Cathy, the matriarch of the Abu herd in Botswana, allowed me to stand under her to capture her beautiful amber eyes
Majestic. Adorable. Formidable. Captivating. Intelligent. Compassionate. Protective. Funny. Magnificent.
These are only a few of the words that come to mind when I think of the elephant—one of my favorite animals on the planet. I mean, who doesn’t love elephants? If there’s someone out there who scowls when an elephant is mentioned in conversation, I hope I never meet them. They’re not worthy of attention.
As I prepare to return to Africa, I look forward to seeing these incredible creatures once again in the wild, honestly, I am giddy with anticipation. In the meantime, I’ve put together a little tribute to these powerful pachyderms with images from my trips to Tanzania, Botswana and Kenya over the last few years.
I hope you enjoy.
Shireni, an elephant of the Abu herd at Abu Camp in Botswana, was walking behind me as we made our way through the bush. At Abu, guests are able to spend time with the camp’s rescued elephants.
This elephant herd is the first sighting I had during my visit to Tanzania
It’s amazing how elephants learn to adapt. This female lost the lower portion of her trunk but learned to feed herself without the aid of the nimble, finger-like tip of her trunk
Warona, a baby elephant of the Abu herd, found the perfect place to scratch both sides of her tummy at the same time.
A large bull elephant, covered in red dirt to keep cool, raises his trunk to get a good whiff of us as he approached our jeep
A young calf signals to its mother that it wants to nurse. The mother, uninterested in accommodating her baby in our presence, continued on her way.
A large herd of bull elephants around a watering hole in Tanzania get into a bit of a scuffle as they each vie for dominance
There are over 150,000 muscles in an elephant’s trunk
Cathy, from Abu Camp, chomps on some grass as we walk through the bush at sunrise
A big tree for a big elephant scratch
A very unhappy female flails in front of our jeep, angered by wild dogs that were to our left. If you’re wondering how close she really was, that vertical line in the picture is the jeep’s antennae
A swinging tail belies this elephants seeming calm, cool and collected demeanor. He was watching us, pretending to eat (yes, pretending) while he figured out his next move. Moments later he charged us briefly and then ran off to our left.
A young bull elephant raises its head, trots and spreads its ears wide in an attempt to scare us off. In the end, he was the one to move on
Early one morning we came upon herd of elephant that were lounging in some grass behind a large clump of trees. The younger of the group seemed to be practicing circus tricks.
Elephants love to wallow in the mud. This female sprays herself in order to keep her skin cool and protect against biting flies.
While the elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet, this one is still dwarfed by the sheer vastness of the Masai Mara in Kenya
To young bulls play fight on the Masai Mara in Kenya – an important part of the maturing process and practice for when fighting for dominance is for real.
A herd passes us in the distance. While their eyesight is poor, there is no doubt that these elephants could smell us
I am so intrigued by elephant feet. They are like big sandbags wrapped in a radial tire
A very large, lone bull walks the Okavango Delta at twilight. I think he’s quite the dapper gentleman
Peeking through the high grass of the Okavango Delta, the regal profile of this young elephant caught my eye
Momma! Wait up!
With no other trees for miles around, this elephant found the perfect place to rest his bum while taking a siesta in the afternoon.
Kiti, of the Abu herd, raises her trunk for me while on a walk on the Okavango Delta. The hole in Kiti’s ear was made by the tusk of the dominant female of the herd during an altercation. Sadly, Kiti passed away recently after suffering complications from giving birth. Her daughter Naledi however, is alive and well.
Young Warona follows Sherini, her mother, as we walked through the bush
Every wonder how an elephant scratches its ears? Now you know.
Warona nurses from her mother Shireni in Botswana’s Abu Camp
A herd heading who knows where, walks through the bush at twilight. If you notice, the last elephant has its head turned ever-so-slightly to the left to keep an eye on us
Seven elephants of a herd over forty strong. We ran into this pachyderm caravan on my last day in Botswana
A leisurely stroll ends up in a smushed trunk when a young calf fails to realize that her mother has come to a complete halt.
A calf snuggles next to her mother while grazing on the Masai Mara
A sherbet colored sky hangs over two elephants of a small herd we found at dusk in Kenya
One of the most magnificent endings to a day I’ve ever had. A glorious fiery sunset and a majestic elephant in silhouette
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Learn what various elephant calls mean in this great audio piece by National Geographic.
Have you seen a wild elephant? Tell me your story in the comments below.