Cookie's Bliss

Our First Wild Elephant

20130222AmyWartHogsLast week, we made a short trip to Mole National Park to see elephants and were not disappointed. The elephants were AWESOME! No other word than that overused word will do. Awe inspiring. So big, gentle, affectionate, and at times comical. I watched and watched as they fed, bathed, played and just stood still.

We stayed in the park for three days and each morning we rose at 5 or 6am for three to four-hour walking Safaris accompanied by an armed guide.

Birds abounded. With the aid of our guide and our Birds of Ghana guide book, we identified forty-eight birds that were new to our list among them the Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Grey-headed, Blue-breasted and Malachite Kingfishers, four species of Flycatchers, Parrots and Parakeets, and giant Denham’s Bustard with a wing span of at least six feet (their wing spans reach eight feet!)

During our morning treks, we frequently stumbled upon huge reddish orange balls of elephant poo which were basically balls of processed bark, branches grass and leaves. Bob said, “I smell the elephants” and we could. The aroma was very similar to the smell of horses. As we walked through the brush we sometimes tripped on the dried ridges of  elephant prints left in what had been mud.

We came back with nearly 500 photos and will soon begin the process of sorting them out. I’ve only had time to look at a few and I went right to the ones taken during what was easily the highlight of the trip for me.

We were looking at a tree outside a village carpeted in browsing wart hogs with Zach Warrie, our third and final guide. I had asked the boss of all the guides to tell us what he knew of the Savannah plants to satisfy Amy’s herbal curiosity. And ours. So much to learn about the natural world.

We wondered “why so many wart hogs?” and Zach told us they had been dining on village leftovers and gotten a taste for the seasonings. And then he glanced across the street and said, “Look.” We tore our eyes away from the incredibly cute baby wart hogs and were startled to see a bull elephant casually browsing across the street!


The elephant was unconcerned by our presence and Bob began snapping photos as the massive animal ambled our way, trunk swinging, coming closer and closer to where we stood next to a stout tree. His rifle still slung over his shoulder, Zach told us to stand still and not to worry but I was so exhilarated and nervous, it was all I could do to obey him.

Bob snapped a picture of my excitement as the elephant stepped towards the street and for some reason the flash went off. The elephant paused, we held our breath, and then he changed direction. I wonder just how close he would have come! This was easily one of the most exciting moments in my life so far!



Here are links to the the photos we took at Mole National Park:
Mole National Park
First Two Safaris
Final Safari

And if that isn’t enough elephant for you, please enjoy this cute little video of a young Indian elephant frolicking in the surf. Courtesy of You Tube and brought to my attention via our friend Matt Rudolf’s facebook feed.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.