on location filming African animals for the World encyclopedia,
I had an experience only found in old safari books.
The story as follows:
With my excellent guide "James" driving our
small four wheel drive open truck,. we slowly travelled
along the narrow track that bordered the Sand River.
This river literally teams with life in the dry season
as numerous animals come to drink and hunt from its
banks. We had just successfully filmed the kudu and
giraffe drinking when we noticed a large herd of approximately
50 or more elephants feeding through the reeds towards
the river. James said "they will work their way
down to the river flats for their daily bath.. If we
are careful we can get some great footage ".
I asked James could we position the truck in their path
so I can get a head on shot of their approach. James
said "We will have to take the truck onto the sand
flats, we can do it, but we will have to be quick to
get out of their way when they get too close as they
have young with them and will not like our company"
A year before my expedition, a woman and guide had been
trapped on a road leading to the river when elephant
crossed the track both in front and behind their truck.
They could not move away. The elephants took the fact
that the truck refused to get out of their path as a
direct threat. One large female attacked the truck by
smashing the bonnet with her trunk. The guide and woman
panicked and ran from the truck. The elephants ran after
them and caught the woman. The guide got away. The woman
was found later, almost all the major bones in her body
We drove our truck down onto the sandy bank directly
in front of the advancing elephant herd. I began filming
and was more than pleased with the footage I was getting.
Young elephants mock fighting and one extremely large
bull elephant feeding on the reeds were recorded for
my encyclopedia clients.
After some 10 minutes the elephants were within 50 yards
of the truck and began to group around their young.
The larger females and a few very large bulls began
to face us and demonstrate their displeasure at us being
between them and the river they so loved..
James said " We better move away now" I agreed
as now the elephants were but 40 yards from our truck.
Then came the worst sound one could ever hear, as the
wheels of the truck spun and refused to take hold of
the wet sand below . Within seconds we were firmly bogged.
The elephants kept coming with one bull getting more
and more angry. He began to shake his head from side
to side and flap his giant grey ears. Another large
female duplicated his behaviour. Elephants were now
all around our truck, some began crashing through the
reeds showing their feelings and warning us in no uncertain
terms to get away. Then the largest elephant of the
herd approached our truck to stand only 12 feet from
us and display his anger. I filmed and tried to stay
calm without shaking the camera. I deliberately framed
James head in the scene, so it could be shown clearly
how close the elephants were from us. See pic.
Then the very angry bull trumpeted his anger, at such
close range I felt incredibly vulnerable but there was
absolutely nothing we could do, jumping out of the truck
with 50 or 60 angry elephants around was not an option.
So I tried to concentrate my thoughts to filming the
action. I adjusted the lens to fully wide so I could
fit the huge animals in the frame. A few seconds later
the bull charged, stopping feet from my side of the
We were literally looking up the tusks of the earths
largest beast and he was not happy. The situation was
now very serious, at any moment the elephants could
change their bluff tactics to an actual attack. The
animals were becoming furious because we refused to
leave. James again tried to get us out of the wet sand,
this time reversing. The tires at first just slipped
and the noise only made the situation worse as now five
elephants were all demonstrating their anger at our
presence. Then one wheel gripped then another and off
we went away from the angry elephants.
"That day I gained great footage and also gained
more grey hair, that night James and I had a few beers