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It had been a week where the elephants had been in hiding. We had traveled the park extensively and apart from a few lone bulls here and there, the herds remained hidden.
It had been fairly cold, but this afternoon’s drive the sky was clearing, and through the broken clouds the sun was shining her warm rays, touching the deep green vegetation in that magic that has become so familiar to me here in the back valleys of the Addo Elephant National Park.
We had traveled down Marcel’s dip, down to the carcass and up through Desolation Valley, admiring along the way different birds all in high tune, various kudu, a small common duiker and a few warthogs. But we had had no luck with finding the elephants. I had just entered into Wayne’s Valley on the Gorah Elephant Camp concession from the western side, onto the small open clearing on the valley floor when he caught my eye. It was a huge, and very old kudu male, light grey with age, and incredibly luring. His horns were set so wide apart and so tall, that I knew in that second I had never before seen such an old and majestic kudu with such horns in all my time in Africa. He was incredibly handsome.
But apart from being old and light grey with age, there was something so alluringly attractive about this old male that caught my attention so deeply that I just longed to get a better glimpse of him. Unlike most of the kudu in Addo who run with the first glimpse of the vehicle, this old man stood, peering around the bush at us for what seemed like ages. There was a dying urge in his attraction, and I could not control the sense to want to see him any longer. Knowing in my heart that if I was caught going off road in Addo for a kudu it could mean my job, but I decided to take the chance and move a couple of meters inwards, to try and get a better view. Five meters in, the kudu walked out, almost as large as a small horse, and calmly moved up the gradual slope choosing to hide behind another bush. Again, the urge to see him closer forced me to start the engine and get a closer look.
Having now moved up the slope, the kudu stepped out, and stared at me. I could barely move to catch a photograph. As I switched off the engine, having finally got a good view at him, he decided to bolt, running into the thickness with the fitness of a two-year-old male, and in seconds he was gone.
In that brief moment, as I turned to see the situation I was in, I felt incredibly disappointed in myself for having chosen to follow him. And then came my answer. As I turned back to see my route out of the thorny scrub I was compelled to look to the horizon. And there, in the soft golden light, far up the western gorge of Wayne’s, stood some 120 elephants spread out and grazing. In great excitement I raced towards the herd to finally get a glimpse of the elephants we had been searching for days. Once we reached the herds I felt my whole being become alive at having finally found them. But it was only as the sun began to set behind their giant bodies, did I begin to realise the coincidence of finding them. Had the old kudu not lured me up those 50m off road I would never have caught the glimpse of them, I would have been too low. I knew in my heart there was something different about that old kudu the second I saw him, and when I tucked myself into bed that night and reflected on the day, I wondered for a brief second, if perhaps the spirituality of the elephants I love so much extends to all the creatures that live here. And then I thought, why not? Why not?