After the elephant bath and show at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC), we visited the hospital and nursery. The mission of TECC is to care for Thai elephants, so elephants needing care are brought here from elephant camps.
This elephant had most of its tail bitten off most by another elephant.
Our favorite stop was the nursery, where an older female is paired with a baby.
The baby is four months old and clearly likes its trainer. (click to enlarge)
Here’s what it looks like when an elephant is reaching out to you. It does look scarey, especially if you’re caught off guard.
We enjoyed getting a close look at the elephants, which wasn’t safe in Africa. These elephants are domesticated but still large and strong. A great way to spend a morning.
After seeing adult and baby elephants from afar in Tanzania and Botswana, we looked forward to seeing elephants on our Southeast Asia vacation, and we were not disappointed. With a wonderful guide hired the day before, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC), an hour outside Chiang Mai, was a highpoint of our trip. Above, a male elephant with long tusks strains to get closer to the children.
Owned by the Thai government, TECC allows visitors to get close to elephants, feed them, watch them bathe, see a show, visit the elephant hospital and nursery, and ride an elephant. We did most of these, skipping the elephant ride.
On our Botswana safari, after the Chobe River cruise, we left the town of Kasane and headed back to Chobe National Park. As we turned on to the highway back to Chobe, this elephant was eating grass next to the road, acting as an advertisement for the park entrance 4 km away. Where does the 8,000 pound elephant eat? Where ever she wants to!
This elephant roaming the highway outside the park reminds me of a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, complaining that the deer are crossing the road where no deer crossing signs are posted, endangering drivers.
Back in the park, a tree of roosting storks next to the Chobe River.
We saw a double rainbow, formed by sunlight reflecting twice through raindrops.
And a rainbow over this impala herd.
A pair of red lechwe,
While we were enjoying the antics of dung beetles, the driver of our other truck radioed to tell us about lions. We sped off. We found a pride of contented lions.
Folks in the other truck have photos of lion cubs with red around their mouths, but we arrived too late to see this.
On our Botswana safari, the next day we moved to another part of Chobe National Park, the Serondella area. Compared to the Savuti Channel, the Serondella area is closer to the Chobe River, with more elephants.
Yet another African fish eagle. We like fish eagles, which are similar to the American bald eagle.
Dwarf mongooses sunning themselves in the morning.
In the still waters of the early morning, the reflection of a tree with yellow-billed storks.
We visited a site with drawing of African animals, where our guide told us about the native San people and some of their customs.
A black-backed jackal approaching a large, bleached bone as big as the jackal.
The bushbuck is a mediums-sized antelope with sharp horns.
In the afternoon we saw the Chobe River. A grey heron and sacred ibis.
The Chobe River is quite wide. Below, an elephant feeding on water plants.
The river provides water and supports much wildlife.
The cape buffalo has never been domesticated and kills or gores over 200 people a year. This cape buffalo looks quite stern. We quickly moved on.
Baboons are cute and fun to watch, especially the babies. Babies can hang on for a ride below or sit on top.
We encountered this elephant at sunset and kept rolling back to camp. This elephant approached us as we drove by, which is unusual.
Less than a mile away, this zebra was bloody but walking without a limp. Perhaps a lion bit the tip of the zebra’s tail, and the zebra managed to escape. The zebra’s legs and rump are bloody where the zebra’s tail would touch when the zebra wags its tail.
A lone elephant in the distance, across untrampled grass. This is Africa.
As we pulled up to a water hole, this elephant ran out from behind a bush.
Elephants came to the waterhole to drink.
One of our favorite birds, a lilac-breasted roller.
We visited the lion pride, and they were still at it.
We visited the Savuti Channel and found a pod of hippos.
In the afternoon we encountered this elephant in musth, where the male elephant’s testosterone levels are increased and they are more aggressive than normal. This elephant charged our land cruiser, and our guide had to drive fast in reverse to escape. Besides being aggressive, an elephant in musth has urine dripping from his penis (which we saw) and a secretion running down from behind the eye.
The other land cruiser followed us through the water to get to the elephant in musth.
As we headed back to camp at dusk, a leopard crossed the road in front of us. It stopped beside the road as we stopped. It was six feet away, looking at me. I tried to take a picture, but the camera did nothing when I pressed the shutter button. It was too dark for the camera settings. My camera was set for daytime (100-400 mm lens, aperture value of f/6.3, auto ISO), and it was dark.
By the time I changed the camera settings, the leopard was walking down the road.
A couple joined us for dinner. Friends of our guide, they’re filming lions. They were sleeping in their truck near the zebra kill, and they heard the kill in the middle of the night. They’ve made films for the BBC and National Geographic, including underwater shots of crocodiles in the Okavango Delta. Very impressive.
After dinner, I talked about the leopard sighting with our guide, and he said that where we saw the leopard is only a quarter mile from camp, as the crow flies. We drove on the road, which winds around. Closer to home, last month a mountain lion wandered through a nearby school and the park where I play tennis.
On our Botswana safari we stayed in a mobile camp that moved as we moved. The drive from Moremi to the Savuti Channel in Chobe National Park was longer than usual due to flooded roads — the truck would have take the flooded road where the warden got stuck. To give the camp crew time to tear down the camp, move through the flooded road, drive to the new campsite, and set up camp for our arrival, we had the longest game drive of our safari.
We returned to where we saw the leopard guarding its impala the day before. Both the impala and leopard were gone. Our guide thought that other animals stole the kill from the leopard, because the leopard couldn’t move the impala by itself and the impala was gone.
This elephant approached our truck.
We watched this herd of elephants with babies. There are two baby elephants in this photo: one on the right in front of the elephant raising its trunk and a smaller one on the left in front of the left-most elephant.
The small baby elephant is covered with fine hair.
The elephants crossed the road behind our other land cruiser.
After the herd crossed the road, this elephant charged back and shook its head at us, as if to warn us not to follow them.
After our truck passed the flooded area, we drove to Chobe National Park. We stopped for lunch on the Khwai River. The African openbill feeds on snails and mussels. Its beak has a gap near the tip to make it easier to grasp and pry open snails and mussels.
The openbill caught a snail and is pouring water out of the snail.
Chobe National Park has lots of elephants, even more later in the year when the grass dries up and the elephants head for water. This elephant got up close; this photo was taken at 275 mm with a full-frame camera, and the elephant nearly fills the frame.
As I was taking a photo of these crowned hornbills, one took flight.
We finally pulled into camp near dusk, grateful for a place to clean up and get ready for dinner. The camp crew worked hard to get the camp ready for us, with hot water for showers.
In this swampy area, a yellow-billed stork is hunting for frogs and other small animals.
The stork spreads its wing to cast a shadow and make it easier to spot animals in the water.
We stopped for a herd of impalas, a kind of antelope, on the road. Two hundred meters later we arrived in camp.
In the camp our tents fronted on a lake, and in the distance ears were sticking out of the water. Our camp was next to a lake with hippos! The photo below was taken from near our tent — we had to stay within the camp. A hippo is exhaling, sending a puff of water vapor into the air like a whale. I’ve since read that explosive exhaling is a threat display, but we didn’t know this at the time. So we enjoyed the lake and hippos.
We did look around camp for grass. At night hippos graze on grass lawns at our lodge in the Okavango Delta. We were told to stay in our cabins until after sunrise. We heard hippos grunting from the grass area behind our cabin, and people saw hippo footprints on the sandy path by our cabin. On that day’s boat ride, we stopped at a remote island with a grassy interior that was mown down. Our guide confirmed that hippos keep the grass short.