For this Photo of the Week, I wanted to share and write about this recent photo I took from my safari in East Africa. We were in Amboseli National Park, which lies in southern Kenya along the Tanzania border. The park is famous for two things: views of Kilimanjaro rising above the plains, and elephants…..lots of elephants. Amboseli National Park is home to roughly 1,000-1,400 elephants, making it one of the largest herds in Africa. Many, including myself, consider Amboseli to be the best spot in the world to see elephants. They’re just everywhere: you can hear them in every corner of the park, smell them across the swamps and grasslands, and see them dotted over the vast landscape. On top of all of this, Amboseli is home to Africa’s largest elephants, which makes them that much more impressive.
So during our visit here, photographing elephants was the top priority, especially as they moved together across the savanna. Amboseli’s elephants have a fairly regular routine, which makes finding them and being in the right spot easy. Every morning the vast majority of elephants march from the acacia forests in the southern boundary of the park to the swamps in the center where they spend the day feeding and staying cool in the water. Around an hour before sunset, the matriarchs call their herds together and begin the march back into the forests where they spend the night feeding and resting. The elephants will walk anywhere from 5-25 miles depending on how far back in the forest they go. One of the most incredible things about this march is when all the elephant families move as one. Now, instead of a family of 15-20 elephants, we are talking about massive herds numbering between 400-600+ elephants, which is a spectacle that is hard to put into words. Elephant after elephant, they parade over the grasslands, trumpeting and grumbling as they go. We were fortunate to see this event four times during our stay in Amboseli and every time was vastly different.
Our last day didn’t see any rain, so there was a good amount of dust in the atmosphere, but no rain clouds, so we knew we were in for some good color. We headed to the area where the elephants had been crossing and we waited while they finished feeding in the swamps about a mile or so off. The families started to gather together and move towards us. Another wonderful tidbit about elephants is that they follow the same path almost every day and walk in a straight line and rarely deviate from their course. So when we saw the path they were taking, we positioned the land cruiser appropriately and cut the engine. The elephants got closer and closer and soon the shadows of Kilimanjaro looming over us were replaced by the shadows and outlines of over 500 elephants. For the largest animal on the planet walking across a featureless landscape, they sure seemed to come out of nowhere.
Using a wide-angle lens, I was able to capture more of what we saw and felt with our eyes, which was the immensity and depth to this daily migration. The sights, sounds, and vibration in the land cruiser as they tread across the ground made this an extremely overwhelming and complicated scene to shoot. Your mind wants to see everything, but your camera can only capture one frame at a time. All the while, scenes like this never sit still, so there’s virtually no time to think and compose a shot. You have to react, and quick! Even as I write this now, I can only count down the days until we return later this year to witness and experience Amboseli’s famous pachyderm parade again.
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Hey, I'm Chase Dekker, a wildlife and nature photographer looking to share my stories and expertise with as many people as possible. My blog gives you a glimpse into my life as a photographer - whether it be stories from my travels, or guides on how to make your own trips as successful and special as possible.
I hope to give you valuable insight on everything from travel, to animals, to photography tips and more!