“You know, Chari, Beth’s been with us for 2 months already and we’ve never really shown her Kenya,” my husband said that morning. Oh dear, he was right! How could we have had this kind-hearted and helpful girl with us for all this time and not brought her to a game park to see all of Kenya’s wonderful wildlife? How could we have let so much time pass and we did not take her to see the spectacular scenery of this beautiful country? Good grief!
So, we made plans to take her to Samburu Game Park – a good several hours’ drive from where we lived but do-able in a long day. Since I still had a newborn at that time, I stayed home, and Chip and Beth got up well before dawn to start on the long drive to the game park. They arrived when it was still early morning – the best time to view game. They had a great time seeing the usual antelope and gazelles, zebras, and giraffes. They even had the privilege of seeing lions, resting after having had a nice, big breakfast, being able to drive up real close to the pride while they dozed in their thanksgiving-feast-like comas, unbothered by the intruders! What a treat. But where were the elephants? Beth wanted to see elephants.
They continued driving around marvelling at ostriches and oryx, baboons and crocodiles…a fascinating and fun day. Finally, Chip spied elephants at a distance and drove to the location. Ecstatic at finally getting to see the behemoths, Beth eagerly snapped photo after photo, while Chip recorded the fascinating beasts with our cool video camera (we were really enjoying this new toy!). The young elephants were peacefully browsing among the grass and bushes, an idyllic scene. At one point Chip became aware of a trumpeting sound. This was a bit disconcerting because the group they were observing were busy eating and making no other sound other than swishing through the bushes and munching. Chip looked around, and then spied the source of the sound – a group of mama elephants shrieking their outrage, flapping their ears (not a thing you want to see on an elephant because it means “I am really angry, and you’re gonna get it!”) and running towards the oblivious pair, busy recording the darling young ones. That’s when Chip realized his mistake. He had driven the car between the group of mother elephants hidden in the bushes on one side and the group of their young on the other side of the road. This is something one definitely does not want to do when viewing game – get between mothers and their young. We knew this lesson from a previous encounter with a mother rhino and her darling baby (another story for another time) but the unfortunate thing was that these outraged mamas had been hidden from view! In the time it took Chip to take all this in, Beth became aware of the situation as she saw the mama elephants thundering towards them, ears flapping and trumpeting loudly. She started to scream, and the previously serene scene turned to chaos. Quick as lightning, Chip tossed the still-recording video camera into the back seat and put the car into gear, nearly in one smooth movement, hitting the gas pedal almost simultaneously. They got out before the mamas arrived to carry out their natural maternal protective instincts…just in time! I’m sure it took a bit of time for Chip & Beth to stop shaking and breathing hard.
At some point, Chip remembered that the video camera was still running, and switched it off. Later, when viewing that tape, we had quite the entertaining movie of the wonderful, peaceful animal-viewing trip, turned pandemonium. What a contrast from the peaceful sounds of young elephants browsing and contentedly rumbling, with the backdrop of Chip and Beth making occasional quiet commentaries and observations, to the trumpeting, screaming, and hurried take-off of the car like a shot – from the visual of peacefully munching elephants, to the wild swing to the back, where we were treated to the bouncing view of the back seat, amidst the backdrop of all the screaming and wild clunking of the retreating car. Though at the time, it was terrifying, it became quite amusing in hindsight since no one was hurt. I wonder, though, if Beth’s parents were ever told of the Amazing Elephant Adventure…