Addo Elephants – drama at the waterhole

travelafrica On safari, Self driving in southern Africa, Wildlife tips

When people tell me they’ve been on safari and seen everything, my immediate response is you can never, ever see everything! There are always news sights and new animals to see and if you’re lucky old animals doing new things. My words came to life during an incredible 20 minute experience we recently had with some of the Addo elephants in Addo Elephant Park, near Port Elizabeth on the Garden Route in South Africa.

We were sitting in our car at Harpoor Dam – this brilliant dam where you can drive and park your vehicle only 10 metres from the water and watch the elephants come in to drink, spray themselves and if it’s warm enough plunge into the dam to swim, play and blissfully cool down. The elephants are used to the vehicles being there so totally ignore you, even if they walk right past your vehicle – pure magic.

Anyway, it was a very hot day, so the waterhole was surrounded by herd upon herd of elephants with numerous babies and the odd bull elephant doing his own thing. This teeny tiny little baby elephant caught our eye as it was in the water in the midst of numerous really big elephants and it was so so very small. Soooooo cute we all exclaimed! We then realised the little elephant was trying to get out of the water but the side was too steep and slippery and it kept on sliding back into the water. A teenager elephant made their way over to the baby and tried to use their head and trunk to help push the baby out – some elephants on the bank also used their trunks to encourage and assist. But alas, no luck, the baby slid all the way back into the water. It all still looked quite cute, no elephants were panicking and the baby elephant just used its trunk as a snorkel anytime it went under the water. By this time there were easily another 10 elephants in the dam including other young ones and babies so we lost track of the tiny baby.

After a few minutes of taking so many photos and oohing and aahing we noticed the baby again, this time in the midst of all these bigger elephants looking quite tired. An adult elephant had it in its sights and was trying to help it, indeed at one point the baby even lay at the top of the adult’s trunk to try and catch its breath and recover its strength. At this point we also realised this might get quite serious as the baby was certainly losing strength. But with all the elephants splashing and cavorting, drinking and spraying water and mud over themselves, swimming and playing with each other in the water, going underneath and rolling about it was really hard to see what was happening.

Then all of a sudden we heard an almighty trumpet! An adult elephant – maybe the baby’s mother – was in the water and she’d had enough. She let lose her almighty call and in a flash every single elephant got out of the dam. It was truly incredible – they all vamoosed and all that were left was the one adult and the teeny tiny ever so tired baby.

With the chaos out of the way the adult made her way over to the baby, steered the baby towards the bank, then garnering all her years and generations of ancient wisdom used her trunk to gently push the baby up the bank. Again there were two or three elephants on the bank desperate to help and with their guiding trunks they manouvered the baby up then bank – so exhausted and ever so relieved!

You can see some of the Addo elephants for your self on our following itineraries:

Self-drive South Africa: Cape Town and the Garden Route

Self-Drive Classic South Africa