What do you do when you have a three ton panic stricken elephant charging directly at you? Do you continue shooting or run for your life? I did both.
The day began just like any other. Out of camp before dawn and settled into a natural hide near a waterhole with all our camera equipment, just as the first rays of sun began to rise over the stark, white landscape of Etosha Pan.
The first few hours were uneventful, but as the temperature began to climb, a herd of female elephants, headed by a massive cow arrived and began to quench their thirst. This daily ritual began in a civilized fashion, as is the norm with female elephants, which are generally less aggressive than their male counterparts.
The situation turned ugly when a female sub-adult tried to push her way in between the group to take water. In an instant, the huge matriarch lowered her head and charged. The younger elephant spun around rapidly to begin a panic stricken, full speed escape. Unfortunately, the frightened animal’s escape route ran directly towards a nearby copse of Mopane scrub which just happened to conceal me and my off road guide, Chris van Rensburg!
The ground shook as I tried frantically to shoot a few frames before Chris grabbed the tripod and we both ran for our lives. Seconds later the frightened animal ploughed straight though our hide like an out of control bulldozer.
From a safe distance and completely out of breath, we nervously watched the matriarch break off the chase in a cloud of dust and saunter back down to the waterhole grunting indignantly. The young cow came to a grinding halt and shook her head a few times before later nervously slinking back to join the group. This time though, thoroughly chastised, she waited until the adults had drunk their fill before she gingerly attempted to dip her trunk back into the muddy pool to take her turn.