Deep within the fastness of the Zambezi region of north eastern Namibia lies a conservation area now called Bwabwata. It is typified by fine Kalahari sands, dense riparian woodland and the Kwando River…a glistening, meandering waterway at the heart of an enormous, grass covered floodplain within endless rolling bushscapes.
At the heart of this wilderness, surrounded by dusty scrub land and towering leadwood trees one finds a remote, U shaped body of water known as Horseshoe Lagoon. The waterhole is, in itself, unremarkable…sandy shorelines, converging well- trodden game paths, scattered animal dung and the busy ministrations of tiny wading birds along the verge. During the midday heat as the distant mirage shimmers and a hornbill lends its ropey and lethargic cadence to the background the water stands mirror like…still…unused.
It is later, as the day cools and the sky painted in diffuse pastel magnificence that the lagoon changes. As if materializing from thin air…regiments of dusty elephant emerge from the surrounding barrier of scrub. They jostle and squeal as they make for the water with increasing urgency…their rolling, untidy gait vaguely comical when viewed at a distance. Wrinkled and wizened matriarchs with the days dust billowing from their heaving flanks lead the various processions of cows and calves to the water’s edge to slake a colossal thirst.
In short order the once still and seemingly lifeless lagoon verge becomes a heaving, rumbling, splashing mass of pachyderm splendour as the sunset sets the western horizon on fire behind. The conflagration is all consuming…noisy…crowded…a cacophony of brutish proportion. Young elephant bulls flop and roll like porpoising whales in the depths while tiny calves, their trunks still floppy and uncontrolled, struggle across the broken mudflats and attempt to drink alongside their dams. The entire scene speaks of unbridled relief, joy and unbelievable beauty.
And then…as if some silent cosmic signal speaks to the herds, the activity slows, and they drift away into the crepuscular greyness beyond the tree line veil and all is once again still…as the gathering gloom descends.