#Okavango14: Elephants Will Sense Your Calm

Imagine: Camping among lions, hyenas, jackals, baboons and elephants. Having thousands of birds fly overhead daily. Poling—and dragging—a boat through hippo and elephant trails. The Okavango Delta is a wild place, and the richest I’ve ever seen in terms of biodiversity.

African Bush Elephant crossing the Zambezi River, Zambia. (Photo © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0)
An African bush elephant crossing the Zambezi River in Zambia. (Photo © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

There are more than 3,500 lions in the entire Okavango catchment, and 1,500 in the delta itself; 550 individual bird species; and 60,000-80,000 elephants that migrate here during the dry season every year.

Listen to these audio diaries to hear the sounds of the delta and more about Gregg’s experience:

Each of our campsites has huge elephant dung piles scattered around, and I even had an elephant watch me set up my tent one evening. The African Bush Elephants migrate through northern Botswana, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe before entering the delta during the flood season. They leave with the first rains in November, moving 40 miles a day.

When interacting with large wildlife like this—or any wildlife for that matter—one of the most important things is to remain calm. Interacting with wildlife can be dangerous, but if you’re calm, the animals can sense that. This situational awareness makes all the difference: You react to how you sense an animal is feeling, and the animal, in turn, is sensing everything going on in your body through body language and the pheromones you put out.

Saddle billed storks in the Okavango Delta. (Photo by PanBK on en.wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)
Saddle billed storks in the Okavango Delta. (Photo by PanBK on en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0)

As Shah said during our Google+ Hangout, it’s respecting the situation you’re in. He recalled hearing the deep rumble of an elephant on our second day on the water. We pulled the mokoros over and waited until the elephant passed in front of us.

Gregg Treinish is Executive Director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. Learn more at, on our Field Notes blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved in future Okavango expeditions.

Read More From the Okavango Expedition

Read More by Gregg Treinish and His Correspondents


  1. Olga Murgaski
    August 27, 2014, 6:55 am

    <3 Amazing <3 love nature. and elephants are for me incredibly smart and good, often better than humans and many other animals! So we should learn from them <3 wish you well and thank you exist <3

  2. Nestor Zapanta
    August 26, 2014, 11:19 pm

    Plesse continue to post this amazing things for all the people who cant go to that fantastic and beautiful places to see those wonderful animals

  3. flory cortes
    hola gregg
    August 26, 2014, 7:28 pm

    el animales gregg. porque eso el monte suena la gente caminado por la tiempo que sienta en la cama con mis auriculares me hace sentir que estoy ahl .

  4. Jo Davey
    August 26, 2014, 6:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing your incredible experiences for us to see and feel as we go though our daily city humdrum lives. We have a glorious area here with the dry, red soil and dusty colourful beasts and birds where you feel the earth and the vibrations of the age of your surroundings through the soles of your feet, and your breathing slows and you humbly become a part of the earth, and the life around you…

  5. Hennie
    August 22, 2014, 10:03 pm

    Gregg, the soundcloud recordings are amazing! Hearing all the bush sounds and people walking by while laying in bed with my earphones makes me feel like I’m right there.