We had booked the elephant experience at Stanley camp while we were still in Zambia. So instead of getting the usual 6AM wake up call to get us ready for the morning game drives, we got to sleep in until 8AM for our 9AM close ups with the elephants. However, having been woken up at 6AM daily for the last 3-4 days I still ended up waking up at 6AM on my own.
Doug, originally from Oregon, and Sandi, from South Africa, have rescued 3 elephants – Jabu, Thembi, and Morula, and the two have dedicated their lives to care for the elephants for the last 28 years. Jabu and Thembi were siblings rescued at age 2 after they were orphaned from a culling operation in South Africa, and Morula was taken from a private owner who couldn’t care for her after she exhibited some behavioral issues. Unfortunately, Thembi had suddenly passed away a few months ago from colic at the age of 30. We were told that Thembi was the peacekeeper as she was Jabu’s sister and Morula’s best friend, and now without her, Jabu and Morula are learning to live side by side without a go between.
Male elephants are usually solitary and female elephants form a tighter knit with other females of the same herd. Jabu and Morula still get to interact with wild elephants, while Jabu is welcomed by the female elephants, Morula has a harder time because female herds tend to shun outside females. Luckily, Morula does get invited to join in for a short period of time as a guest.
After some introduction and education from Doug and Sandi, we were given the opportunity to get a close up with the elephants.
Morula was quite equitable when it came to doling out the hugs as she made sure to give all of us one in turns.
On our walk, Doug stopped to show us a flower mantis.
Elephants are often described as ‘gentle giants’. However, with the previous days’ encounters with the wild elephants, ‘gentle’ wouldn’t be the most appropriate description. We had a few close encounters with them while on our game drives that I would describe as ‘harrowing’. There is nothing gentle about wild elephants. The Elephant Experience was a rare opportunity for us to get close up and to get a better understanding of these wild elephants.
It was back to camp after lunch with the elephants. As we were settling in for our siesta before our afternoon game drive, we heard Ice outside the tent.
Ice: Hello? Hello? Can you guys get ready to leave now?
Apparently there was a leopard sighting not far from camp.
We of course leapt out of bed and were at the jeep in less than 5 minutes.
Ice drove us straight to a tree…
The leopard was scoping out looking for her next meal.
Making her way down the tree to start the hunt.
I took about 927 photos & videos during the entire trip, and of the 927, a hundred of them were dedicated to this leopard.
An absolutely gorgeous animal…
We kept following her from tree to tree. It was as if she knew she was gorgeous, she decided to treated us to a Vogue photoshoot…
As she was slinking in the high grass, we had lost sight of her for a moment, but Joe’s sharp eyes picked her out again.
As she settled in on another branch in the shade,
we saw a baboon in front of our jeep. All of a sudden the baboon looked in the direction of the leopard, stomped its foot against the ground, let out a loud bark, and ran up a tree to warn the rest of the pack.
It was exhilarating to see nature in action!
Obviously, the leopard did not catch her target. That was fine by me, as I was just not ready to see any animals get killed on this trip.
Since this was an ad hoc game drive, we returned to camp for the afternoon high tea and headed back out for the regularly scheduled game drive an hour later. While Joe and I were with the elephants in the morning, the rest of the group had gone out on a game drive and came up to a leopard’s den. Ice decided to bring the rest of us who missed it to the spot.
So in the beginning of the trip, I was just not that interested in birds, but over time I started to appreciate them. I think it had a lot to do with how enthusiastic the guides were about the birds, and it certainly didn’t hurt that the birds were all so colorful.
On our way to the den, we got a flat tire. While Ice was replacing the tire, the rest of us had to get out of the jeep. We were basically sitting ducks for predators.
Luckily, we were only accompanied by some giraffes with their red-billed oxpeckers.
Fortunately, we survived any potential attacks and made it to the den.
Unfortunately, the leopard was taking her siesta.
But oh my, what a day!
Of course we couldn’t skip our sundowner before heading back to camp.
As Ice was setting up the table, we saw Doug walking Jabu and Morula back to their evening enclosure.
Another beautiful sunset…