Elephants march through hotel lobby after it was built on their migration trail. These amazing pictures show why you shouldn’t get between an African elephant and its favourite food.
used to the elephants’ impromptu strolls through reception
in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia happens to have been built next to a mango tree that one family of pachyderms have always visited when the fruit ripens. When they returned one year and found the luxury accommodation in the way, they simply walked through reception.
Now the family group, headed by matriarch Wonky Tusk, return every November to gorge on mangos – up to four times a day. Andy Hogg, 44, director at the Bushcamp Company that runs the Lodge, has lived in South Luangwa National Park since 1982. But in all his years of dealing with wild animals he has never seen such intimate interaction between man and beast.
‘This is the only place in the world where elephants freely get so close to humans,’ says the 44-year-old.
‘The elephants start coming through base camp in late November of each year to eat the mangos from our trees.
‘When they are ripe they come through and they stand about for four to six weeks coming back each day or second day to eat the mangos.’
Living in the 5,000 square mile national park, the ten-strong elephant herd are led to the lodge each day by Wonky Tusk.
route to one of their favorite foods – mangos
‘There are ten in that herd and it is only that herd that comes through. It is a strange thing.
‘The matriarchal in the herd is Wonky Tusk, and she brings the nine others through and they come and go as they please.’
Mfuwe Lodge consists of seven camps and the base camp where the elephants come through.
Employing 150 staff, the management of the lodge are happy to report that there have been no incidents involving the elephants to date.
‘The elephants do get reasonably close to the staff as you can see with the pictures of the elephants near the reception,’ he explains.
‘But we do not allow the guests to get too close.’
‘Guests can stand in the lounge are but as long as there is a barrier between the elephants and the guests that is okay,’ he added.
‘The elephants are not aggressive but you don’t want to tempt anything as they are wild animals.
‘It is the elephants choice to come into base camp and they have been doing it for the last ten years.
‘There are other wild mango trees around and they seem to prefer this one.’
And even thought the lodge was unwittingly built upon the path, Andy says they had no idea the elephants would insist on returning.
‘It wasn’t a design mistake – no-one really knew they were going to come through,’ he says.
‘The lodge was built and then the elephants started coming through afterwards.
‘We keep people at a safe distance. They are obviously close enough to see what is going on from pretty close quarters but we also make sure we have staff around to make sure the elephants don’t get too close.
‘But as I said they are still wild and still dangerous. They are huge beasts and untamed.
‘We have bricks and walls between the elephants and the guests such as the counter and other barriers to stop them getting to people and if they try to there is enough time for people to get away.’
Naturally, the lodge becomes a busier attraction for both elephants and guests during November time.
‘We find that we get more people visiting us during the elephant migration because of the unique experience of being so close to wild animals in an unusual environment,’ says Andy.
‘But as I said this is a totally natural phenomenon, the elephants come here of their own accord and it is certainly a rare but magnificent sight.