In Zambia, Groaning Hippos, Growling Leopards and Mango-Stealing Elephants

“Elephants are a bit of a nuisance,” Abraham said. “They come every night and all you can do is yell your lungs out and chase them away. It can be dangerous. If cornered, they trample people or gore you with their tusks.” Elephants are also responsible for the worst deforestation I saw in the park; they can eat a patch of trees down to the stumps.

While we stood outside, sipping our drinks, we heard a rustling from some trees nearby. And there, maybe 50 feet from us, was an elephant. And then another appeared. And another. Soon there were half a dozen.

Abraham instructed us to drop our voices to a whisper. All they wanted was to cross the river and get some mangoes. They would do us no harm, as long as we didn’t startle them.

The elephants sized up the situation, and then they went for it, passing right past the vehicle, and filing, one by one, down what looked like a sheer sandy cliff. Soon they were racing across the riverbed and through the water to join their companions in the mango groves.

I was thrilled, a little scared, and in utter awe that I was living that moment. It was light enough to see them, but just dark enough that taking pictures wasn’t an option. All I have are the memories, and I will have those forever.

Previous dispatches:

1: New Orleans

2: Chattanooga, Tenn.

3: Montgomery, Ala.

4: Disney Springs, Fla.

5: Trinidad and St. Lucia and San Juan, P.R.

6: Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

7: Kuélap, Peru

8: Bogotá, Colombia

9: La Paz, Bolivia

10: Los Cabos, Mexico

11: Chile’s Route of Parks

12: Denver, Colo.

13: Rogue River, Ore.

14: Seattle

15: Branson, Mo.

16: Cincinnati, Ohio

17: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

18: Buffalo, N.Y.

19: Baltimore

20: Iceland

21: Oslo, Norway

22 and 23: Bristol, England, and Glasgow, Scotland

24 and 25: Tallinn, Estonia, and Vilnius, Lithuania

26 and 27: Arles and Megève, France

28 and 29: Seville and Ribera del Duero, Spain

30: Tangier, Morocco

31: Road Trip in Western Germany

32: Ypres, Belgium

33: Belgrade, Serbia

34: Prague

35: Lucerne, Switzerland

36: Südtirol, Italy

37 and 38: Emilia-Romagna and Basilicata

39: São Tomé and Príncipe

40: Kigali, Rwanda

Next dispatch: Tasmania and Top End, Australia