If you’re anything like us, the marvel of Mother Nature’s creatures never gets old. One such example is the way that Elephants cross over the Zambezi river to Zimbabwe. We sat down with Johann, a member of our team to find out what makes this phenomenon an incredible one. With decades of guiding experience and a profound love for the African bush, he was the perfect person to fill us in… 

Q: Why do they cross over? 

Johann: “Elephants cross over for two reasons. 1) Due to necessity. 2) Due to seasonal routes. In many cases, there are family members or groups of elephants that they know and are wanting to reconnect with. Elephants can communicate with each other via what we know as a subsonic or infrasound mechanism that allows them to communicate up to 30km. As highly sociable creatures, they need to interact and have physical contact with other elephants. This is especially true for breeding herds. Beyond mating or social purposes, they’ll also cross over for a more secure food source. 

Q: Is the crossing dangerous?

Johann: “Crossing the Zambezi River is no small feat. Not only is the river deep but it is wide, too. This presents a challenge and is quite stressful for them as the risk of drowning is a possibility. The Zambezi River has several channels of varying depths. In deeper water, the currents are stronger, with shallower water offering more gentle currents. This makes a calf being swept away is a real risk, along with crocodiles that often target the smaller elephants as well. With the currents, islands, sand bars this can take some time so it’s difficult to say how long this might take a herd.” 

Q: How does the crossing unfold and what makes it so interesting? 

Johann: “They head down to an entrance point where there is often congestion. Led by a matriarch, the herd will enter the river. The calves stay near the upper side of the elders so that the current pushes them onto the older members of the herd. This allows them to stay within the “barriers” and not get swept away. Alternatively, they can hold onto each other’s tails to form a safety chain. The problem is that they need to breathe, so using their trunks to hold onto tails isn’t ideal. By using their trunks as a periscope, they are able to breathe whilst their bodies are submerged. Their ability to float is thanks to what is known as a honeycomb cavity in the front part of their skull. This is filled with air pockets that help them stay afloat. It also keeps their bodies suspend in the water so that they can paddle and continue walking within the water. Their lungs and diaphragm cavity keeps them buoyant as well. 

The Grandest way to experience Africa

Soon, our new lodge will be complete we’ve never been more excited to share what we’ve been up to. If you’re ready to be one of the first to take in the all-new Zambezi Grande Private Game Experience, avoid the rush and get in touch with us now by emailing reservations@zambezigrande.com