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Mt Kenya: An encounter with Elephants.


PHALANX
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We were spending a couple of nights at Mt lodge on the slopes of Mt Kenya. It is primarily a night viewing lodge where you can stay up, all night if you wish, to see the game that comes and goes through-out the night. There are no game drives here, but they do have nature & bird walks. Being relatively keen birders we opted for the latter. It was on our morning bird walk that we had a rather close encounter with Elephants.



Escorted by an armed ranger, our guide & we set off on our bird walk which followed the main road from the lodge to the gate. Over a couple of hours we saw a myriad of colourful mountain bird life. It had been quite a long walk so we decided to take a rest, and as we did we noticed our vehicle parked just off the road. The guide had arranged for our driver and some staff to bring tea, coffee & cake down and set it up just of the road in a small clearing. It was a most welcome surprise after what had become a rather hot morning. We sat chatting to the guide about the flora & fauna of the area, when the ranger slowly got to his feet, his head slightly tilted to the side as if straining to hear something. He signalled to us to get up slowly and make our way back to the vehicle. As we did, we heard the sound of bushes rustling with the solitary crack of a breaking twig. It was about 15 meters back to the vehicle, though it seemed more like 1500 in the circumstances. Then, as we set off, a young Elephant went crashing through the bushes just behind where we had been sitting and on into the forest. We now quickened our pace & as we did another young Elephant came through chasing after the other one. Safely back in the vehicle we looked back, the ranger was just approaching the vehicle, and we saw the remainder of the Elephants pass through where we had been only moments earlier sitting having a quite cup of tea. As things calmed down the ranger climbed into the vehicle with a big smile on his face.



A few years later; the same walk, the same road: We had walked a lot further this time, and after we had enjoyed our tea & cake, in a more open area next to the road, we prepared to walk back. My wife was not too keen on that so she went with our driver & the staff in the vehicle. As the vehicle left we started walking. The ranger was about 20/30 meters ahead of us, and we were discussing what we would do that afternoon.


It never ceases to amaze me how sensitive the rangers are to their surroundings. About half way back to the lodge the ranger stopped, put up his hand, his palm facing us to tell us to do likewise. We starred hard along the road but could not see anything, but after last time I had a healthy respect for the rangers ability to detect danger. Suddenly a big female Elephant stepped out of the bushes ahead of us on the right. She stopped half way across the road starring long and hard in our direction, her trunk raised; taking in all the smells she could muster, trying to discern what was there. A young calf then appeared from the bush and stood beside her. The ranger now raised his rifle pointing it into the air, this was purely precautionary. Satisfied it was safe, the Elephant moved on across the road calf in tow, and letting out a low rumbling sound she signalling to the rest of the herd to follow. Out they came, dozens of them, scampering across the road before us. We waited 15/20 minutes before moving cautiously on. The remainder of our walk back was cautious but mostly uneventful.




Don’t you just love Africa.


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