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Make yourself heard

"We will camp here for our final night," said our guide as he pointed to the riverbed. It was our third day on the Lonely Bull hiking trail in the Kruger National Park, part of our #Uhambo2022 Adventure.


Riverbeds, especially ones as big as this, are good spots to overnight as you have access to clean drinking water and a clear view of the animals around you. However, because of the access to water, it is also a natural attraction for the animals, meaning you have to be vigilant all the time.


One of the best parts of the day, particularly after hiking in the extreme heat, was cooling down and refreshing in the fresh stream flowing past our tents. We looked like seven crocodiles (or hippos) as we cooled down in the ankle-deep water.


Tents next to a river with hikers cooling off
There is nothing like cooling off in the fresh natural river after a hot day's hiking.

After the refreshing dip, we enjoyed our delicious five-course trail meal (noodles with dried veggies) at dusk watching the sunset over the African bushveld, and listening to the sounds of nature.


While enjoying our dinner we spotted a herd of elephants about 300 meters down the river. They were grazing peacefully just as we were.



A riverbed is just as good as a five-star restaurant.

Before dark we washed our cutlery and crockery and made ourselves comfortable around the small, but reassuring nothing-will-come-closer campfire.

It was now dark, and while enjoying the bushveld TV, and sharing stories with friends, it is good practise to scan your surroundings regularly with a spotlight (almost like a light-house) for any potential 'visitors'.


As I did one of my scans, I realised the elephants were now moving and grazing closer to us. I notified the group and the guide recommended that we scan our surroundings whenever we "Felt like it"; I felt every two minutes would be sufficient.


It is amazing how small, yet alert, you feel when a herd of elephants are making their way towards you in the dark.


As this herd made their way within 100 meters of our camp, I spotted some more eyes on the opposite river embankment. Was this my adrenalin making me see double, or were there more elephants approaching?


I once again alerted the group and the guide confirmed it was a second herd of elephants approaching from the opposite side. They were only about 200 meters away.

To put it into perspective, if we were the centre of the clock, one herd would be at 9 and the other at 3.


This is when we spotted the second herd of elephants.

The guide instructed us to get our crockery. At first, I was confused as I had eaten enough and then I realised it was not for eating, but rather to make some noise.


We knew it was time to listen carefully. His tone of voice when he instructed us to fetch our crockery, was the most serious I have seen him in three days. He wasn't even that serious when we tracked the lion or "bumped" two male buffaloes.


"Everyone, it is important that we make sure these two herds don't come together."

Otherwise, we will have our hands full during the night," explained the guide in an assertive voice.


At first, he started our serenade by asking the matriarch (lead elephant) of each herd politely to go back into the bush. However, as they continued advancing towards each other, he changed his voice and tone to ask more sternly and even showed his seriousness by speaking in Shangaan.


"Okay, Everyone. Bang your crockery and shout as much as you want. Let's ask them to leave us alone for tonight."

We banged. We shouted. We asked. We demanded. Some of us even laughed... some people have interesting ways of asking. "There. Look. The herds are moving away from each other and into the bush."


The guide sounded relieved, and so were we.


Shout. Scream. Whistle. Just make some noise.

Just then a young bull turned around and came down the embankment. This was when the guide had enough and took his assertiveness to the next level. In his strong and deep Shangaan voice, he told the young bull what he thought of its behaviour and to go back and join his herd. While I don't speak Shangaan, I understood what he meant, and I almost felt like I was in trouble.


This time the young bull listened and understood the instruction, and disappeared into the bush with its trunk held high. Thankfully the two herds postponed their get-together for another night.


We all breathed a sigh of relief... for the second time. While for a moment it was nerve-wracking watching the elephants become restless and agitated by our presence, it was impressive to watch this event unfold.


We spent another half an hour or so at the campfire reflecting and replaying the encounter. We had a few chuckles about the situation which was easy to do after the fact. Once the adrenaline had worn off, we were ready to rest in our tents for the night.


All is well that ends well.

I lay in the tent thinking about how this event can be compared to situations that happen in our personal or professional lives. How often do we have 'herds of elephants' approaching, often when we least expect it.


The Adventure Life Lesson

At Inkwazi Adventures we believe there is a life lesson in every adventure. This unique and unforgettable encounter with the elephants reminds us that when we stand together we will always appear bigger, stronger and louder. As we navigate each day:


1. Be aware of your surroundings and be alert.

2. Scan the environment so that you know when a situation changes.

3. Have the confidence to speak up before the 'elephants' are too close.

4. And if needed, don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends, family, or colleagues... because when we stand together we are bigger and stronger.


Retold as it happened on our UHAMBO 2022 adventure.


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