To the natives of Kenya's Northern Frontier, tembo, the elephant, is the feared and respected king of the African bush. To International Sportsman James Van Alen on his first safari to the Dark Continent, tembo meant danger and storybook adventure. On the eighth day of hunting, led by a Somali tracker and a professional guide, Van Alen came across a fresh elephant trail and followed it through the arid countryside. Suddenly his tracker straightened and pointed toward a clump of trees directly ahead. Turning to the white hunter, he whispered in Swahili, "Tembo, bwana, tembo!"
The men stared at the trees, unable to see anything but leaves and branches. Then, so quickly that it seemed to come from nowhere, a dark trunk snaked through the foliage to tear free a basket-size chunk of leaves. Suddenly, there stood a bull elephant, massive and unmoving, his trunk testing the wind.
Cautiously, the group crept closer, sizing up their quarry. "Small," the hunter murmured finally. "Not 50 pounds at best." (Among white hunters, the size of an elephant is measured by the weight of one tusk.) But he added, "You might try for some pictures."
The hunter held his express rifle at ready (left foreground) as he and Van Alen moved hesitantly closer. Then, with fearful speed, the bull wheeled to face them, ears cocked and huge feet shifting nervously in the sandy soil. Scarcely daring to breathe lest he bring about a thundering charge, Van Alen focused his camera. The flat "snick" of the safety on the hunter's rifle sounded in his ear as he framed the elephant in the view finder.
They stood an instant, huntsmen and prey, in a frozen tableau. Then, like a shot exploding in the stillness, the white hunter's voice ripped across the few yards of tangled brush: "Kwenda!" The animal stopped, one foot raised tentatively in the air. Still covered by the white hunter's rifle (above, left), Van Alen kept motionless. Beside him the hunter shouted once more the Swahili command. Taking a chance, Van Alen raised his camera and snapped the elephant's hesitation and, finally, its ponderous flight back into the bush (below).
Silently Van Alen walked with the white hunter to the place where the biggest animal in the African bush had been routed—not by bullets but by a simple Swahili word which might best be translated as "Get lost!"