For some rest and relaxation, be sure to book a cruise onboard the intimate and luxurious Ra-ikane when in Victoria Falls. It is the perfect way to watch the world go by, and spot some of the incredible wildlife that lives along the banks of the Zambezi River.
Although we can’t guarantee what wildlife you will see, you may be in for a treat and see the largest land mammal in the world, the elephant.
There are three species of elephant in the world: the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) which is found in Zimbabwe, the African forest elephant and the Asian elephant. The Greek name for an elephant is elphas and in Latin it is elephantus. The name “pachyderms” is often applied to elephants too and refers to their thick skin.
An elephant is unmistakable, with its long trunk (also called a proboscis), tusks and large ear flaps. Their trunks are marvellous tools and are used for breathing, lifting water into their mouths for drinking, and grasping grass and leaves, stripping bark, smelling the air, picking fruit and many other things. Their tusks are actually their incisors and can be used for moving objects, digging for water and also weapons. Elephants often will dig deep holes in dry riverbeds and wait patiently for the water to seep through so they can drink. This is useful to other animals, which use the holes after the elephants. Their large ear flaps are used to regulate their body temperature by flapping them and cooling the blood that is carried in capillaries close to the surface of the ears.
Elephants have a matriarchal society – that is they live in family groups of 10 -20 animals, ruled by a mature female. When young bulls are old enough to look after themselves, they form separate temporary “bachelor” herds and fight among themselves to establish the strongest which will eventually return to the family herds to find a ate. This ensures only the strongest animals become fathers. The old bulls often live singly or in pairs, and never rejoin the herds.
Elephants can reach speeds up to 40km an hour over short distances, and a mature elephant has no natural enemies. Females and young elephants are sometimes attacked by lions. When predators threaten a member of the herd, the others rally around in defence – young elephants are surrounded by the adults at the slightest sign of danger.
An elephant can live up to 70 years. When an elephant dies, the rest of the herd seems to mourn, and will often return to visit its bones long after its death. Elephants are known to be intelligent and use a range of body postures and sound to communicate with each other.
Elephants are herbivories, and can live in a variety of different habitats, and both graze and browse. They eat up to 300kg of food a day, mostly grass. They will eat leaves, fruit, roots and tree bark, and in a normal lifespan will grow six sets of teeth! They do have a rather wasteful habit of pushing over trees to reach a few mouthfuls of young green leaves – you can always tell when an elephant has been about! The elephants found along the riverbanks of the Zambezi can grow up to 6,000kgs.
Herds often travel great distances at night and spend a great deal of their time feeding. Elephants love water and are great swimmers. When they get to the water, they firstly usually drink – an adult can consume 100 litres at one time. After their daily drink, then its playtime and we hope you get to witness this aboard the Ra-Ikane. The elephants will spend an hour or two splashing, spraying water with their trunks, playing and wallowing in the mud, and then dusting themselves with fine sand…their version of talcum powder!