The first time I stayed at Elephant’s Eye Tented Camp, Hwange in Zimbabwe (yes, I have been there more than once!), I remember being told that there would be lots of elephants milling around all over the place, at any time of day or night, so be ready and have our cameras prepared. Given that there are no fences or barriers on the concession, the elephants roam freely, following their natural pathways and instincts toward food and water. We were advised to be still and quiet if they come into our vicinity.
Thank you to our guest, Gabriella, who wrote the below blog on her first time visiting Elephant’s Eye, Hwange.
I love elephants, and my expectations were high! We arrived at mid-day, sans elephants – but we saw bucks and warthogs and plenty of birds and butterflies. We were pleased to arrive at such a lovely, spacious and secluded spot, and took our time getting settled into our chalets. We relaxed and readied ourselves for a beautiful supper (the cuisine at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange is excellent, and during each of my visits, I have never been disappointed).
The evening rolled on but the elephants never came. We stayed up late into the night, but soon fell asleep in our cozy chalet, the beds wrapped in mosquito netting and the pillows plumped to perfection. All was still and the air was fresh – it would have been impossible to stay awake any longer.
“… the ground almost started to tremble… we were surrounded by the sounds of tree branches breaking…”
But mid-way through the night, sometime between 3 and 4 am, a slow rumbling started outside our tent. When you’re asleep in the bush the reality of noise does not register at first, but the ground almost started to tremble around us. The noise got louder as it approached – seemingly from all directions; I immediately thought our chalet (resting on firm metal stilts) was going to crash down – we were surrounded by the sounds of tree branches breaking, possibly just centimeters from our plushy pillows where our heads lay idle just moments earlier!
“We were encapsulated by elephants of every size…”
Separated only by thin canvas walls, I began to panic – but then looking through the windows all around, we could see and hear the source of disruption. Elephants! Everywhere! Surrounding our chalet, deep in the night, quiet yet loud, large yet unobtrusive, these magnificent creatures were wandering purposefully through the trees intent on finding the choicest nighttime snacks. We were encapsulated by elephants of every size around us, seemingly unaware of our presence and without any interest in us (the fascination was purely one-sided). We were gripped in amazement for almost 40 minutes.
I later learned that elephants have preferred pathways, and Elephant’s Eye, Hwange is situated along one of their many ‘highway’ routes. So it’s no surprise that elephants are found here on a regular basis, at any time of day or night. It is an important point in discussing habitat conservation for elephants that there are no fences on this concession, allowing them free range traversing from here in Zimbabwe through Hwange National Park and across the border into Botswana. And back again. This is their ‘turf’ and we are merely visitors here in their kingdom. Recognizing that makes the stay at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange all the more magical: the elephants are not ‘among us’ here. Rather, we are among them, in their vicinity, in their home.