At Umlani we try to show our guests the bush from various perspectives and walking allows us to take a look at a lot of the smaller things that we often drive past on the game drives.
Occasionally the bigger things also feature on these walks and most of the times we are allowed to view these animals from a ground level without any problems. It really is a great way to fully understand the size of many of these creatures and provides the most natural of sightings, but sometimes we are reminded just how wild these animals are.
On a morning walk with a small group of guests I heard a noise that told me there were elephants up ahead of us so I carefully tried to get a view so I could decide what to do. We saw two bull elephants in the distance and were able to watch them feeding and slowly moving away from us until they disappeared into the bush.
We then continued our walk and moments later saw another, larger, male elephant standing very still about 50 metres away from us. I stopped the group and told everyone to remain as quiet as possible, but he began moving towards us rapidly almost immediately.
Running from an animal in the bush is very rarely a good idea so I decided to stand my ground and see exactly what this animal intended to do with us. He was approaching very quickly and telling my guests to stay behind me and to stand still I pushed a round into the chamber of my rifle. I shouted at the elephant and tried to make him stop, but still he ran at us. I aimed my rifle and as the elephant got closer and closer my aim lifted the rifle higher and higher. At about 10 metres the bull suddenly stopped and quickly moved back away from us, but immediately turned again and came back at us. I kept my aim on him until he stopped again, now with less than three metres between us, the elephant so close that all I could see above me was his chin, tusks and ears.
I came very close to pulling the trigger, but didnt want to, telling myself that if he moved forward just one more centimeter I would have to stop him. We stood there facing each other with my guests behaving perfectly behind me. The elephant kicked a log towards us and sand and dust flew up from the impact. He was trying to intimidate us to make us run, but we stood still and stood our ground until he slowly moved backwards away from us. I kept my rifle aimed at him until he turned and walked away, allowing us to do the same and I headed straight for camp.
It is important to mention here that the guests really did react perfectly to this situation and if anyone had moved away from the group I probably would have had to shoot the elephant. This scenario really is a reminder again that even the most severe situations in the bush can be faced and solved without pulling the trigger and that whiskey is sometimes the best way to end the walk and calm those nerves!
For more, please see the Timbavati Nature Reserve blog