My Travel Blog

Pay No Attention To the Stampeding Elephants

Our room at Varumba Plains was one of the nicest I have ever stayed in with the food and service up to the same high standards.  The tea served halfway through our morning game drive, and the sundowner drinks provided in the afternoon were always special.  When you throw in a herd of elephants marching through the middle of your afternoon break it soars from special to electrifying.

These beautiful antelopes are Sables. They are endangered.

Adult and juvenile Sable.

Copperback Hawk.

Baboons were everywhere, and can be very aggressive if you have food they want.

Our three jeeps had joined up for sundowners and appetizers in the middle of a large field next to a watering hole. The tables were already setup, and everyone was having a great time.  Whenever we were out of the jeeps the guides, while certainly enjoying the festivities though I don’t recall them ever having any alcohol, were always keeping an eye out. They were looking for any uninvited guests of the four-legged variety.  In fact whenever we took a break the first thing they did was walk over to the nearest tree or large bush to make sure it was safe.  That way those that needed to relieve themselves after bouncing across the Kalahari Desert for a couple of hours didn’t have to worry about being eaten. Halfway through my first drink, I noticed that all of the guides were looking in the same direction.  They were watching a large herd of elephants off in the distance headed in our direction.

A Hammer Kopt.

Termite mounds were everywhere. The dark area was added on the previous night.

Elephants on the move.

Our travel companions and friends.

Most of the guests hadn’t noticed the herd.  We continued to consume our drinks and appetizers while enjoying the unique setting of dinning in the middle of the desert.  As I’ve said before, even though it doesn’t look like elephants are moving very fast their lumbering walk is probably equal to a human running at a good jog.  Before we knew it the lead elephants were less than a hundred yards away.  When elephants are on the move they don’t worry about things that might get in their way. But when you’re the size of an elephant, running over a few tables stacked with hors d’oeuvres and drinks is merely a minor nuisance.  Everyone was told to stand by the jeeps. Some of us like Lisa had the good sense to get into the jeep.  Others like me didn’t follow directions so well.

Elephants heading our way.

They’re getting closer.

Lisa headed for the jeep.

Drinks and hors d’oeuvres for everyone.

An unhappy elephant.

Hey mom, I’m thirsty too.

Before we knew it our sundowner was surrounded by elephants. Fortunately they didn’t walk through the middle of camp.  Had they I might not have been able to get a second drink, but they were close enough.  Remember these were not trained circus animals.  These were wild elephants, and clearly some of them were not happy with us.  A number of the huge animals displayed their displeasure with flared ears, jerking head movements, and raised trunks.  It was an exciting couple of minutes with adrenaline coursing through our veins and pumping hearts. Once they had past everything went back to normal, and I was able to get my second drink without having to share it with an elephant.


-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.