Thai Elephant Conservation Center – Hospital and nursery

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.

elephant with tail bitten off
elephant with tail bitten off (click to enlarge)

Our favorite stop was the nursery, where an older female is paired with a baby.

here's looking at you
here’s looking at you (click to enlarge)

The baby is four months old and clearly likes its trainer. (click to enlarge)

baby elephant 4-month-old elephant cuddles his trainer

4-month-old baby likes bananas
4-month-old baby likes bananas

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.

tip of elephant trunk
tip of elephant trunk (click to enlarge)

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.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center: up close and bathing

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.

Continue reading Thai Elephant Conservation Center: up close and bathing

Chobe: Afternoon Game Drive

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!

elephant at A33 highway to Chobe
elephant at A33 highway to Chobe

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.

roosting storks
roosting storks

We saw a double rainbow, formed by sunlight reflecting twice through raindrops.

double rainbow
double rainbow

And a rainbow over this impala herd.

male impala, harem, and rainbow
male impala, harem, and rainbow

A pair of red lechwe,

red lechwe
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.

lion pride by Chobe River
lion pride by Chobe River
lioness licking cub
lioness licking cub
lioness yawning
lioness yawning

Folks in the other truck have photos of lion cubs with red around their mouths, but we arrived too late to see this.

Game Drive to Serondella

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.

African fish eagle
African fish eagle

Dwarf mongooses sunning themselves in the morning.

dwarf mongoose
dwarf mongoose

In the still waters of the early morning, the reflection of a tree with yellow-billed storks.

tree of yellow-billed storks
tree of 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.

200 years old
eland, elephant, gemsbok
200-year-old
 drawings of eland, elephant, gemsbok

A black-backed jackal approaching a large, bleached bone as big as the jackal.

black-backed jackal
black-backed jackal

The bushbuck is a mediums-sized antelope with sharp horns.

bushbuck
male bushbuck

In the afternoon we saw the Chobe River. A grey heron and sacred ibis.

grey heron, African sacred ibis
grey heron, African sacred ibis

The Chobe River is quite wide. Below, an elephant feeding on water plants.

elephant in Chobe River
elephant in Chobe River

The river provides water and supports much wildlife.

warthog
warthog

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.

cape buffalo
cape buffalo

Baboons are cute and fun to watch, especially the babies. Babies can hang on for a ride below or sit on top.

baby baboon holding on to ears
baby baboon holding on to ears
baby baboon clinging on below
baby baboon clinging on below

We encountered this elephant at sunset and kept rolling back to camp. This elephant approached us as we drove by, which is unusual.

ornery elephant
ornery elephant

Savuti Channel, Day One

On the first morning at Savuti Channel on our Botswana safari, we found a pride of lions with their zebra kill.

lioness and zebra kill
lioness and zebra kill
lion feeding
lion feeding

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.

wounded zebra
wounded zebra

A lone elephant in the distance, across untrampled grass. This is Africa.

lone elephant
lone elephant

As we pulled up to a water hole, this elephant ran out from behind a bush.

elephant came out from behind a bush
elephant running out from behind a bush

Elephants came to the waterhole to drink.

One of our favorite birds, a lilac-breasted roller.

lilac-breasted roller
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.

hippo in the Savuti Channel
hippo in the Savuti Channel

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.

elephant in musth
elephant in musth (click to enlarge)

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.

leopard at dusk
leopard at dusk

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.

Moremi to Chobe National Park

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.

elephant coming toward us
elephant coming toward us
ornery male elephant
ornery male elephant

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.

elephants protecting babies
elephants protecting babies

The small baby elephant is covered with fine hair.

baby elephant
baby elephant

The elephants crossed the road behind our other land cruiser.

watching elephants
watching elephants

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.

shaking its head at us
shaking its head at us

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.

openbill stork
African openbill

The openbill caught a snail and is pouring water out of the snail.

African openbill catching a snail
African openbill catching a 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.

elephant
elephant

As I was taking a photo of these crowned hornbills, one took flight.

crowned hornbill
crowned hornbill taking off

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.

Boat to Moremi Game Reserve

On our Botswana safari, we departed the Okavango Delta by boat to the Moremi Game Reserve.

In the morning we watched a team of swallows build a nest under the thatched roof of our cabin.

mud nest with lesser striped swallow
mud nest with lesser striped swallow

A swallow with mud in its mouth would land on the railing.

lesser striped swallow with mud for nest
lesser striped swallow with mud for nest

When the nest was free, the waiting bird would fly into the nest, turn around, stick its head out, deposit the mud onto the edge of the nest, and fly out to make room for the next swallow.

swallow putting mud on nest
swallow putting mud on nest

On the boat ride we saw these hadeda ibises.

hadeda ibis
hadeda ibis

Our guide explained how elephants eat tree bark, using their tusks to scrape bark off trees. Elephant tusks are powerful and sharp.

tree with bark stripped by elephants
tree with bark stripped by elephants

After landing at Moremi, we did a game drive to camp. These two elephants wrapped their trunks around each other.

elephants wrapping tusks
elephants wrapping trunks

In this swampy area, a yellow-billed stork is hunting for frogs and other small animals.

yellow-billed stork and egret
yellow-billed stork and egret

The stork spreads its wing to cast a shadow and make it easier to spot animals in the water.

stork hunting
stork hunting

We stopped for a herd of impalas, a kind of antelope, on the road. Two hundred meters later we arrived in camp.

impalas on the road
impalas on the road

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.

hippos at the Moremi camp
hippos at the Moremi camp

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.