Back-Up Trails Guides Week 4 – It’s All In The Details!
Ulovane update: Having never been on any kind of bush walk prior to the start of this course, I was under the impression that a bush walk would be a leisurely stroll along the banks of the river with the opportunity to perhaps see a bird or two.
I was wrong.
Before heading out on a bush walk, every fine detail needs to be carefully considered and factored into the intended plan. These details include, but are not limited to the direction of the wind, the position of the sun, and the predicted temperature for the day. All of these factors determine how successful of a walk it will turn out to be and whether animal sightings/encounters will be possible.
On Monday, many of these conditions were in our favor as the morning started off cool with a slight drizzle. (And yes, we learned very quickly not to complain about the drizzle because intense temperatures are way worse!)
Thanks to our instructor’s extensive animal behavior knowledge, he was able to accurately predict exactly what the elephants would be doing in the fine drizzle and where their movements would take them. We came across the herd early in our walk and observed them feeding from a distance for as long as we could before they moved out into the clearing just ahead of us, prompting us to move. Our instructor suggested we head for one of the river crossings and climb on to the opposite bank as the ellies were more than likely on their way to the river for a mid-morning drink. We chose a suitable spot just above the river to sit and wait for the herd and, sure enough, within a couple of minutes they joined us down below and proceeded to put on quite the show. It was certainly the most incredible elephant sighting I have ever had!
We were able to witness the communication and group dynamics of the herd first hand and learned a lot about the social behavior of elephants from the time that we were able to spend with them. We took our cue when one of the young bulls decided he had had enough of our presence and came to rustle some branches a couple of meters from where we were sitting. We moved off, keeping parallel with the herd moving in the river-line below us for as long as possible until we eventually stopped and let them all walk past ahead of us so that we could move back onto the plains and slowly towards the direction of home.
The sighting proved to be a valuable learning experience, not only about the behavior of elephants but about how all the finer details come into play when you’re actually out on the walk. The elephants had no idea that we were there while they were feeding as the wind direction was perfectly in our favor, the low-light conditions of the overcast morning made it difficult for them to see us, and the drizzle dampened our scent. However, once we moved on to the river bank and the wind direction was no longer in our favor, the elephants became aware of us very quickly despite the fact that we were sitting dead still and not making a sound. We didn’t appear as a threat to them and so they did not alter their behavior but they definitely knew that we were there. At this point, the drizzle had also stopped and the sun was starting to break through the clouds. It was interesting to witness how such seemingly insignificant details can change the entire experience.
Being a trails guide is all about the details!”
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu