They say that the elephant is the spirit of Africa, that these creatures embody the strength and mystery of this land. For us, it took just one afternoon in Tarangire National Park to fall fully under their spell. We encountered many small family groups moving beneath the acacia trees. We watched them in the river valley and In the water holes. We waited while they walked across the red dust of the narrow track. And everywhere they moved, we followed with a feeling of wonder.
Elephants graze as they roam; in other words, they never stop eating. With a population of at least 5,000 elephants in the park, it's amazing that there is any grass growing in the open savannah or any shrub left in the woodlands. They say that elephants demolish a landscape, but what we saw were animals grazing on grass. They would pull out a generous hank of grass, smack the soil off the roots, and lift it to their mouth. They could easily do this on the move. The elephants are brown from the red sandy soil in Tarangire.
The elephants roam the shallow valley of the Tarangire River. They go down to the river to drink and refresh themselves and play. As we drove through the park, at times the elephants were very near our Landrover. They looked at us and walked on. They stopped to wait for one another. They made sure their young ones were safe and free to learn elephant ways. We were entranced.
Jane Goodall once said of her beloved chimpanzees, if she had one wish, it would be to see the world through their eyes, even for a moment. I would wish to see through the eyes of an elephant.
They say that "the spirit of Africa always appears in the guise of an elephant. Because no other animal can vanquish an elephant. Not a lion, not a buffalo, not a snake.”
In the Shade of a Tree, in Africa
From the book, The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski