That’s all I could think about as he lumbered towards our jeep. He’s HUGE!
I was in Tanzania, standing on the seat of our large Land Rover, the top half of my body sticking out of the roof and yet the bull elephant’s head still seemed a mile above mine.
Our visitor was in Musth—a period when a male elephant’s testosterone level is high making him irritable and dangerous. His head was up and he held his ears out wide in a show of dominance, the bone-dry grass crackling under his step. He stopped to raise his trunk and catch our scent then comically laid his trunk over one tusk as if he were a butler with a towel draped over his arm.
He was the George Clooney of elephants: tall, handsome, in control—an elephant of a certain age for sure—no tacky charging for this fellow. He left that for the younger bulls that didn’t have the sophistication he’d honed over his many years. He didn’t have to flaunt his prowess, he knew who was boss and it wasn’t us. We were tiny humans in a metal can, we were no match for his will.
My guide Chili and I spotted George an hour before, appearing on our left at the far end of the Silale swamp, in Tarangire, making his way towards a small herd of lady elephants grazing in the marshy waters nearby. He could’ve walked in a straight line towards his targets and avoided us completely but he altered his path instead, approaching us on our right, placing us between him and his prize.
Stepping forward, now 15 feet from our jeep, he stopped again, his head tilting right then left, his ears still wide and motionless. It was a conscious stance. It was convection oven hot and if he hadn’t been so interested in being ominous, he would have fanned himself to stay cool.
Because George was so close, Chili asked that I remain still and be quiet while he watched the elephant, decoding the minutia of George’s body language. Within a few seconds Chile whispered, ” I know what he wants,” and calmly threw the jeep in reverse, coming to a halt 30 feet away.
George slowly turned his head in our direction, then shook it vigorously, whipping his trunk out as if trying to catch a fly in mid-air. I didn’t have to speak elephant to know we’d been chided.
He hesitated for a second longer and then with the posturing of a conquering hero, sauntered directly over the spot we previously occupied, and went on his way.
His ladies were waiting.