Elephants’ Territory

Near Sinamattela Camp, on the western fringes of Hwange National Park, we enjoyed the best game viewing. Two evenings in a row, we watched about 200 elephants gather at the Masuma Dam waterhole, the bigger ones shoving, pushing and trumpeting for a good position. Cheeky baby elephants sneaked underneath big bellies, curious what the commotion was all about.

Every minute something different, exciting caught our eye: a baby elephant falling on its rear end, young ones spraying themselves with mud and then stand perfectly still to dry the shiny crust in the sun. Just watching them suck up the water in their trunk, curl it up, throw back their head and gurgle it all down, was pure delight. It was a constant coming and going of large herds. The closer the caravan got to the water, the faster they ran, whirling up large clouds of dust. Trotting back into the bush was done in a more composed way…

Other animals were also approaching: gazelles, zebras, warthogs, buffaloes, but keeping a respectful distance to the elephants. Our lesson learned, buffaloes are the most daring ones, whereas zebras are even scared off by young elephants practicing a mock charge.

You would expect hundreds of camera yielding tourists at such a place. Wrong, we were maybe 15 to 20 people, sometimes just a few, staring out there, at this mass of grey bodies. Nobody said a word, like in a secret agreement. The true privilege is to watch this spectacle all evening and late into the night, which only a couple of well informed South Africans enjoyed. They had managed to reserve the few rare camp sites at this strategic spot, overlooking the waterhole. Drinks in their hands, slumped into camping chairs, they marked their territory. We had to leave, heart-broken, while things were still rolling. No driving within the park after 6 pm is allowed and we had to get back to our camp before that.

Ever seen a bright red moon? We have, in Sinamattela! Every evening, a full moon in bright red slowly rose from the horizon to change into a soft gold once it reached its place high up in the sky. It even paled the star-lit sky.

Moon- and starstruck we spent the evenings around a warm campfire looking up. Mabon enhanced our pleasure by identifying the cosmos with an app on his mobile phone. Naturally we were even more thrilled knowing what we were looking at.