When elephants attack

We spent the last week but one in Sri Lanka, visiting various places and generally enjoying ourselves.
The view in Ella –

One afternoon was spent at Udawalawe national park.
I have a nice point and shoot digital camera that also takes quite good video clips, but I don’t bring it with me if Mrs Saul’s bringing her much better Sony. This was one occasion where I will forever regret not having taken a video of the elephants we saw, but hopefully Mrs Saul’s excellent photos will convey what happened…
Based on the last time we went on safari in Sri Lanka, I was expecting to enjoy the automotive wildlife more than anything else. True to form, plenty of classic Land Rovers were on display.

Last year there were even some old Series 1s still in use. This herd featured some ‘newer’ Defenders. I love seeing these old things still going and still making money for their owners, even if there’s hardly a newer one to be seen on the island, now that Toyota have well and truly stolen Land Rover’s market. They all seem to rattle along regardless of load. Ten Sri Lankans, a drive and a guide were no issue. I also found it interesting to see a diesel engine at work. We rode over some hefty ruts in ours and it just kept pulling along, even in two wheel drive – apparently the front differential was broken. I think the Wrangler would have had to been put in and out of low range, less convenient than just trundling along.

I hear what you’re saying though – get to the elephants and stop wittering on about old Land Rovers and diesel vs petrol.
Ten minutes into our drive and we stopped by a group of elephants enjoying a mud bath right next to the road, something our guide told us we were lucky to see so close up.

We spent a while looking at them while they enjoyed their bath. There were no males in the group, as males get kicked out and have to roam around on their own, unless it’s mating time. Quite right too.
Two of the adults were pregnant.

After a while they began slowly crossing the road, right in front of the Land Rover. I began to think to myself that we were really a bit too close and seemed to resent our presence.
We watched them cross over for a minute or two as they headed away from us.

Mrs Saul was clearly thinking along the same lines as me and asked if they could be more dangerous when pregnant. Just as our guide told us that was the case, the driver switched on the engine, which turned over for about 20 seconds before growling into life.
This clearly spooked the herd. The senior lady in charge turned around and started trumpeting, causing the others to turn and follow her lead as they began to walk towards us.

They then lined up very close to the car and started behaving more and more aggressively, trumpeting loudly. I began to get a bit worried at this point. Our guide did too, it seemed. He held out his hand towards them – I couldn’t help thinking that doing so was unlikely to do much good if things turned uglier. The outstretched hand certainly didn’t seem to calm things down at all.

The trumpeting got louder and they moved closer towards the Land Rover. Mrs Saul ducked down closer to the cab and I did the same, shouting at the driver to drive off. The guide was saying the same thing to him in Sinhala. He duly drove off, but promtly stopped again after only a few metres, grinning back at me from the front cab.
At this point the herd was starting to march up to us in a line, trumpeting loudly and generally making it clear we were not welcome.

I screamed at the driver to go and so did the guide. We moved off slowly, with me wishing the 35 year old Defender had been designed to go a little bit quicker.

I have to admit that I was pretty scared. For obvious reasons I don’t have much experience with elephants, but had expected the guide to know what was what. The guide seemed pretty scared as well, which suggested that the whole experience had been a bit unnerving for him as well.
Were we in any danger? I’ve really no idea, but having several elephants walking quickly towards you, trumpeting and stamping their feet was quite an experience. I wish I’d been able to video it all – the trumpeting is loud!
The rest of the trip was uneventful, though we did pass the same herd on the way back, at a much safe distance this time.
You can see some more pics from our tip, all courtesy of Mrs Saul, here.

One Response to “When elephants attack”

  1. Fourth Breakfast Says:

    Awesome photos. A little scary too. Glad you’re ok.

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