We like to go up to Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba in the Zambezi Valley, knowing that many elephant live wild and, to some degree, with man close at hand. One often sees them walking down the main roads and yes, if you’re sensible you always give them right of way – a rampaging pachyderm can do an awful lot of damage to a car. Going out to photograph these beautiful creatures can be risky. One must always remember they are wild and to give them the space and the respect they deserve. Taking friends that have been visiting us to Kariba, especially if they share my passion for photography, is always special.
Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir in terms of volume
I recall one time tracking an elephant up a dirt road with a friend from the UK. My husband always kept the car running and close to me. On this occasion I got out to photograph these beautiful animals. Our guest, another amateur photographer, had expressed his wish to photograph elephants in the wild. Being in his later years and with a history of weight training, he liked to give off the appearance of being quite macho; a tough guy and a ladies’ man.
Having told our guest: “Come on let’s go!” I jumped out the car with my camera, heading up the road on foot while keeping a good distance between the bull elephant, myself and our guest. Without turning round I gave him instructions on what to do and what not to do, speaking over my shoulder but keeping my eyes focused on the very large elephant ahead of us; just in case it got wind of us and turned.
The elephant was about thirty meters ahead of us on the other side of the road, feeding on some grass. I told our guest: “If I say run head back to the car as fast as you can”.
I suddenly saw the elephant turn with his trunk waving, dust flying and ears flapping… the whole bit! It was a sure sign he was upset and I thought he must have got wind of us and was giving us a very strong warning!
I froze for a few seconds, before yelling: “Run!”
I took my own advice, expecting to hear either a comment or receding footsteps heading back down the road to the car. On turning around I found there was no retreating guest kicking up dust as he headed to the car at top speed; I was alone!
Our friend had not even got out of the car in the first place, being too cautious and nervous to follow me! So much for macho man!
I decided it would be a good idea for me to start moving as the bull elephant had completely turned and was now facing me. Heading back down the road at speed I was suddenly alerted to another noise behind me. I dared not stop and look or even turn round, fearful of falling down and then whatever was coming would get me! The sound came closer and closer up a rise further down the road.
My heart nearly stopped until I realised it was a truck with several men in the back, shouting loudly! The elephant had sensed the truck long before I had, and the bull elephant was upset about their shouting. Phew!
What made everything even funnier was that the men in it had realised exactly what was happening, and were almost falling out the back of the truck laughing at the sight of this mad women legging it down the road at full speed, thinking she was being chased by an elephant. It was a incredibly hilarious picture to them.
I did laugh afterwards. Our guest eventually overcame his nervousness, although he decided to take pictures of any elephant we saw on the side of the road from inside the car. He did manage to get some great shots to take back to England, while keeping his macho image intact.
Elephant in the front of our vehicle, Lake Kariba
Ann Warner is an amateur photographer living in Harare, Zimbabwe whose passion is wildlife. Her desire is to bring more awareness to the world on the plight of Africa`s Wildlife, showing the beauty through her lens and articles in the hope that more people will help join in the fight to save it. Visit her Facebook page to see more of her lovely photographs.