Why we travel: Levison Wood on walking with elephants in Botswana

Why we travel: Levison Wood on walking with elephants in Botswana

At one point during our search for the magnificent beasts, Kane suddenly put a finger to his lips. I listened intently and heard a faint, deep rumble. His eyes lit up. “Lions,” he whispered. “Over there in the long grass. They’ve got a kill. Follow me.” And with that, he tiptoed directly towards the noise, holding mothing more than his spear for safety.

As we emerged out of a thicket, true to his word we discovered a dying buffalo on its last legs, being gorged on by three fully grown male lions. “When I was a child,” Kane said, pointing to the brutal scene, “we’d wait for the lions to have their fair share then go and help ourselves to some meat. Are you hungry?”

I thought he was joking. But apparently not. Motioning for me to follow him, we sneaked up to the lions until we were just three metres away. Standing up quickly as they noticed us, the animals grunted. There was a tense stand off, and I wondered what madness had possessed me to follow this man towards the jaws of Africa’s biggest predator.

Then, suddenly, the cats turned and ran to the shade of a nearby tree, almost as if to say, ‘Go on then, if you must.’ We crept up to the dead buffalo and inspected the carcass, as the lions looked on nonchalantly. Kane shrugged with a grin. “We know how to live with animals,” he said with the air of a philosopher. “If you want to save them, you have to work with the locals.”

Adventurer, author and broadcaster Levison Wood is an ambassador for the Tusk Trust. Walking with Elephants, a three-part Channel 4 documentary set in Botswana, aired in May. The accompanying book, The Last Giants: The Rise and Fall of the African Elephant is on sale now.

Read more tales from our Why We Travel cover story

Published in the Jul/Aug 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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