Baby elephant in the Okavango Delta Panhandle

Ngwesi elephant-crossing

One of the most prominent wildlife sightings in the Okavango Panhandle is the elephants. Wading – sometimes fully submerged – through the waterways, drinking and playing in the wetland paradise. This region in the north-west of the Delta is historical, and forgotten by many except for the die-hard fisherman and travellers seeking the secluded and unexplored sanctuaries of nature. Here you will find the wildlife that lives freely under the Botswanan sun, and when you’re on a special houseboat safari, you’re likely to run into moments like this:

Video taken while on safari with Ngwesi Houseboat, cruising through the Okavango Panhandle.

This young elephant was carried in its mother’s womb for a grand total of 22 months! Elephants are reputably good mothers, and family bonds in breeding herds are strong. It is tradition (in the elephant world) that at the time of birth, the whole herd gathers around the mother and provides protection and support. There have been many stories describing the emotional display of elephants – that they celebrate their birth and mourn their dead. This is part of what makes them such fascinating creatures to watch, and when you see a tiny calf discovering the use of its trunk or practising taking steps, it is difficult not to be in awe of the majestic creatures they become.

Elephants have a similar lifespan to humans, sometimes living as long as 70 years. They can weigh between 4 and 6 tonnes and they have the incredible strength to uproot trees and tear off the bark without any effort at all. Elephants become superior by age and through genes. The matriarch is the oldest and biggest female and she leads the herd, and her eldest female offspring will be her successor.

Bulls leave the herd once they reach puberty and seek out an older, wiser bull to learn from. If young bulls leave the herd and do not find a ‘mentor’, they can become destructive and temperamental because they do not know how to channel their testosterone. In return for an older bull’s guidance, the young ‘askaris’ who have joined him will provide protection to him in his old and vulnerable age.

Ngwesi elephant-water

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© Kevin MacLaughlin

© Kevin MacLaughlin

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© Kevin MacLaughlin

© Kevin MacLaughlin

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