As a self-proclaimed wannabe National Geographic wildlife photographer, my aim is always to get as close as is safely possible to animals in their natural habitat to capture that perfect shot.

But there are those, fortunately infrequent, times when you are caught off guard and end up closer to one of God’s greatest creatures than you imagined you would and, in some cases, closer than you ever wanted to be.

On a recent canoeing trip down the Zambezi, my companions and I had set up camp on the river bank for the night. Having been exhausted by the day’s canoeing everyone, apart from the guide and myself, had wandered off to their tents to get some well-earned shut eye. As we sat by the camp fire and discussed the highs and lows of the trip, the guide suddenly looked at me with an uneasy expression and whispered “don’t move” through gritted teeth.

Following his gaze I spied an elephant slowly climbing up over the embankment and heading directly for our camp. Fearing what would happen if I didn’t follow the guide’s instructions, I instantly sucked in my breath and froze on the spot. Then, with as much amazement as with fright, I watched helplessly as the elephant lumbered through our campsite sideswiping a tent with its occupant’s still asleep inside.

It wasn’t until the guide turned to me and said “you can breathe now” once the elephant had disappeared into the bush that I finally gasped for air.

African Safari Tours

By Kim Wildman
Australia AU

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

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