We drove through Mfuwe Village on our first day in the bush. The hugeness of a mother elephant we passed and the way she glided along the roadside with her baby at her side reminded me of a time years ago when I was sailing with two friends on a 31-foot sailboat in the Delta near San Francisco.

We were out early on a morning when the fog was so thick we could barely see our friend Tracy at the bow, watching for channel markers and vessels. Suddenly, we heard water churning behind us and a loud splashing sound heading our way. A cargo ship was nearby, but we couldn’t tell where it was or how close it was. When the mysterious ship blasted its horn, we nearly jumped out of our boat from the shock. Our little air horn was useless. Just as we realized we were in the shipping channel where we didn’t belong, the ship churned right past our starboard side nearly close enough for us to touch it. The wake almost swamped us, and our toy boat flopped side to side perilously as we waited to see if we would survive. I should have been frightened, but all I saw was a wall of gray glide past, and I knew we were helpless.

Elephants make me think of that hulking grey cargo vessel because they can glide quietly and smoothly as they knock over trees and walk through brush the best all-terrain vehicle couldn’t get through. Elephants are massive and can be dangerous when people, even the most experienced in bush behavior, get too close. Safe in our Land Rover and headed for our first bush camp, we would soon learn that poachers would like to kill the elephant we glimpsed meandering alongside the main road with her baby, and they would likely leave the baby as an orphan to die without its mother.


Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites and

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Carol Van Brugen