Elephants in Botswana

Tuskers Bush Camp in Botswana is a classic tented safari camp, deep in acacia scrub and Mopane woodland, where elephants in Botswana roam freely. 

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas

In front of the main dining tent, boma and bar, is a waterhole, where breeding herds of elephants, as well as mature bull elephants, come and go throughout the day and night.

These lovable pachyderms linger to greet one another, to swim and play, or move in to simply slake their thirst then amble away. I appreciate having time to watch this intimate behaviour and interaction from the comfort of Tuskers Bush Camp chairs.

Baby elephants in Botswana are particularly cute, as they have no control over their trunks, so have to develop that skill. They often end up abandoning their trunks and kneeling down to drink using their mouths.

Mothers and aunties are most solicitous of these infants, watching them and guiding them with their skilled trunks, taking care to shield the babies from other animals that visit the waterhole. A mother – or the apparent matriarch of the group – trumpets loudly, when she considers the youngsters to be in any kind of danger.

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas

Lingering as near to the breeding herds as they are allowed, elephant bulls try to ease closer to the females. Some have impressive tusks. One is clearly in musth, as he is highly irritable and aggressive, driven by testosterone up to six times his usual level, I am told.

His temporal glands secrete a sticky fluid, which he rubs with his trunk, then up against a tree, perhaps to spread his scent? His penis constantly dribbles urine, becoming a greenish colour, which makes his scent attractive to the females that are receptive.

These cows emit loud, sub-sonic calls to attract the desirable musth bulls, who are in peak condition to sire their offspring.

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas

As this Kwatale Conservancy, a private concession area of 365000 hectares, is open to unfenced Moremi, animals have freedom of movement. It is possible to see lion, cheetah or leopard, as well as wild dogs, on the game drives or even at this Tuskers Bush Camp waterhole.

As I stroll around the camp precincts, I see that the Purple-pod Terminalia trees are laden with their cabernet sauvignon-coloured pods. In a young Camelthorn tree, a blue waxbill has constructed a nest with bits of grass.

In the dining tent I enjoy the coffee station, where quality teas are available and cake is served. Our guide lures me away from these engrossing scenes, with promises of the likelihood of more fabulous sightings of game on the route he has in mind.

Firstly, we visit what has been dubbed The Elephant Graveyard, which is in fact the site where hunters of the past used to butcher the elephants they had culled, for trophies and for meat for the local people. Hundreds of bleached bones lie scattered on the savannah.

I feel tender and respectful towards those elephants in Botswana. As a biologist, I am also fascinated to see the details of the huge bones, so take some time to photograph these. Thankfully, hunting is forbidden in this area now and the elephant population is healthy and growing.

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas

From the vantage point of an open game vehicle, I watch a solitary bull elephant feeding, as it deftly curls its trunk around tufts of grass, bangs the grass on the ground to rid it of soil, before placing the food delicately into its mouth.

When we stop near a water hole to hop off for a stretch, we watch as a band of bachelor elephants glides in silently on the other side of the water, to have a leisurely drink. The hair on the end of their tails is thick and black.

We observe a variety of game, including dwarf mongoose, stately giraffe, elegant kudu and many species of birds – like Purple Roller, Double-banded sandgrouse and the glorious Crimson-breasted shrike – before we stop for our sunset drinks, on a salt pan.

This is remote Botswana, we meet no other vehicles in the Conservancy. Why does a chilled glass of white wine – or a classic gin and tonic – taste so good in the bush?

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas

Back in Tuskers Bush Camp I stroll to my twin-bedded Meru-style tent, the last one in a row of six, under evergreen Mopane trees. Secluded, private and facing the veld, I relax on my verandah under canvas, where I see, or sometimes just hear, general game moving past me.

Swallow-tailed bee eaters flit from their perch down to the ground, catching insects. A hot bucket shower awaits me in my enclosed en-suite bathroom. Constructed using sound eco-friendly principles, the bathrooms have flush eco bush toilets and solar heating. My tent and the entire unfenced camp has minimal encroachment on the vegetation.

Our evening meal is festive. We sit together at a wooden table in the dining tent with the camp manager and our game guide, to share delectable food, pleasing wine and tales of the bush.

A raconteur of note, our guide tells of narrow escapes he has had from lions, while walking in the veld!

Escorted by a guard, I return to my tent, to stand in silence under a bridal arch of stars forming the opaque milky way. I cuddle up to the hot water bottle I discover in my bed, as I listen to the howling of a jackal.

As I sleep with my tent flaps open, I wake to a melted vermillion sunrise, as the elephants in Botswana move phantom-like past my window.

elephants in Botswana Travel Ideas


Sun Destinations www.Sundestinations.co.za to find Tuskers Bush Camp, an affordable Botswana safari.


Airlink flies daily from OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport directly to Maun, in Botswana. www.flyairlink.com

As it is 2-2,5 hours drive from Maun, Tuskers Bush Camp can be reached on a 4×4 self drive, or lodge transfer.


Visas are not required by South African passport holders for a stay of up to 90 days. Visitors must be in possession of a valid passport with at least two blank pages.

Story by Gillian Mclaren

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