“I wouldn’t put your tent there.” The guide warned me.
“Why?” I enquired.
“When the elephants come through in the night they use those trees as scratching posts” as he points to the acacia tree next to my tent. “Chances are they won’t see you and there will be quite a mess to clean up in the morning.”
“Fair enough.” I responded as I took my tent and moved it a little further away from the little spiky shrubs.
It was at this point I knew I was in a special place.
Welcome to Elephant Sands Campsite in Botswana
Botswana is often overlooked as a destination as people flock to its more famous Sothern neighbour, South Africa. However, this is a good thing as it has many secrets waiting to be discovered and is also ranked as Africa’s 2nd safest country.
Botswana is home to some amazing places to spot wildlife including the Ocovango Delta, Chobe river, and the place this post is about, the Elephant Sands is a campsite.
Located in the Northern wilderness, as the name suggests, it is a fantastic place to get close to wild elephants in Africa. I was there on an overnight stop as part of a five-day organised tour that started in Livingstone, Zambia, (where I got to jump in the Devil’s Pool) and ended in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you’re not tied to a tour as I was, it’s definitely worth knowing the best time to visit Botswana before you go.
The tour was the final leg of my trip through Africa and was a great way to end it, especially as I had to fly home from J’berg. Not only did it make sure I was in J’berg on time, the day before my flight (something that can’t be said very often when talking about African transport) but I also got to meet great people along the way and really enjoyed the final days of my solo African adventure.
It always starts with a bloody tent
As with most stops on these safaris, the first job after arriving is putting up the tents. After a few days, it becomes a real pain in the arse. I would love to be able to say I got better at it each day and it got easier . . . but it didn’t.
Luckily I could rely on the help of the others. On reflection, it must have been that I had a bad tent.
Another tenting skill I also didn’t master was choosing the right spot. A day earlier I had managed to camp on an ants nest and was still finding hundreds of the little buggers hitching along with me.
With the ground hard and dusty, if I hadn’t been so poor, due to a complete lack of budgeting skill, I would have certainly ended up in one of Elephant Sand’s lodges rather than my ant-ridden tent.
After receiving the very welcome safety advice, I finally decided on a safe place to pitch my tent before heading to the bar area for a couple of well-earned beers and a spot of elephant watching.
The Elephant Sands watering Hole
The campsite (and more importantly campsite bar) is on a raised terrace area with a swimming pool and located about 20 metres away from a watering hole. When our group arrived there must have been at least 12 elephants, bathing, spraying and in general having a pretty good time.
They would often inquisitively wander over to us, within touching distance, I had to keep reminding myself that they are wild elephants, so although I really wanted to grab some trunk, I thought I best err on the side of caution.
Attack of the African wild dogs
It was while watching the elephants I noticed something on the horizon, smaller than an elephant. Then a second and a third, it was a pack of wild dogs and they wanted what the elephants had . . . the water.
A couple of the wild dogs approached, but the elephants didn’t want to share and chased them off. I thought that’s pretty cool, wild dogs are quite rare to see.
But before I could get my next beer I heard a commotion as the whole pack, around 25 dogs, charged the watering hole.
Startled, the elephants retreated and stood back, watching the dogs. Every now and again an elephant would make a half-hearted attempt to scare the dogs away, running towards them, trumpeting and putting on a show. But it would take just one dog to growl and stand its ground and the elephant would slink back off.
The elephants fight back
However, after about 10 minutes of watching the dogs, they decided enough was enough. A group of them charged together as the dogs stood firm, but this time, as two pulled up, the third elephant, a bull and the biggest of the bunch kept on going, water and dogs flew in every direction! The rest of the elephants saw their opportunity and dashed into the water.
With no other option, the dogs retreated. For a while they hung around, it seemed they were devising a new plan, but something happened in the pack and they became more interested in fighting each other as opposed to the elephants and disappeared over the horizon.
I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to witness that and I didn’t even have to go on a safari trip to do it. Well, I was on a safari, but you know what I mean, one of those game drives into the national parks with lots of people in safari jackets crammed into a small Jeep. It was like something straight out of a wildlife documentary, right in front of me, with cold beer available!
As the elephants settled back into their routine of spraying, bathing and generally lazing around, I finally got that second beer and relaxed, sipping, thinking about the power of that bull elephant and wondering if my tent really was far enough away from those acacia trees.
Discover more from my African Adventure
If you would like to know more about my trip through Africa, an ambitious attempt at solo travel for the first time, you can buy my awesome travel diary on Amazon. How to Clean Your Underwear in Africa chronicles my trip, the highs, lows and hangovers as well as dishing out lots of handy advice for first-time travellers. There may even be some great little nuggets in there for travelling pros as well.
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