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Hanging out with elephants in Pendjari National Park

I put in a monster 16 hour day behind the wheel to drive the entire length of the country, from the beach at Chez Rada to within fifty miles of the Burkina Faso border in the North. Gas and Diesel are much, much cheaper in neighboring Nigeria, and both are available in jugs on the side of the road for a fraction of the official Benin price.

Maybe because of this, gas stations are very rare, and the attendant is shocked when I buy a full tank at the Benin price. I assume everybody buys the cheap stuff, though I’m wary of the quality.

Pendjari National Park

I camp the night in the parking lot of a Hotel in Tanguiéta, on the Southern edge of the National Park. In the morning I am moving before sunrise, and after paying the entrance fees at the gate I drive into Pendjari, excited especially to see elephants – I have never seen one before.

Beautiful birds are everywhere

Over the course of the day I make my way along extremely corrugated, dusty roads, always keeping a close eye on the vegetation. A few times I spot monkeys and beautiful birds.

I stop at different watering holes where I see hippos, crocodiles, tons of birds and antelope-like animals. The midday sun is intense, and lazing about in the water seems like a great idea to me.

Hippos out of the water! Rushing back

Crocs catching some rays

This buffalo kept a very close eye on me

Later in the day, towards dusk, I am driving next to a lake and am unsure about some large grey boulders on the other side, a few hundred yards away. After looking more closely, I realize they are moving!

I pull over and stand on the open window and hood of the Jeep, grinning from ear to ear as I watch the mother and two baby elephants make their way along the lake shore.

Elephants on the far side of the lake – my first sighting!

As it turns out it is exactly one year to the day since I bought this Jeep, and I couldn’t be happier with where it has taken me. It’s hard to believe I have driven my Jeep from Canada all the way to elephants in West Africa. I spend the rest of the evening reflecting on the past year, and the adventures I know are in front of me in the next year or so.

These guys are cool

A warthog running around

Sunset in Pendjari

I’m up and moving before sunrise again, and in the early morning sun I make my way along a small creek, the other side of which is Burkina Faso. Of course, there is nobody around for miles and miles, it would be easy to wade across the International border. Well, except for the crocodiles and hippos acting as border guards that is.

I’m treated to three different herds of elephants, each with about 15-20 animals of all ages. I watch these groups for a long time, pulling leaves of trees, upending grass and thrashing it about and generally lazing in the still-cool morning.

It feels right to be hanging out with elephants. 🙂

Elephants!

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