It was mid afternoon on the second day and we decided to visit a nearby pan where we had seen elephants with rather large tusks on our way into Shumba camp in the hopes of finding them again. It was very windy and the sky looked grey but we attributed it to the bush fires that prevail at this time of the year. “Too early to rain” I said but my wife was not convinced. “To me that looks like rain”, she said as we made our way to the pan.
There were a few elephants drinking but no large tuskers to be seen . While watching the animals, the wind picked up and we heard thunder. Clearly, the grey sky was indeed a storm in the making and I was wrong again! Soon, heavy raindrops started to fall. The elephants’ response was to rapidly move off from the water into the nearby bush, with the exception of a couple of bulls that had just arrived for whom the need for water overrode the need to seek shelter from the storm.
Raindrops turned into hail that, after two to three minutes, changed again into water in the form of a heavy downpour which was also short-lived. The two elephants put up with the inclement weather and continued to drink while the chickpea-sized stones bounced off their backs! What a relief from the heat and dust! In addition it released a wonderful wet earth smell that prompted us to open our car windows and enjoy the wetness of what, a few minutes earlier, was scorched earth!
Once their thirst was quenched, the elephants moved off. We tailed them as they took to the road that headed for our camp. One went into the bush and started to feed, while the other continued to walk ahead of us, stopping every few metres to drink from the rain puddles that had formed on the tarmac. It was funny to see how it would effortlessly suck them dry! Clearly it could not resist fresh rainwater!
We were still behind the elephant when we saw one rock on the road and farther on another one. The elephant carefully avoided them. The rocks turned out to be Leopard Tortoises coming out of their heatproof refuges to enjoy a dunk and a drink, probably their first since early last year! Watching these animals enjoy the rainwater served as a reminder that, in hostile environments, opportunism is the name of the game!
I thought I saw them smiling but it may have been just the shape of their mouths… Well, at least we smiled and hope that the rains will be good this year!