It looks like fog, the dust behind our car when we drive out of Maun, onto the dirt road full of potholes towards the well known national parks Chobe and Moremi. We drive onto a drive way to let our tires down. I walk around the car and by the time I am full circle there are four children of different ages and sizes staring into the back of our car. I tell them something in English, but I’m not getting any response, while they do talk busily amongst themselves. I wonder what they are looking at. The back of the car is not that interesting…some crates, a fridge and two drawers. I walk towards the back door and close it, feeling like I am closing a safe filled with gold. The children walk away disappointed. With a loud hissing noise I deflate the last two tires before we continue the drive.
Our deflated tires let us drive considerably faster and more comfortable now. We’re relaxing in our seats and we see the breathtaking surroundings pass us by. We take the road off the main road and follow the tracks left by previous cars which will lead us to the lodge we will stay at. There is dense vegetation on the side of the road and the sun is setting which creates shadow patches on the road. From behind one of these shadows a giant elephant steps onto the road ahead of us. I’m just in time to hit the brake full on and Helga, who was looking at the map when it happened, is startled by this and looks up. She gets a second scare when she sees the enormous elephant in front of us. The 5000 kg animal is just as scared by us apparently and quickly makes a turn before it storms off into the bushes it came from. It leaves behind a path of destruction, broken down branches and trampled plants. It takes a while before my heart rate is back to normal and Helga is settled back into her seat. Very slowly we continue our way towards the lodge.
The safari lodge consists of luxurious canvas safari tents. We are warmly welcomed by the staff of Mogotlho Lodge and get some information on the area of the lodge. We quickly drop our bags on the crispy white bed linen before we get into our car again to check out the concession area belonging to the lodge for more animals. We see waterbucks, impalas, elephant and buffalos. When we drive back we pass a young male elephant. The moment it is behind us Helga hears a trumpeting and looks behind. In her rearview mirror she can see the male running towards us: “Drive. NOW,” she says, “we are being chased.” Luckily, it decides to change its mind when we drive away quickly.
Back at the lodge we share our elephant stories around the campfire.
The next day, one of the guys who works at the lodge, joins us on a game drive. They call him Bingo, and we believe that is because he has a lucky eye for spotting animals. He directs us to a narrow track along the river and we see: giraffes, elephants, hippos and crocodiles. During our drive with Bingo we meet another male elephant in the middle of the road who tries to come at us. Bingo teaches us to wait and drive on at the right moment. The elephant breaks off his attempt, turns around and heads for the bush again.
The next morning, we just woke up and look through our fly mesh windows when we see an elephant coming right towards our tent. We both dive into the space between the two single beds and crouch to the floor. The tent was set up under the shade of a large tree and the trunk sits about 20 cm from the tent itself. The elephant heads straight for that tree, trunk rolled up and tusks on both sides, and it rams the tree. The tree gives in slightly and we can see its impression in the canvas tent. We can hear a shower of branches and nuts landing on the tent. The elephant, who towers over the tent, is not yet satisfied with the results and goes for it again. We crouch even lower between the beds and smell the distinct smell of male elephant: We feel the impact against the tree: bang, bang. He’s now searching the ground around the tent with his trunk for the nuts. We keep very still, hearts beating in our chest, marveling about how close we are to this wild animal.