Africa - August 24, 2012

Broke down camp and drove four hours to Elephant Sands. The main lodge is built around a watering hole where elephants drink literally 30 feet away from you. It's incredible.*

Hopped in an open-air jeep after setting up tents to explore the property for several hours. Wildlife spotted: elephants (including babies), steenbok, ostrich, spotted eagle-owl, and lots of other birds. Pulled off the road to watch a cloud-streaked, brilliant sunset over the desert.

Had a fabulous dinner of maize, tomato gravy, butternut squash, sauteed veggies, potato casserole, cole slaw, and peaches with pink butterscotch sauce (puzzling but tasty).** Since it was our tourmate Wendy's birthday, Gerrit had arranged for a homemade birthday cake.

Click photo to see the sign's sage advice.
After dinner, we all sat on the overlook by the watering hole where eight elephants were drinking. The water was almost gone and you could feel the tension as the dominant bull began asserting his authority to hoard the last of the water.*** We were so close, you could hear the whooshing sound as they sucked up the water with their trunks and blew it into their mouths. Any notion of elees being gentle giants faded as one of the bulls -- annoyed at being forced out of the watering hole -- turned, put his trunk in the air to catch our scent, and walked closer...and closer...and closer...We collectively held our breaths as he came within 15 feet of us, glaring and flapping ears, before finally turning away. Everyone exhaled at the same moment, and I was a bit saddened to think this was probably the last time I'd see big game on the trip. But what a way to end the safari.

Brad's footnotes: 
* Incredible in terms of proximity, but the man-made, square, water pit did kill the vibe of authenticity of the surroundings. I mean, it was authentic wild game, and, to be fair, most of Botswana's wild game is in parks (albeit huge ones with hectares upon hectares of space), but this was a half step toward SeaWorld, to me.
** One of the best meals we had during the camping phase of the vacation.
*** Travelmate Kate made the very valid point that it's just not right that an animal should have to suck water up its nose in order to then deliver it to its own mouth. "That's nasty."

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