Sam has an amazing breadth of knowledge that covers astronomy, trees, grasses and animals – large and small – as well as their behaviour. His patience and love of wild areas is evident in everything he says, none more so then when we rounded a corner and ‘bumped into’ a small breeding herd of elephant. The elephant in the Busanga Plains are calm but don’t like to be surprised (a reaction that stems from many years of hunting and poaching).
Sam immediately cut the engine and let the matriarch go about her protective routine, letting the smaller ones huddle together, keeping her huge frame between us and her family. Head shake and head raised high, a mock charge followed. Sam was unmoved. He could read we were in a safe position and that she was just letting us know we shouldn’t come closer. After the herd had retreated to the thickets, Sam mentioned he would start the engine again and move slowly. He explained that the mother would try and charge again, but instead of speeding away (our natural instinct), we should stop the vehicle. The hope is that by stopping the vehicle, the elephant would realise, over time, that our presence is not something to fear. Most important to Sam was that by doing this, we would help reduce her stress. If another car startled them in the future, the matriarch wouldn’t be inclined to charge immediately. True to his word as he started the engine and rolled forward, and out she came again – he switched off and we sat for a moment until she relaxed. The next time the engine started, she was unperturbed.
I could write endless chapters on the amazing experiences that Sam provides for each and every guest, but I believe you would be best served by meeting Sam in person and absorbing his passion for the beautiful Busanga Plains – the Plains of Plenty!
Written by Graham Simmonds