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Tracking Desert Adapted Elephants in Namibia

Monday, 7th August 2017

Destination Specialist

namibia damaraland ozondjou trails elephants ntat 1

Did you know, Namibia is one of only two countries in the world where you can find desert-adapted elephants?

They are not categorised as a separate species but they are special because they have evolved to thrive in the dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and seemingly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical attributes allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach food and water. Searching for these magnificent creatures is a highlight of a trip to Namibia. Destination Researcher, Dan Bjork, describes his experience going in search of these majestic mammals…

We are woken up early, just as the sun is coming up. We meet our guide and he fills us in on what to expect. Today’s goal is to try and encounter desert-adapted elephants.

namibia damaraland elephants lh

There is still a chill in the air so we appreciate the blankets handed to us when we embark in the open safari Jeep and set off into the bush. We set off at a slow pace along the Hoanib, one of thousands of dry riverbeds in Namibia. The sand is thick and there are no tracks to follow.

As we travel along we make several stops to listen and also smell to try and track the elephants down. We spot fresh elephant tracks in the sand and dung that can come from no other animal given its size!

We proceed slowly and soon we spot a small group of elephants feeding on bushes. Amongst the group is an enormous bull. Our guide tells us that this bull is well known to the locals and it is probably about 40 years old, weighing around four tonnes! We stop the Jeep about 100 metres away and watch these magnificent creatures in silence. The bull looks at us from time to time but continues his feeding seemingly undisturbed by our presence.

We continue along the river bank and only a few hundred meters away we find a group of younger females and two calves. We stay there for a long time just enjoying these fantastic animals and of course taking a lot of photographs.

Then unfortunately it is time to head back to camp but I will remember this trip as one of my favourite wildlife encounters of my whole Namibia journey.