It is mid-winter here in Kruger National Park and although we had a little spat of rain two weeks ago, the veld is getting very dry. Where the animals have lots of water available to them during our wet season, they now rely on rivers, dams and waterholes for their water needs. Some of the water levels in the dam and waterholes Steven’s area are also getting low. One waterhole in particular needs regular attention, because the borehole is drying up. So our beloved bearded Section Ranger (who Alex and Jack call a Superhero for protecting our rhino’s) asked Steven to assist. Happy to oblige of course! Enter: the Matjulu Water run!
It took Steven and I a few runs to get into the flow (lol, pun intended;-)) of carting 1000 litres at a time to the Matjulu waterhole. But once we ironed out a few hardware problems, the procedure is as follows:
- Drive to Berg en Dal
- Hook the water cart and take it to the filling station.
- Roll out the fire hose and attach it to the fire hydrant.
- Open the top of the water cart and hold on to the hosepipe with both hands while Steven switches the water on.
- Hold on TIGHT while the cart fills up with 1000 litres in about 4 minutes.
- Close top and drive to Matjulu.
- Reverse water cart all the way up to the crib.
- Empty 1000 litres of water into the crib.
- Close top of the cart.
- Drive back to Berg en Dal.
That is the procedure at least when there are no thirsty animals at the waterhole when we arrive, or when there are no animals that show up in the middle of the procedure. When there are no animal interruptions, we can do a run in about 32 minutes. But we all know that when it comes to thirsty animals and waterholes, things sometimes don’t go exactly the way you planned…;-)
We were in the middle of our Matjulu water run a couple of days ago when a young bull elephant appeared in the distance, heading straight towards us at the waterhole. I could almost see the disappointment on his face when he noticed the two humans at his water. He stopped for a moment, not entirely sure what to do, and lifted his trunk into the air. He could probably smell the fresh water flowing into the waterhole.
Then he went the long way round to the cement reservoir in front of us. Where he tried all sorts to get to some of the water inside, but with the borehole drying up his trunk could not reach the tine bit of water still inside.
I felt bad for this thirsty ellie, but the water was flowing into the crib quickly. He just had be a little bit patient. However, patience was not a word in this ellies vocabulary, so after a few attempts to drink from the reservoir, he came directly towards us. “Babe, this ellie has decided he is not going to wait another second!” I quickly said to Steven who was checking the water levels and had his back towards the elephant. We quickly jumped into the Cruiser and Steven Started the engine. This deterred the determined elephant long enough for us to get the pipes back in the water cart and drive away. As we got to the top, the elephant was already drinking. Such grateful work!!
On another Matjulu Water Run, there were two older bulls busy drinking water when we arrived. Steven said that those older bulls are much more relaxed and less stroppy than the youngster that almost chased us away the time before. He said they sometimes just stand there and look at you. Interesting…. We waited for a while so they could drink their fill before we approached with the water cart.
One of the two elephants moved away towards the rubbing tree, stood there for a few moments and then left. While the other one moved about 10 meters to the left and waited. He lifted his trunk (still wet from drinking) for a bit and stood there with his ears out listening to the water flowing into the crib. It was like he totally understood what we were doing!
It takes about 5 minutes for the 1000 litres to flow out of the water cart into the waterhole and this true gentle giant stood there, watching us the whole time. He did not show a single sign of irritation or aggression towards us. Not even with Alex and Jack noisy in the Cruiser and Steven checking the flow of the water. It was 5 minutes spent with an elephant I will remember for the rest of my life!
Once the water cart was empty, we quickly left to let our ellie friend finish his ‘sundowner’ at the waterhole. The four of us still speak about this lovely elephant at the waterhole. And Alex and Jack ask almost every day if we can go give water to the animals again. I guess we will on a regular basis until the rains come. And on a slightly less regular basis when school starts again for the boys. We shall report!
PS. Please do not drive off-road onto the tracks towards the waterhole in your private vehicles.
PPS. For questions about SANParks water policies, please refer to https://www.sanparks.org/assets/docs/groups_eia_notices/shangoni-gate/knp-water-provision-policy.pdf