Sunday, June 26, 2011

Travel TidBits: Elephants

The Way of the Elephants

The following story was sent to me by a friend.  Initially I was not sure if I could verify the contents but thought from my reading of elephant behaviour it is plausible.  Now I checked with the lodge website [ ] and found images of the elephants walking the halls of the lodge there as well.

Elephants have ancient traveling routes that have been maintained through centuries. There have been incidents of destruction if objects, like villages, were obstructing their ways.  This story is endearing since the elephant herd has been accommodated and now is an attraction to amazed safari goers. 
Enjoy, Meggi

Elephants march through hotel lobby after it was built on their migration trail!

Zambia 's Mfuwe Lodge happens to have been built next to a Mango Grove that one family of Elephants have always visited when the fruit ripens. When people originally built the lodge, little did they know that the area was an ancient trail elephants use annually to feed on juicy mangoes!  When the elephants returned one year and found the luxury accommodation in the way, they simply walked through the lobby to reach their beloved grove of trees.  Today, Wonky Tusk (the matriarch) comes back every year with her herd, even if it means that she has to go through the safari lodge lobby!

The animals come in two-by-two. Hotel staff and visitors have gotten used to the Elephants casual strollsthrough the lobby. Now the family group, headed by their Matriarch 'Wonky Tusk' return every November and stay for four to six weeks to gorge on mangos - up to four times a day. Andy Hogg, 44, the Lodge Director, has lived in South Luangwa National Park since 1982. But in all his years of dealing with wild animals he has never seen suchintimate interaction between humans and wild animals. "This is the only place in the world where Elephants freelyget so close to humans," Says Andy. "The Elephants start coming through base camp in late November each year toeat the ripe mangos from our trees."

Living in the 5,000 square mile national park, the ten-strong Elephant herd is led to the lodge each day by 'Wonky Tusk' The Hotel was built directly in the path of the Elephant Walk to one of their favourite foods .... Mangoes.

"The most interesting thing about these wild animals," Explains Andy , "is that this is the only herd that comes through, and they come and go as they please."

Mfuwe Lodge consists of seven camps and the base camp where the Elephants walk through. Employing 150staff, the management of the lodge report that there have been no incidents involving the wild Elephants and visitors or staff up to date.

"The Elephants get reasonably close to the staff, as you can see in the pictures of the Elephants near the reception area," Andy explains. "But we do not allow the guests to get too close, they are after all wild beasts"

"Guests can stand in the lounge but only as long as there is a barrier between the Elephants and the guests," He added.
"The elephants are not aggressive but you wouldn't want to tempt them.. It is the Elephant's choice to be here and they have been coming here for the last ten years. There are other wild mango trees around, but they prefer ours. The Lodge was unwittingly built upon their path," Andy says, "so we had no idea they would do this. It wasn't a design error, we just didn't know. The Lodge was built and the Elephants just started walking through afterward."

"We keep people at a safe distance, but allow them close enough to see what is going on. These are still wild and dangerous animals, they cannot be trusted, so we must allow enough time for people to get safely away."

The Hotel is set in an idyllic national parkland. Naturally, the Lodge becomes busier for both Elephants and guests during November."We find that we get more people visiting us during the Elephant migration because of the unique experience of being so close to wild animals in an unusual environment," Says Andy . "But asI said this is a totally natural phenomenon, as the Elephants come here of their own accord. It is certainly a rare but magnificent sight."
Photocredit to Zoom/Barcroft Media

Check out Elephant Video by clicking below: