Sonya’s favorite elephant memory: Cheeseburger in Paradise!
The route to Jozi in the southern section of Hwange National Park is a trek to be sure, punctuated from time to time by productive waterholes teeming with wildlife including massive herds of elephants – each worthy a stop! Just as we pulled up to one such oasis, Imvelo’s Mark ‘Butch’ Butcher began singing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” a la Jimmy Buffett. With the sun high in the sky and our bellies beginning to grumble, we jumped out of the vehicle and stretched under the shade of a large camelthorn tree rubbed smooth as a baby’s bottom from years of elephant massage. Within moments we had cold beer in our hands and a fire had been lit with burgers tossed into a cast iron pan. Almost on cue the elephant herds and various plains game marched in from the bush all around us – the only thing on their mind was getting to the water. ‘Cheeseburgers in Paradise’ was one of the most satisfying meals I have ever had – on so many levels – in the absolute middle of nowhere in the company of my fun and funny travel companions, incredible guides, a slight breeze under the shade of the tree, and being amongst countless elephants drinking, splashing, and wallowing. I will never listen to Jimmy sing the song the same again! (please note that non meat-eaters will be accommodated!)
Gretchen’s favorite elephant memories: Jozi blind, Nehimba seeps and dinner with the eles
My most memorable elephant moments have taken place on my visits to Hwange with Imvelo. One particular safari stands out. My husband and I visited and had the chance to spend a few days at Jozibanini. One afternoon we waited in the hide for the elephants to come drink at the pan near camp. We waited, told stories, laughed, snacked and drank g+t’s. The elephants weren’t cooperating, so we decided to head back to camp for dinner. We gathered our things, exited the hide and guess who decided to show up? To minimize any disturbance to the elephants, we very slowly and quietly sat on the top of the container where we then got to spend the next 45 minutes in very close proximity to them – watching them interact, eat and drink. It was the most magical sundowner I’ve ever had. Until the next night of course – this IS Hwange we’re talking about.
I wouldn’t say the next evening at Nehimba exceeded our Jozi experience, but it’s a very slim margin that makes it second. We started with sundowners at the Nehimba Seeps (aka the ‘cathedral of elephants’). We had elephants on every side of us, including the ridgeline above where they were silhouetted by the setting sun. When we headed back to camp for dinner, our table near the edge of the deck was waiting for us, with a veritable army of elephants just beyond – drinking from the pool and the pan. We could have reached out to touch them.
Tad’s favorite elephant memory: the ghost elephant at Jozi…
Having visited Hwange on a number of occasions, I am lucky to have a number of stories to tell about incredible elephant interactions and experiences. But one memory which stands out is the night we met the “ghost elephant” at Jozibanini . . . It was FAM trip in late April and unfortunately the elephants weren’t cooperating for our sundowners in the Jozi “Look-up” blind. We decided to leave the underground blind and enjoy our sundowner drinks watching the sunset from the top of the container. After the sun had set, we continued to enjoy a few more drinks in the fading light. Inevitably, the conversation to turned to talk about the travel trade and, even worse, politics! As we were chattering on, suddenly our guide Ty told us to be quiet and stay very still. And there in the twilight, silhouetted by the rising full moon, was a massive bull elephant slowly and nearly silently moving past the blind, mere feet from where we all stood! We froze as this majestic creature, slowly and deliberately glided past us and stopped at the water trough in front of the blind. Time stood still for the next few minutes as we listened to the thirsty elephant sucking and slurping up water and then emptying his full trunk into his mouth. And then, as quickly and silently as he had arrived, he left, slowly sauntering back into the bush.
What makes these experiences so exceptional is that they are not exceptional when visiting Imvelo’s camps. Seasonality impacts the number of elephants you might see at a given time, so if your clients would like to see huge concentrations of the pachyderms, a visit during dry season is a must. But the green season has fantastic game viewing too – and wonderful specials along with lush scenery and fewer visitors. There’s no wrong time to visit Hwange!