At the end of June we were joined by four guests for our Elephants’ trails safari, which was originally scheduled for 2020. It was the first time for us running this trip across the wilderness of Tsavo East NP and Amboseli NP in search for extraordinary images of Elephants.
We started from the northern section of Tsavo East NP at the Shledrick Wildlife Trust reintegration unit in Ithumba. Here in Ithumba orphan Elephants older than 4 years-old are slowly reintroduced into the wild. We witnessed their return to the stable from the bush in the evening and their coming out from the stables in the morning to venture into the wild with their keepers. It was a cold and windy day so we didn’t see much at the mud-bath, but we were compensated by the appearence of several wild bulls at the waterhole. Photographic opportunities were plentiful.
At the waterhole, the orphans were fed again with milk before going to drink water with the wild bulls. The orphans arrived in group. We positioned low on the ground at the place where the feeding occurred to capture one Elephant in the foreground with the others feeding in the background, in a quest for depth and perspective. The black and white rendition works well in a situation of harsh daylight in the middle of the day.
We tried several images to highlight the relationship between the keepers and the Elephants. It is a very strong bond that last way beyond the Elephants’ complete return to the wild. Keepers know each individual Elephant’s behaviour and attitude and are deeply respected by the Elephants. It’s amazing to witness to this relationship. Here the Elephants are feeding on grass before walking out into the bush.
Guests enjoyed many opportunities to photograph the orphan Elephants from different perspectives, including the always-effective low-angle. Lying in the dirt surrounded by Elephants’ dung is well worth the effort for some extraordinary images.
Always in the Ithumba area we were surprised on our last morning with an extraordinary sighting of a pack of six African Wild Dogs. We caught up with them hunting Dik-diks along the road, running in and out of the very dense bushes. Eventually we managed to spend some time with them when they reached a dry pan on the roadside. They were quite skittish though, so we couldn’t really get too close to avoid disturbance.
After two nights in the Ithumba area we headed south across the Tiva and Galana Rivers to reach our base in the southern section of Tsavo East NP. After my visit in late April when many Elephants were very concentrated in the heart of the park, this time it was much more dry and elephants were more scattered. There was good activity at a variety of waterholes where we spent time waiting for family after family of Elephants to arrive.
On our second day at a beautiful waterhole in the south of the park we found not only Elephants had decided to show up. A pride of Lionesses with cubs had taken over the water, keeping all the Zebras and Oryxes away. A big bull tusker came from the plains and certainly didn’t bother about the presence of the Lions at the water. It was only after the middle of the day that the Lions retreated to rest to the bushes nearby.
Late one afternoon on the way back to camp we had a glorious full moon rising behind a family of Elephants walking across the plains. We had multiple opportunities to frame the scene in different ways, wider and tighter. In the evening we tried multiple ways to process this image, focusing on both colors and black and white.
We spent three days in the area and besides lots of Elephants of course, we also came across a Cheetah in the distance and a mother Leopard with two big cubs. Quite something for Tsavo, though the photographic opportunities were not great. The second part of the trip, focusing on Amboseli, will follow shortly.0