Elephants have a remarkably well developed sense of smell. In fact the acuity of their sense of smell is beyond our comprehension and it is only through observing them in the wild that we can begin to imagine how sensitive is their olfactory ability.
They also have a preference for fresh water and their remarkable sense of smell allows them to detect where the underground water is closest to the surface. In order to reach the sweet sand-filtered subterranean water they regularly dig holes in dry river beds. The length of their trunks allows them to stand back from the excavation and avoid collapsing the hole. They suck-up and discard the initial water that fills their hole, because it is filled with fine silt. Once this silty water has been discarded the hole fills with cool clear sweet water. It takes many “sips” and a long time for a large bull elephant to quench his thirst from a small recharging reservoir like this, but the quality of the water makes it worthwhile in the wet season and essential in the dry season.
Of course once the water has been exposed by these magnificent creatures, it becomes available for many other locally resident animals that would otherwise not have been able to obtain water.
I depart again on safari this week. I will try and post again over the next two weeks but please excuse me and keep watching this spot if I don’t manage. My thoughts are with the people (and animals) of Zimbabwe over this period.