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Elephants and Friends of South Africa and Namibia

When I was a child I had a wooden pull toy of an elephant. Elephants have always been my favorite animal. It's hard to explain how any of us select a favorite animal, it just is that way.

In may of 2009 on my first trip to Namibia I was lucky to spend some time with a herd of wild desert elephants that lived along the Skeleton Coast area. I was overwhelmed with emotion; joy, amazement, love. It one of the catalysts that lead me to spending three months in Southern Africa in 2010.

I started the year off at the Nsikazi Camp by Numbi Gate on a concession of the great Kruger Park of South Africa. I spent a month learning to become a South African Level I Field Guide. During that time I became more and more enamored by the giants of the land. I also came to have an even more heightened sense of caring and protection for all of earths creatures and it's land by learning every facet of how our ecosystem works together.

I took two weeks of reflection and relaxation outside of Cape Town in Llandudno Bay. I enjoyed the ocean, the scenery and the local wine. I left for Swakopmund, Namibia in mid-February to link up with an elephant research and conservation group that based it's operations up in the Damaraland region. We build protective rock walls around the water sources of villages to keep peace between the local human tribes and the wandering desert elephant herds for one week. The following week we would follow and sleep with the elephants in the vast desert areas as we kept tabs on their health and locations.

Every night I would hang up my hammock on the edge of the place we were camping while most people slept under a tarp in the middle of our camp that was surrounded by the trucks and a fire to ward off any wandering animals. Many nights the elephant herds visited us and we would all enjoy their presence before heading off to bed.

On a few occasions, due to my location on the edge of our camp site, I would be awoken by a visitor in the wee hours of the night. We would talk to each other and enjoy each others presence, sometimes for nearly a half hour, sometimes for only a brief few moments. My visitor was known as Mamma Africa, the Matriarch of one of the herds. She was less than ten feet from me as we communed in that harsh environment. There is no scientific proof of reincarnation, of past lives or of a greater life force. We also rarely know the reason we are drawn so strongly to particular animals and people. Those things are ones we can only figure out by listening quietly to our soul.

E-mail: april@aprilhartford.me

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