in much quicker than that of his older pack mate both had to vacate their bath-cum-larder before the agitated bull got too close. For his part the elephant then gave the fouled water one indignant sniff before moving across the road to drink from Hapoor Dam proper.
With the elephant gone, the hyenas quickly moved back to their pantry, retrieved their meat and continued their meal. The day was heating up though and the Pied Crows were starting to get really annoying, and so they put their meat away a final time to be enjoyed later.
It probably goes without saying that the African Elephants are the star attractions at Addo Elephant National Park, and the grey behemoths certainly are not shy to show themselves. These charismatic creatures are a joy to behold as they go about their daily routines, and their social interactions are always fascinating to watch.
Young elephants especially are full of energy and just love roughhousing with a playmate whenever the opportunity presents itself.
When watching elephants in the water there’s just no denying that they are having loads of fun at the pool!
Mid-morning at Addo’s Hapoor Dam we were watching a herd around the waterhole, and noticed two baby elephants playing together. One little tyke sauntered off to its mother for a drink of milk, while one remained standing in the original spot. And when he realised he was all alone, and feeling hungry, there’s only one thing a baby elephant knows to do to get mom’s attention: THROW A TANTRUM! He squealed and trumpeted, stomped his feet and even stood on his hind legs for a split second, until mom came running looking more than a little embarrassed at her boy’s behaviour! What parent doesn’t know that feeling?
At the hide in the camp we peaked through a hole in the fence to get this picture of a touching moment between mother and calf. Elephant heaven.
I can’t think of another reserve in South Africa where the elephants are quite so relaxed around humans and their vehicles as they are in the Addo Elephant National Park. Of course this allows visitors to observe up close just how dexterously elephants use their trunks – and feet! – to uproot even tiny morsels of tasty plants.
We spent a lot of time today at the various waterholes in the Addo Elephant National Park. Thanks to the summer heat they were all occupied by herds of elephants, whose antics are always fun to watch!
One of the most touching sightings of our recent Satara Summer in the Kruger National Park was of an elephant bull trapped in a shallow pan (waterhole) and unable to get out. Just how the bull ended up in this predicament was unclear as we arrived on the scene too late to know – perhaps it was simply something as benign as taking a mud bath gone wrong, or perhaps something as violent as a debilitating blow received in a fight for dominance. However it may have occurred, we spent several hours in the exceptional heat wishing him on every time he tried lifting his massive bulk out of the mud, watching with lumps in our throats as other elephant bulls, obviously distressed, tried to help and failed, how they had to give up on their valiant attempts, extending trunks towards their comrade as if in a final greeting. Eventually the hopelessness of his situation became too much to bear for us too and with every pause in his feeble movements we hoped that he has finally breathed his last, only to see the tip of his trunk being raised limply above the waterline once again, over and over. Why won’t he just let go..?
Dusk settled over the plains and we had to leave to get back to Satara in the knowledge that he was unlikely to see the sun rise tomorrow. Difficult as it was to watch, we realise that tragedies like this have played out in the wilderness for millennia, nature taking its course without human interference, as it should and will continue to do in places like the Kruger National Park, and whether we were there to witness it or not made no difference to the outcome.
African Elephants are well known for their ability to find underground water and digging wells to reach it. While exploring the Kruger National Park in September we came across this bull patiently waiting, trunk draped over a tusk, for his well to fill up sufficiently for another sip, and repeating the process several times over. Aptly the dry stream is called “N’watindlopfu” in Tsonga, meaning “of the elephants”.
Just after sunrise last Sunday, while driving in the Mopani area of the Kruger National Park, we encountered this enormous Elephant bull in musth staking his claim to the narrow road. He was on his way to Mooiplaas waterhole and did not have any intention of letting four humans in a tiny (by his standards) metal cocoon derail his plans. In the end he made us reverse for over a kilometer before veering off towards the water.
One of our greatest joys when visiting the Kruger National Park is being treated to an encounter with a real “Tusker”; a majestic elephant bull carrying massive ivory. There are only a handful of these enigmatic animals on the continent, and they are living monuments to those who protect our wild places for generations to come. Owing to their special status, they are given names by the Park authorities, often according to specific areas they roam or in remembrance of rangers or other members of staff that dedicated their lives to the Park.
During our Easter visit to Kruger, we were lucky to have seen no less than three of these awesome animals. Each one of them has some unique features – scars on the ears, marks on the trunk, characteristic tusk shape, etc. that aids in the identification. We’ve submitted our photographs to the Kruger’s Emerging Tuskers Project and will update this post once we hear the names of these tuskers.
This big bull is known as “Hahlwa“, which is Tsonga for “twin” because he looks so similar to Masasana, another big tusker roaming the Kruger Park.
This last bull has not been named yet, but the project team will be keeping a close watch on him until he too receives his well-deserved moniker.
For some more pictures of tuskers we’ve seen in Kruger in years past have a look at this post.