There I was, sitting in the sun like a dassie, my feet dangling over the abyss. A Go-away bird slowly flap-flap its way under me. The visual stimulation with the bush in full autumn colours, almost overwhelming.
I first noticed him by a soft rustle under a massive old Waterberry. A scrape through the underbrush, twig snapping. A rumble, like far-off thunder. Canon shot as a sizable branch is ripped from a tree.
Elephant are one of the most confounding animals in the African bush. If they do not want to be heard, they will ghost through the bush without a sound. Guests are often surprised by the way that elephant can move without any indication that they are there. They are not seen, and then…the bush moves, and a grey colossus magically appear.
Herds are more vocal when they are at rest or feeding. Youngsters express their disdain and enthusiasm by vocalizing, either with a nasal trumpet, or by a rumble, much of the sound too low to be heard by human ears.
Older animals are usually more discrete with their trumpets. They will use a blast only to express great stress, anger or surprise. And sometimes with great exuberance!
I can remember one of the most exciting moments in my career as a field guide involving an elephant bull.
We where on a bushwalk, looking at grasses as it was. Natal Pink-top, Rats-tail dropseed, various species in the Eragrostis family, when we, quite literally, stumbled into the sizable backside of a young elephant bull. He must have been dozing, for his first reaction at realising that the smell on the fickle breeze was indeed human, was to give in to an almighty bout of flatulence and then a leaf shattering trumpet!
I shouted at the guests to stand still. The elephant vacated his position with another loud trumpet and a few loose cannon ball like bolus plopping earthwards. I looked back, only out of the corner of my eye.
All my guests were still there…white as sheets, but present. The elephant made good its escape, breaking through the brush like a bulldozer on steroids.
I unloaded the rifle. From behind me another, somehow familiar sound…this time disturbingly human.
Elephant sounds does that to you…