I'm not sure what it is about elephants that continually captures everyone's hearts and imaginations, but I believe that secretly, everyone wishes they had a trunk and that is was still socially acceptable to wallow about in the mud. I know I do.
It was a calm morning, our first days in the Tuli game reserve in Southern Botswana. We spent most of the morning parked with a pair of leopard cubs, adorable little things that wrestled and played like kittens, really big kittens. The engine was off, and we were just enjoying the morning.
Nothing breaks peace and quiet like a herd of elephants. We had been able to hear them for a while, but as the got closer, they got much louder. We had spent some time with this herd a day earlier, in fact they were our first big game encounter. They had a bit of an attitude the day before and didn't let us get too close. However, we were close enough for Adrienne to tear up. Her only wish for the trip was to see Elephants up close, and when we did, she cried. Tears of joy of course, but for me, tears are tears, they make me nervous. That was 12 hours earlier, exactly 2 hours into our 2 week trip. To her credit, she only cried one other time the rest of the trip, on our flight home.
We could see them just off to our left down an embankment into the riverbed, they were making too much noise to miss. These animals are nothing if not subtle. The cubs were obviously not going anywhere anytime soon so we decided to join up with the elephants for a bit.
Elephants are just loud, big and loud, there is no getting around that. We could see dust and mud being tossed in every which direction well before we parked the car in the middle of the dry river bed. They were rolling in the little mud that there was, all of them. They didn't all fit, not even close, but they worked each other in and out, spraying it all over the place whenever they had a free moment. There would be four or five of them rolling about when another, as if out of the woodwork, would toss its massive body into the middle of the pile. Like slippery fish, the elephant on each end would get pushed to the edge of the mud, and finally out all together.
They seemed to enjoy pushing each other out of the way, sliding about as they did it. It reminded me of being a kid, wrestling and playing in the mud, man did I destroy some nice clothes that way. We had a creek in front of my parents house . . . it had that thick that reddish brown mud, and we could run and slide down thing like a slip 'n slide. We came home covered head to toe in mud more than a few times, I wonder if it would be weird to do that as an adult.
There were elephants all over the place, and I was just lucky enough to catch the four of them together for a quick photo. A mother as she emerged from the mud, her face still shimmering, her white tusks caked in thick brown mud. She had mud spray across her back, yet the three little ones were clean as could be.
We sat there for a solid half hour, watching as the herd slowly passed us by. They continued to play, the little ones, well off into the distance. After the last family pair passed us by, covered trunk to feet in mud, Eric turned the engine on and we headed on our way.
Man, elephants are lucky because, to this day when I come home covered in mud, I still get hosed down in the driveway in my underpants, and that water is always freezing.
"Family of Four" is part of my collection "Of Things Large and Small" and is offered in three sizes, each in a limited edition. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this photo will go to conservation efforts in East Africa.
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