If elephants could laugh… On a hot summer’s day in Addo, waterholes are packed as the gentle giants come to quench their thirst. Then an attempt at taking a sip turns into a not-so-triumphant nosedive. By Arnold Ras

Where? Addo Elephant National Park: Hapoor waterhole

When? Midday in January with soaring temperatures

In the mix? Some 90 elephants

During South Africa’s sweltering summer months, Addo’s waterholes become a magnet for animals in search of refreshment. Wild traveller Ayesha Cantor was amidst the hustle and bustle when a “particularly big elephant” passed their vehicle heading straight for Hapoor waterhole.

“I would guesstimate there were 90-plus elephants. Groups came trundling in from afar through the spekboom thickets… Great grey blobs, and little ones, all on their way to the waterhole. I’m sure they could hear the happy elephant sounds from great distances,” says Ayesha.

With dozens of ellies coming and going, Ayesha’s camera was ready to snap any intriguing behaviour. “There was so much going on around the waterhole. A particularly big fellow passed right by our car, impressive enough for me to grab a snap. He snatched a quick slurp of water, half-heartedly went in for another and that’s when it happened. He slid in head first. It was like he said: ‘That’s it, I’m going in!’”

We laughed like hyenas! We totally did not expect such a scene to unfold in front of our eyes.
– Ayesha Cantor

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Accidental dip?

Whether the elephant bull was planning to get wet, or merely misjudged his balance, the manoeuvre certainly proved hilarious. But with all the frolicking and splashing, few elephants paid attention to the inelegant nosedive. “None of the other ellies really noticed his shenanigans. He wallowed around like a whale for a bit, and then snorkelled off to the other end of the waterhole to join in the water games.”

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In love with Addo

“I cannot go to Addo without thinking how lucky we are to have this wonderful park right on our doorstep. People come from all over the world to experience scenes like this. To be surrounded by elephants in their numbers, totally unfazed by our presence, is just the most incredible experience.”

Did you know?

  • An adult elephant’s trunk can hold 5-10 litres of water.
  • Elephants require fresh water daily and will drink 100-200 litres a day.
  • Drinking is a social occasion and various family groups may meet at waterholes or rivers.
Additional source: Understanding Elephants. Elephant Specialist Advisory Group. Struik Nature. 2017.