Published in the Toronto Star
MASHATU RESERVE, BOTSWANA—It’s growing dark and you’re lost in the African bush with a Land Cruiser full of nervous guests. The nocturnal predator shift is starting. What do you do?
If you’re Alden Trollip, you must not panic or you risk failing your mid-term exam. Just moments earlier, the 20-year-old from Johannesburg was tracking a black-backed jackal and confidently fielding questions from fellow students playing the part of safari clients.
But his practice game drive in eastern Botswana’s Mashatu Reserve, 33,000 hectares of pristine wilderness bordering South Africa and Zimbabwe, has gone seriously off course.
Desperately scanning the dusty terrain with a hand-held spotlight for the faint tire tracks that lead back to base camp, Trollip inadvertently drives us into the middle of a herd of grazing elephants that materialize in the dusk like a thicket of giants. One adult female trumpets her extreme displeasure as we inadvertently come between her and her panicky offspring.