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Elephant Sands

Where elephants rule

Gill Staden, eTN  Feb 25, 2010

Elephant Sands is 54 km north of Nata, Botswana. Set in the wilderness not far from the road, the elephants have come to call this place home. The byline of Elephant Sands is “where elephants rule.” and they definitely do.

As we arrived after our short trip from Nata, we were welcomed by an elephant wandering through the campsite. This is going to be fun, we thought. And then it wasn’t long after that an elephant plodded up to the swimming pool to take a drink.

It is amazing how quiet an elephant can be when it approaches. Ben, the owner, told us that a few weeks previously, three girls were lounging around in the pool and, not hearing the elephant approach, were totally stunned and frozen when an enormous bull elephant came for a drink, lowering his trunk into the pool, not more than a meter or two away from them.

Elephants may rule at Elephant Sands, but they are seriously friendly and loveable. I wouldn’t, though, go so far as to say cuddly.

The lodge had been recommended to us – a must-stay. And I am glad that I took the advice. The lodge is one of those special places which are relatively new (4½ years), and the owner had built it because he loves the bush and wants people to enjoy it, too. It is a far cry from the corporate lodge-chains, which are prevalent through the interior these days.

After a lazy day watching the nearby waterhole and the elephants wandering down to drink, we climbed on the safari vehicle for a tour of a nearby conservancy. The conservancy is government owned and protected by them on behalf of the community. One day, the hope is that the conservancy will provide an income for the nearby communities. The conservancy is also a short distance from the Zimbabwe border and Hwange National Park. There are no fences. The animals move freely with only their instincts to direct them.

We drove up the main road, through the foot-and-mouth gate, and into the conservancy. The grass is high and the bush is thick at this time of year. The road is bumpy. There was not much to see, not surprising, of course. But it didn’t matter at all; the beauty of the bush at this time of year is the impenetrability of it.

We arrived at a pan called Motsweri Wamudimu (God’s Leadwood). The pan is named after an ancient leadwood tree, which was standing in the water looking seriously old and patriarchal. The tradition goes that any hunter in the area has to come to the tree to pay homage before he sets off on a hunt.

We had really seen nothing on the way to the pan. I suppose it was disappointing because the conservancy is home to all sorts of animals including lion, leopard, wild dog, and lots more. It was just one of those things. We hadn’t even seen many elephants either. But the elephants performed on the way back. We met up with a family herd of twenty or so, with young. They were seriously cautious with the little ones around, raising their trunks in the air to smell for intruders. We were no threat, though, and sat and watched the herd in the darkening skies for some time.

We were late back to the lodge. Me, being totally nonsensical, thought that we had time to cook a meal and eat it. We did, but it was 10:00 pm before we snuggled under the duvets to sleep. And then, during the night, the elephants continued to entertain, even though we were not in the mood and just wanted to sleep. They came to the waterhole; they came to the swimming pool. They drank, they played - seriously disturbing. I almost got out of my tent to tell them so.

In the morning we had a plan to move on to Zimbabwe and Robins Camp in Hwange. We were in no hurry, though, and didn’t leave until 10:00 am after chatting, watching the waterhole, and enjoying Elephant Sands ambience - very special. Try it sometime.

Where elephants rule
Photo by Gill Staden, eTN

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