Africa Vignette Series


At the end of the month we’re heading to the Maasai Mara for the annual wildebeest migration. Between now and then, here is a blizzard of little African vignettes. They are just short little bits, not in any particular order, not particularly edited. Maybe they’ll entice you to visit too one day. Hope you enjoy them. All the photos in this series are from

16 Botswana

Elephants self-medicate in at least a couple of ways. Pregnant mothers chew the leaves of a particular tree to induce labour. Humans have experience with elephants’ other method of self-medication, and O.P. and B. have a set piece to illustrate it. They discuss the things we learn from animals: How to spot predators from watching the herds, flight from watching birds … and alcoholism from watching elephants.

There’s this one particular tree, see, called the murula, that they take us to see. Elephants eat the little green fruit that falls from the trees’ wide crowns and if they happen upon naturally-fermented ones, they get tipsy.

This is the legend, at any rate. Some say that elephants are so big they would need to eat massive amounts of the fruit. Others counter that the fruit ferments in elephants’ stomachs, so the dozens an elephant might eat could prove sufficient for a nice buzz. You can find photos on the internet that purport to show drunken elephants, and some are pretty funny.

In O.P. and B.’s telling of the murula legend, Man The Observer has seen what happens to elephants and squeezed the juice of the fruit, added sugar, and produced bottles of Amarula Cream. It is de rigeur as an apertif around the proper Botswanan campfire.

This entire series of vignettes will reside here, in the Africa section. If you enjoy them please have a look at my two travel books, Common Sense and Whiskey and Visiting Chernobyl.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s