How I ended up a little too close for comfort to some of my subjects, while on a photographic safari in the Kruger National Park.
I was with my photographer, Trevor Barrett, and we had a limited amount of time to get the shots as illustrative material for “Tales of the Full Moon” I had a wish-list and the clock was ticking… We were travelling in an open-air vehicle, driven by a guide. Early one morning, while recording sounds of the bush, all hell broke loose as we got caught up in the middle of two troops of baboons going to war, led by two very scary looking alpha males who were hell-bent on proving themselves worthy of each other’s rival ‘harems’. Suddenly, the lack of roof and doors on the vehicle made me feel very exposed, I was terrified that a baboon would end up on my lap! The noise created by the troops was akin to someone being murdered and though we recorded the whole sequence of events, I scrubbed the tape clean afterwards. While I am trying to educate children about the real African bushveld – it is not on my agenda to frighten them.
In a bid to show us the more serene side of Kruger, our guide decided to take us to a “loop” where we could shoot riverbed scenes and trees. She turned off the engine, and the scene was one of complete tranquility until… very silently an elephant bull in musth surprised us by appearing out of the dense foliage. Musth is a sexual aggressive period among male elephants and makes them highly dangerous. Their temporal glands become swollen, from where a strong smelling fluid, rich of testosterone, runs down on to their cheeks. I had never been ‘eyeballed’ by an elephant before who was quite so ‘up close and personal’ and it’s not an experience I care to repeat! There was no escape route. The engine could not be turned on – and Trevor was told to put his camera down. The sound of the shutter clicking could have annoyed Mr Jumbo. Beside me, was an empty river bed – a 50 foot drop – I had visions of this bull tossing the vehicle down into the sandy bed below. We were sitting ducks and I could smell the fear of our guide. “What did I do?” Well, knowing that elephants are among the most intelligent beings on the planet, I focused on sending him lots of peace and loving thoughts. This continued for what seemed like an eternity and then, all of a sudden, he shook his head so that his ears rattled, stretched his trunk in farewell and moved off as silently as he had come.