Throughout my life as a moran and as a conservationist, I have had close encounters with many different species of wildlife. Most encounters especially with lions have been very serious. But I have never really felt both scared and defenseless at the same time. I always had a plan B, but not yesterday. First, after the onset of the short rains that we are currently experiencing, our vehicle got stuck in the mud in our new Southern Olgulului camp for two days. Eventually, we summoned several morans from the nearby villages and after several false attempts, we managed to get out of the mud. We rejoiced and were happy that at least we were now mobile. We decided to try and make it to our main camp in Ol Donyo Wuas. The road there was drivable which made us believe everything was now okay.
Then two scary things happened. First, a lone buffalo confronted us out of the blue. He looked very strong and agitated. We stopped and he ran a few meters before starting to charge at us. Though it was a bit scary, we enjoyed his agitation and at the same time pitied him, thinking that his loneliness probably contributed to his aggression.
We proceeded without a problem. But not for long! A big almost fully grown elephant stood on the road. We slowed down, thinking it would soon give way. But to our utter surprise, it came at us, charging menacingly. The soil being wet because of the rain, there was no way out, but to stick to the road. Given the distance between us and the elephant, reversing was out of question.
Knowing the behaviour of elephants when close by, we decided to stop and remain completely still and absolutely silent. Actually, you could hear a pin drop. The only noise was the elephant’s ears flapping. Standing tall, it raised its head and tail with its ears spread out. It turned its head and approached us while nodding with ears half spread. It then shook its head, twisting it from side to side and making its ears flap against its face. Then it came straight to the car threatening to gore it to pieces.
For what seemed like a whole ten minutes the elephant stood still, practically on the bonnet of the car examining at close range what was inside it. I had never felt this scared before. I actually felt totally defenseless. We were completely dependant on the reaction of this massively built animal acting unprovoked. On realizing we were immobile, it stood in front of us and flapped its ears before threatening us once more. After blocking the road, getting agitated and getting no reaction, we knew it would go away. Eventually it did, albeit reluctantly moving at an angle. We missed a clash by a whisker. It was a very close shave. I have never felt like this before. Was this a demonstration charge or a real charge we wondered as we slowly and cautiously drove to the safety of camp.