The encounter of Elephant Tim & his bachelor friends
Upon arriving at Tortilis safari camp in Amboseli National Park I had no previous knowledge of the infamous elephant bull named Tim. Klaus had repeatedly told me that the reason we came to Ambolseli was for the elephants. I had seen previous images of his visits and also enough documentaries to know that is the place where elephants roam in the green swamps that are filled by Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow melt. Besides the promise of herds of elephants like nowhere else, I was sincerely hoping to see the mountain too.
Camp manager Thorburn Cantermole welcomed us with an incredible kindness at Camp Tortilis. They seemed quite thrilled to have Klaus stay with them. The camp made sure that Klaus’s needs were attended to in every way possible, both in terms of his wildlife photography as well as being a recovering cancer patient. In fact Thorburn was the one to first utter the words “Tim” at our first sit down together. He mentioned that Tim had been around in the eastern side of the park recently and the camp would make every effort to keep us in the loop of his whereabouts. Klaus’s eyes lit up. He knew exactly who Tim is.
Tim is one of the older patriarchal bulls of the greater Amboseli region. His most remarkable feature is that he is one of the last Big-Tuskers. Since the ivory trade first began the biggest and best tusked elephants were all killed. Over time the sight of really big tusks on elephants has become scarce. It’s a combination of a natural process of elephants not developing them for their own protection as well as the continued illegal poaching which continues to this day.
Tim had survived to 52 years and was roaming the area. Klaus had survived to 52 years and was roaming the area too. It started to shape up like a story of destiny. Klaus had wanted to find Tim for an image for his Pride of Africa Fine Art collection for years already. Tim had other plans and eluded to Klaus. This time Klaus would find him and there were no two ways about it.
We settled into camp, got to know our guide Junior and set out for our first safari drive. There is a lot more to this story, but I wouldn’t want to give away too much of the film’s narrative.
Watch “Safari of my Life” to fill in the gaps between here and the next part.
Searching for Elephant Tim
5 days had passed and there had been no sign of Tim. We only had two more days left. We had visited the anti-poaching rangers and other camps to see if they had any news on his whereabouts. Nothing. This morning Kilimanjaro had appeared for the first time out of the clouds. The entire week thus far it was hiding. This was a good feeling. The sun was shining and Kilimanjaro had more snow on it than many of the locals had seen in years. We drove around quietly enjoying the scenery.
Junior parked off near some crested cranes and silently Klaus snapped away as they danced and squawked in the wet grass. I was filming Klaus while he was busy and asked him how it feels to be here. He began talking with a different tone of voice. Something that I hadn’t heard before. It was chilling and heart-warming, all at the same time.
Klaus told of his cancer diagnosis and the operation he had undergone, not but a few months ago. He said that he never thought he’d see this again, and yet here we were. This was the first and likely only moment of our entire trip that was laden with so much emotion; we couldn’t help but cry.
At that moment he didn’t really care about new images for the collection or seeing Tim, he was just happy to be alive.
Finding Elephant Tim
As our tears dried, about 15minutes later, a call came from Thorburn stating that Tim had been sighted.
Junior explained that Tim was far, far away in another conservancy all together, near Kimana. It was already noon, and the drive to Kimana would be at least 2 hours. We only had 1.5 days left, Klaus said let’s go.
The heaviness of the atmosphere flipped and the excitement was mounting. We were off to find Tim. The journey felt like it took forever even though it was by no means boring. Dodging potholes, cattle, villagers, giraffes and all sorts of other obstacles Junior was driving as fast as he could without endangering us or the life we were passing. This was a whole new adventure. Seeing the rural side of Kenya was incredible. I continued to interview Klaus on the way there, but he couldn’t focus on getting words to the camera now. He was mentally preparing for a photoshoot.
In Kimana we met up with a local guide and friend of Junior. He would take us to the place where Tim was seen just a few hours earlier. Apparently Tim was being accompanied by a small herd of bachelor elephants. We arrived at the Kimana conservancy where we needed to ensure we had permission to drive off road. The rangers were walking to and from with permit booklets whilst pointing this way and that. Klaus and I had no idea what was going on. All we knew is that more than half an hour had passed and we were sitting still. Anxiety was rising. This little escapade was also starting to become expensive. The extra guide, the permit and a ranger (that needed to accompany us) all needed to be paid. Paperwork was cleared and we were allowed to enter the conservancy… and drive off road.
The opportunity - a special encounter
Klaus had arranged to leave first thing in the morning to get back to the conservancy. I stayed behind this day to edit the “Amboseli highlights video” which we posted the next day.
Whilst out there again Klaus had to go through the cat and mouse game again. They even managed to get stuck in the mud for more than an hour, but he eventually got his encounter with the herd again.
This time he got exactly what he came for: The opportunity to add to his collection. Although he took quite a few good shots, there were three that absolutely stood above the rest. These three images are now the latest and last additions to Klaus Tiedge’s Pride of Africa Fine Art collection.
As many of you know, Klaus passed away a year and a half after this trip. Not long after this, the news came that Tim the elephant also passed away.
These images will forever mark a moment in my life when two legends crossed paths in their final years of life. This will stay with me forever.
Director of “Safari of my Life”
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