CAMPING WITH ODZALA BY LAURA
When (due to a temporary increase in staff numbers as we prepared for a large group booking) the opportunity arose to sleep in a tent at Mboko, I leapt at it. I’d assumed that this would be a more authentic forest experience, and I wasn’t wrong! The tents had been pitched in the tree line just above the Lekeni river, and where there is water in the rainforest, there tends to be the odd insect or two…
On my second night under canvas, the size of the visitors (if not their number of legs) dramatically increased. At around 2am I woke to the sound of branches breaking nearby. I ran through a mental checklist of the usual suspects, and settled on a hyena or a leopard. Then I remembered that noises at night often sound louder than they are – so could this be something smaller? A duiker, perhaps?
I hurriedly rethought this as with a crack and a thud, a large tree fell to the ground a few metres from my tent. In the moonlight, I saw the impressive bulk and pale tusks of an enormous forest elephant bull. It was none other than Odzala, who all but resides at Mboko. Each of his steps was illuminated by disturbed fireflies and I could trace the line of his back where it blacked out the twinkling equatorial stars.
It was almost impossible to sleep again after such an awesome experience and this remains one of the most special elephant sightings of my life – as well as a reminder of just why I chose this career. In the morning, the dinner-plate tracks past my tent – plus the fallen tree – remained as Odzala’s calling cards, inviting one and all to come for a visit.