We spotted the first elephant in the distance, and soon noticed he was followed by many more, all neatly in line, ears flapping and trunks swinging in that crazy, bouncy, elephant way. Eventually 32 of them arrived at the watering hole at Okaukuejo Camp,where they drank, bathed, played, and in some cases were a little peeved with each other. Then, as the sun set, they all lined up and left again, just as they had come.
I tried to capture a sense of the feeling of just sitting and watching these amazing animals. It may feel like there’s nothing going on in the video, but in fact a lot is going on. I used a Rode directional microphone to try and pick up as much of the ambient sound made by the elephants, and unfortunately the occasional cough by one of probably 100 people watching, or the constant weavers flying in and out of the huge overhead nest, spoils the effect.
Etosha National Park is Namibia’s flagship nature reserve, half the size of Switzerland, and based around a pan, or shallow lake that dried up thousands of years ago. At Okaukuejo Camp, only a four-foot stone wall divides a popular animal watering hole from what are often hundreds of tourists, who, apart from an occasional cough and the constant click of camera shutters, watch in silence as a promenade of animals comes and goes all day and all night long.
It’s tempting, when you’re sitting here, to succumb to the feeling that you’re actually at the zoo, and then you remind yourself that the elephants actually have the run of the place. In some instances they will tear down the fencing surrounding the park itself, if they’re not happy being confined in such a “small” place. I also spotted a similar video on YouTube, taken some months ago, in which a baby elephant lost its life at the edge of this same watering hole. No zoo staff showed up in the night to clean up the carcass. That was left to the jackals the following day.