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Exhilarating To Shoot an Elephant

Sunset at the waterhole

We have been on this continent for 20 days but I just started to feel like we were in Africa a few days ago. As we drove into Etosha National Park, located in northern Namibia (not to be confused with the fabricated Nambia), I spotted an elephant standing by the side of the road. When I saw the giant creature, I aimed then shot. It was exhilarating. I was shooting with an iPhone 7 and wish all shots could be so painless.

They are immense and magnificent creatures and I cannot fully understand why someone would use anything other than a camera to capture these beautiful animals. I understand hunting for food, protecting your farm, or saving your loved ones. But, I have a hard time with “sport” when the primary purpose is to gather a trophy. Also, it is not “sport” when one side has a significantly higher advantage. The rifles, scopes, and tracking mechanisms are so powerful these days that some animals don’t even have a chance. It’s like putting an NFL team against the local high school. That’s not sport.

Not far from our car door

They are both gentle yet fierce. At a waterhole, we watched 40 elephants lumber in for a drink after a hot African day. I now understand “Africa Hot.” They are massive in size, far bigger than we see in the zoo, and could easily crush our eight-person van. Yet, the mother keeps her one-month old baby safely between her legs and steps around like she was tip-toeing through a china shop. Colin captured the top photo as I was rapidly turning on the ignition to move out of its path while listening to my mother in the backseat uncalmly say, “Honey! Honey! HONEY! It’s time to move the car.”

If you are looking for a good book about this massive pachyderm, check out “The Elephant Whisperer” by Lawrence Anthony. It is an excellent story and educational read on their personality and emotional intelligence.

While on a self-drive safari the other day, we sat 50 feet from three lions. The next day we came across six lions relaxing at a waterhole before heading out for lunch. The hundreds of zebras and ostriches quickly scattered. One night, just outside our room, we saw elephants, giraffes, kudu, rhinos, warthogs, and many others drink from the same pond. I was in awe with so many beautiful creatures in the foreground and a gorgeous African sunset beyond. Once again, I pinched myself.

That’s Not A Leg

Most days we learn something and the other day was about anatomy. We were all mesmerized when the elephant lowered his man part coming inches from the ground. The women in the car were impressed and I was jealous when I saw him use it to scratch his belly. Why he is not called the King of the Jungle is beyond me. If you look closely at this picture, you will see what I mean.

Along with watching the animals, it is fun to see Decker’s reaction. It is what I’d hoped. That is, excitement each time he finds a new creature. Unofficially he is our naturalist and animals cannot be “Checked Off” from our book until Decker authorizes that at least two people have seen them. He can tell you the difference between the endangered Black Rhino and White Rhino or a Springbok and a Gemsbok, or a Plains Zebra and a Mountain Zebra. All these animals are spectacular.


It is the giraffe, however, that provides the most entertainment and makes me laugh. It takes them about 45 minutes to walk about 300 yards to the waterhole because they are constantly on alert. But what is so funny is that they are trying to be sly and not stand out despite towering over everything around. They remind me of the person hiding behind a branch and tip-toeing across the dessert thinking no one can see them.

To get to the waterhole, they move a few feet, stop, then look around. Then, repeat it until they have arrived. And when they finally do reach the water, they will slowly, and very awkwardly, bow down for a drink. Then, at the smallest sound or flutter of a bird, pop back up and look around. While funny to watch, I was sympathetic to their plight as it must be tough living a life always in fear.

As this is just the start of our African adventure with such beautiful animals and amazing sunsets, I look forward to our next few months on this continent. Off to Botswana next.

Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. What a fabulous adventure you all are having. I suggest you always listen to your Mother. She has kept me out of a few disastrous situations while backpacking. My best to all, Carrie

  2. Oh what a beautiful segment of your journey. I did zoom in on the elephant photo and WOW that’s one happy elephant wife. 😉

  3. Well I’m glad I read the post and didn’t just look at the photo and title. For a second I thought we were dog sitting for a family who was on a big game hunt safari! Phew

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