African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo set out on an epic journey with their herd, traveling hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi River. Led by their great matriarch, Gaia, the family faces brutal heat, dwindling resources and persistent predators, as they follow in the footsteps of their ancestors on a quest to reach paradise.
African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo set out on an epic journey with their herd, traveling hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert, from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi River, just as countless generations of their ancestors have done before. Shani and her family are among the last elephants on earth to make these lengthy migrations. She’s mother to wide-eyed, one-year-old Jomo, who has yet to experience a migration, and at 40 years old, she is next in line as herd matriarch, a position currently held by her older sister Gaia. Gaia’s herd is among countless species — from hippopotamus to lechwe to baboons — that rely upon the life-giving water that flows from the mountains and transforms the heart of the desert into a green oasis known as the Okavango delta. But the season’s end is near and soon there will be a mass exodus. Nothing on Earth is more precious to life than water. And perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the Kalahari desert in southern Africa, one of the driest places on the planet. The water is receding and paradise will soon turn to dust as the delta becomes a series of vanishing pools. Gaia instinctively knows she must lead the herd directly into the baking Kalahari desert, before the remaining water holes dry up. The herd’s success will depend on her experience and wisdom, which has been handed down over many generations. Just as the saying “an elephant never forgets” implies, these massive mammals have a deep connection to their past. Gaia will take her family down ancient elephant paths, networks of lines and circles — the circles being water holes the family will desperately need to cross the vast desert. Along the way, they’ll seek nourishment from sources such as moisture-rich mopane leaves and baobab tree trunks filled with rainwater. As they near their destination, the herd must cross the mighty Zambezi River to reach the safe haven for which they’ve been searching. They must enter the shallows, where crocodiles prey upon elephant calves like Jomo, and fight a ferocious current that could draw them into the world’s greatest waterfall, Victoria Falls. Fortunately, the herd has the strength and stamina to succeed and can rest while enjoying unlimited water and all the palm nuts they can shake from the trees. But within a few short months, food is scarce and the water begins its voyage back to the Okavango delta. The family must traverse the wilds of Africa, yet again. The march back to the delta will be no easy task, as the Angolan flood waters are early this year and the herd will need to make quick time. However, the emotional bonds between elephants are as strong as those between humans and the strength of family has gotten them this far. Together, Gaia, Shani, Jomo and family dare to take the shortest route … through lion country.