top of page

Beware : Elephants Crossing

As we cruised around the northern banks of Long Island in the shadow of the Victoria Falls spray clouds on the great Zambezi river, we saw three elephants in amongst the trees, but heading to the river’s edge.

It is hard to slam the brakes on a small motor launch, but Brian, our guide, tried to do just that, by manoeuvring the craft into the sandy bank just to our right.

“Sssshh” he whispered, “I think they are going to cross” .

“Cross What?”, I asked.

“The River”, he said, “This is a privilege, very rarely do we see elephants actually swim the river”.

The Zambezi, at this point, is as wide as it can be, it has large islands in the midstream, Long Island being the largest, so the feat for an Elephant to swim several hundred meters from the island to the shore line, at a depth of some 15 meters was one of natures great events that I was desparate to see.

Earlier that day, we had also been on the river. My family and I were returning from a morning activity in the Vic Falls area, and we were picked up by the motor launch on the Zimbabwe side, and where heading up river to our camp at the Victoria Falls River Lodge.

Brian had met us, and has said that he wanted to swing by the tip of Long island as he had seen some Elephants on the island on his way to meet us. The tip of the island has a few inlets and channels that attract lots of wading birds and the Elephants love the lush vegatation.

To our pleasure we watched a full

herd enjoy the island, and we sat with them for many minutes. The herd then moved to one of the channels and began to cross, and two younger bulls decided to give us a spectacular show by jousting in the water just next to our launch. During our Helicopter trip across the falls, we even managed to spy the elephants still on the island on the afternoon.

So in the evening, rather than taking a jeep and looking for cats in the heavy undergrowth of the Zambezi National Park, we hit the water again with Brian to go and find the herd once more.

Brian rested the boat on a sand bank and we watched three elephants move to the river's edge. "This is it!", Brian whispered.

But unfortunately, it wasn't it. Another boat had spotted our position and came hurtling down the river and stopped a few metres off shore, right in the path of the elephants. The elephants hesitated and stayed in the bush. Sadly, this boat wasn't the last, and soon we had around 7 boats of different sizes pushing in front of each other trying to get a glimpse of the three in the heavy bush at the waters edge.

Brian shouted and called to the other boats, but to no avail, they obviously didn't understand what was still, we hoped, about to happen. We sat there for 20 minutes, resting on the river bank, cold vodka and tonic in hand (well the sun was going down, and we were on safari), and waited for the idiots to move.

Finally, a couple of boats left and the others realised that the Elephants were there to cross, not just take a drink from the river.

The lead female, slowed moved into the water, "its on", we said, "yes!". She began to leave the shore line and soon was moving into the river with a breaststroke type bobbing. Her head would rise, and she would push forward, then her head would drop below the surface and her trunk would appear to breathe in air. She was quickly joined by the other two, and Brian positioned us behind the last elephant and we followed then across the 400 metres of river.

What a privilege, other than the fact that we were in the photos of the other boats that were now sat back watching the event unfold, we made our way slowly behind them, almost feeling like we were swimming with them ourselves.

The was a silence as there heads went below the surface, then a wet "phrew" as their trunks expelled a water fountain and took in another breathe before repeating the cycle.

As they swam, the front two seemed to be comfortable, but the third was no olympian, and was floundering at the back.

After about 5 minutes, the first elephant made the other side, and hauled herself out of the water and walked slowly up the bank and into Zambia, the second followed soon after, but the third was panting heavily and took sometime to finally climb the bank and disappear into the undergrowth.

On our first day, we had seen Elephants on an island further up stream and we had assumed that the water must have been very shallow at that point, but now, having seen these three swim a 15 metre deep river with relative ease, we realised that elephants were even more magical than we had previously know.

Elephants always have another surprise to share, to illustrate their intelligence, emotion and physical strength and ability.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Me
    • Facebook Social Icon
    bottom of page