Tanzanian Safari: We found the Elephants

The majority of this trip was a safari, and safari is all about the animals. Our series of posts this week are about our experiences with some of the animals that we came across.

20314First off, we were not disappointed in our search to find elephants. Our first stop in Tarangire National Park delivered on the first day. Shortly after entering the park, we spotted a few down by the river. We got a great view and they came pretty close to our vehicle. And then later we got to a swampy area filled with dozens of them munching away. I think we saw elephants almost everyday of our safari.

20294It was fascinating to watch them. Each time they seemed to be doing something different. We saw them undergo their beauty routine, splashing water and mud on their back to keep them cool and their skin moist. Then they would find a nearby tree and rub against it scraping off the mud. Each elephant in the family filed past one by one with the babies following the lead of their parents.

20389We saw elephants eating and drinking. They eat constantly — anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day. Most of the time they pull up grass with their trunk and feed it into their mouths. Though we also observed them eating bark off a tree. After peeling they bark from the tree, they used their foot to hold down the bark while pulling a strip off like string cheese. To drink, they suck water up into their trunk, then tilt their head back, curl their trunk under and pour the water into their mouth.

20409Elephants are protective of their young and tend to keep in front of them — which made it tough to get pictures of the small ones sometimes. And while they don’t move very fast, they make it quite clear when you get too close. They flap their ears, flash their tusks and threaten to charge. Our guide knew exactly when to move the car and avoid potential problems.

20394Elephants are resilient. When we were up by the Mara river in the Serengeti, we found one small elephant that was missing part of its trunk. We nicknamed him shorty and K was quite concerned about his survival. The guide assured us that he would be fine as elephants adapt and help each other and it appeared he had made it for quite some time so far. Our fears were reassured the next day when we came across an older elephant with an injured trunk that did quite well. Her trunk was sealed on the end and had a cut in the side. This caused quite a load hissing noise when she used her trunk to eat and drink — and would blow bubbles in the water.

Jessica–this last bit’s for you. Jessica pointed out in a comment that the Indian elephant supposedly has shorter ears that the African elephant. Let’s take a look and see if it’s true based on our photos of the two.

First, look at the Indian elephant


And now, the African elephant


From the looks of it, you’re right. The African elephant has MUCH larger ears than the Indian species. Interesting…thanks for clueing us in!

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