Date of stay: 2012
Where you stayed: Elephant Sands
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned
CAMPING WITH ELEPHANTS
If you want to see elephants you should go to Elephant Sands.
Advice from a driver/guide of an overland safari truck should be heeded. We met him in a campground in Maun, Botswana. His group were off on a three day camping trip to the Okavango Delta. He said we would have to pay close attention to directions or we would likely miss it.
Elephant Sands is located 53 kms. north of Nata, on the Nata-Kasane road A33. The sign is small, but it is the only sign for miles. Once you leave the highway it is a 2 km. sand trail into a bush camp with an office, café/bar, campground, several small chalets and a swimming pool. The campground has no fences, assigned spaces, or services, so you simply park. The showers and toilets are unisex and open air. Water for the showers is heated by” hot water donkeys”, a wood fire under a big water tank.
We were travelling in our VW Kombi and needed to keep the food in our fridge cool, so the office gave us some ice. The minimal electricity is provided by generators run at specific times. Once settled, we walked to the café for a cold drink. There is a watering hole in front of the café, and to our delight three elephants were having a drink and a bath. It was fascinating to be able to watch them at such close range. Soon more arrived and we spent the entire day watching the never ending action.
Late in the afternoon several young bulls were drinking and play fighting. They walked toward the café and to our amazement walked up to the pool and started to drink. Ben, the owner, explained the water in the waterhole has a high salt content, so they like the pool water better. At this point we are sitting no more than fifteen feet away from four very large, wild, elephants. Elephants look big at any distance, but they look really big when they are so close.
One of the projects at Elephant Sands is providing drinkable water for the animals of the area.
We spent the next couple of days watching non stop elephant action. It was common to have up to 35 elephants at the watering hole at one time. One evening we witnessed elephant sex up close. A female knelt down, a bull mounted her, and it was all over in a matter of seconds. Talk about “Kiss and Tell”, that bull trumpeted for the next two hours!
Our Kombi had a small water tank, with a place to fill it on the outside of the camper. One morning we found the plastic flap cover gone. Ben said one of the elephants would have smelled the water in the tank and tried to get it. We were sleeping inside and my husband’s head was not a foot from the cover. We never heard a thing. It is amazing how something so big can be so quiet. We found elephant footprints all around our camper every morning, we never once heard them walking past. They walked between the tents and never tripped on the cords or tent pegs. We did hear the lions roar at night, and were quite happy to not see their footprints around the campsite.
It was not unusual for the staff to begin their morning repairing water lines. The lines are plastic PVC pipe running underground. The elephants can smell the water in the lines and dig them up on a regular basis.
Our last morning we sat drinking our coffee watching four bulls come from the watering hole to drink from the pool. A safari group was arriving later in the day, and the pool was intended for guest use. Ben told the boys to get the truck and fill the pool. Elephants can drink a lot of water, and the pool was not very big. Once it was filled he reminded them to add chlorine. He explained they have found the least amount of chlorine needed to make the water safe for swimmers, and still keep it safe for the elephants to drink. They had just finished when a large old bull walked across the campground and straight to the pool. He planted his big feet, bent over, and got a huge trunk full of water. He then looked directly at Ben, and proceeded to spray that water all over the café. Obviously, he did not like chlorine in his water.
As we turned onto the road heading for Kasane, I turned for one last look at the sign that said it all “Elephant Sands – Where Elephants Rule”.
If you missed the sign, or just want some more information you can go to www.elephantsands.com