It’s not every day your afternoon nap is disturbed by the thudding sounds of Africa’s favourite marula fruit hitting the ground around your tent, followed by the gentle padding of a leathery trunk feeling for the fallen fruit on the ground. Once you’ve come to and opened your eyes, you are reminded that you are on an Okavango Delta island and the sounds you are hearing are those of an elephant tucking into the fruit born of the marula tree above your tent! Don’t act so surprised, this is Africa after all…
Slowly, the largest terrestrial mammal on Earth ambles passed your flyscreen window, stretching its trunk out to grasp the marulas dangling on another branch of the tree. The sheer enormity of this animal has been described in books and documentaries, and you may have even witnessed them yourself while enjoying your boat cruise to this island – Xobega – however; only once the animal extends itself above your canvas tent, and takes huge strides passed your ‘doorway’, do you realise just how much of a mammoth this creature is.
Gentle, yet incredibly powerful, at the same time, the African elephant is an alluring animal we have the privilege of knowing today. In the Okavango Delta, these great beasts thrive in the wetland terrain, and their sense of ownership is evident. At Xobega Island Camp, elephants and hippos make the rules, and when their is a marula tree in full fruit, there is no hiding it from the long nose of an elephant! That is what leads you to this moment.
The hungry elephant is in heaven, where the succulent green and yellow delights are littered all over the sandy floor and hanging tightly onto their stems in the trees. As you watch from your tent in awe, the elephant – oblivious to your presence – moves a few metres away to the next tent, also showered in marulas, and you are given an opportunity to sneak onto your tent ‘verandah’ and enjoy taking a few photographs to mark this unforgettable African moment.
Every summer when the marula trees on Xobega Island begin to fruit, this elephant comes to take his share. Over time he has come to know the presence of people on the island, and his demeanour is ever so courteous. He welcomes quiet onlookers who keep their distance and allow him to keep feeding in peace, as they gaze up at him in wonder. This was one of those moments at Xobega Island Camp that we will never forget.