Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is home to one of the most romanced destinations of all time. It is also a mecca for some of Africa’s most famed residents, the elephants. In the driest months of the year they great distances to reach sources of water, as I witnessed one day from the rooftop viewing decks of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.
The watering hole shimmers like a mirror in the middle of the dry landscape, all the grass now turned to ash. The sound of the birds is overwhelming, their calls bounce from one pocket of the view to another – audible, but out of sight. Then the trumpet call of an approaching elephant, and all falls to silence.
I watch from the viewing deck, set high up in the rafters of my lodge. African drums hang suspended, framing the view. The heat of the day is oppressive, like an all-encompassing hot breath of slow and steady tension. Geckos flit in my peripheral vision, the sun on my skin feels like a blast from a hot oven.
Ten elephants arrive – trampling down the slope in their rush to reach the water, red dust rising in a cloud behind them. Their numbers soon multiply – they become 17, then 29, 50 and more. The sounds of low, grumbling noises emanates from the elephants, changing to the occasional trumpet and an outburst of jostling for the best space to drink.
Buffalo and impala stand by on the outskirts, waiting for their chance, but the elephants seem unaware of anything but their need to drink. The largest giving themselves priority while the smaller ones try to squeeze their way in, sometimes been chastised and chased away – squealing in their quick retreat.
The noises of sucking and slurping seemed to echo across the land, until finally the drinking turned to bathing and the elephants began rolling about greedily in the mud, cool relief from the heat. An incredible sight, it lasted for hours, all the way until the last light.