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Famous for its big bull Elephants that roam freely through-out the camp, Galdessa is a little bit of Paradise set on the banks of the Galana River in Tsavo east. There are two dominant bulls, Mzee Pembe who is about 45 and has only a right tusk, and his side kick Tusker who is about 35 and has only a left tusk, who make Galdessa their home during the dry season.

During one stay, Marcus Russle the manager (an honorary warden for Tsavo east) introduced us to Bw Keo who was in charge of the Rhino project in Tsavo east. During our conversation Bw Keo mentioned it was Marcus’ birthday the following day. There were two field researchers staying at the camp for a little R & R, who we had met, so it was agreed we would all get together with Bw Keo’ staff for a bit of a party the following evening.


When Marcus became camp manager the first thing he did was to restore the balance between the camp & the wildlife. Previous managers had made it policy to keep the Elephants out of the camp. It took some time for the Elephants to return. Slowly they tentatively came back into camp, and when they were not disturbed they started to stay longer each time. Now they are part of the Galdessa experience. Galdessa is a quite camp with only four Banda’s which played a big part in reassuring the Elephants. It was tusker who became camp favourite, especially with Marcus. There was a connection between them. Marcus had a way with Tusker, to the point he could call him and he would come. Also on occasions Tusker took to sleeping outside Marcus’ house down river from the camp.


On the evening of the party we all gathered in the lounge/Dining, room which is open plan, with no windows or doors. The evening went very well, good company, interesting conversation and excellent food. On this occasion the desert was to be Marcus’ birthday cake. In Kenya, birthday cakes are brought to the table amid much singing & dancing. It was to be no different with Marcus’s cake, and the normal tranquillity of the camp was broken to the strains of Jambo bwana. As the staff circled the table sing and banging pot & pans from the kitchen, a deafening trumpeting broke through the festivities. It was Tusker, and he wasn’t a happy Elephant. As we turned to where the noise came from we saw Tusker in full charge coming out of the darkness trumpeting his contempt at all the noise. Within moments the dining area was emptied, the Masai askari taking the girls to the far end of the lounge for safety, and the staff vanished in all directions, which just left Marcus, Bw keo & myself at the table. Tuskers charge came to an abrupt stop with his enormous head resting on the cross beam above the entrance to the dining area. Marcus rose slowly from his chair all the time talking calmly to Tusker. He moved slowly towards Tusker gently reassuring him. Bw Keo and I looked at each other, our eyes telling one another, do not move, stay put. The one thing I have learned from all our travels to Africa is, no matter how serious the situation, do nothing rash & no sudden moves. On this occasion those who did were OK, Tusker was not looking to hurt anyone, I say in hindsight. It appears he was concerned for Marcus’ wellbeing. What he saw was lots of people surrounding Marcus making threatening gestures & noises. After about fifteen minutes, and a few Doum palm nuts Marcus kept behind the bar, Tusker slowly backed away and melted into the darkness of the night. It was an astonishing experience and one I will never forget. When the others returned to the table it was suggested a strong drink would be most welcome, and it was.


In the last few years a new Bull Elephant has appeared & who has a magnificent pair of tusks. He is known as Kali which means stern as he is a bit moody, and Tusker is very wary of him.


Africa is never tame, no matter how much affinity you may have with it.










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Playing the role of protector! Simply astonishing.

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what a wonderful and heart-pumping experience!

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  • 2 weeks later...

That would have been rather alarming! Makes for a great story.

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What a great story - thank you for sharing it with us!

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