On our last full day in camp, Judith and I were resting in the lounge after lunch. I looked out at Hwange National Park and noticed a jet black line in the distance. I wasn’t sure what it was and asked Emmanuel, one of the Makalolo Plains team.
“Buffalo,” he said, not missing a beat.
Along with the lion, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros, the African or cape buffalo is one of the so-called Big Five animals. This was the first and only time we would see them.
When Godfrey arrived, I pointed in the distance. Rubbing his hands together, he announced excitedly, “Buffalo! Wherever there’s buffalo, there will be elephants and zebras, and one or two lions hiding in the grass. Let’s go quickly so we can see them!”
It was the fastest I’d seen Godfrey drive — you’d think we were in a race. But we didn’t have far to go. Until that moment, I didn’t realize that a watering hole was so close to camp. Once we reached where the buffalo had congregated, Godfrey stopped.
There were no elephants at that point but there seemed to be hundreds of buffalo – males, females and their young – everywhere. Some were at the watering hole, some were sitting patiently, others standing as if waiting for a party to start.
I wondered why so many of them were there and why they had chosen that particular place to meet.
Godfrey moved closer so we could take photos. The buffalo appeared quite docile, it was hard to believe that they could be dangerous. They were beautiful but not cuddly. Their intricately carved horns curled over like handlebar mustache, their coats dusty black.
We sat for a while, taking photos when Sandra spotted a herd of elephants coming towards us. As soon as saw them, we counted two or three more arriving. They were all headed in the same direction – towards the watering hole – as if they were going to a convention. The one thing that surprised us is how quiet they are, especially when you consider their size and the number of them, their footsteps made no sound. Fully-grown, an elephant can weigh 3-5 tonnes!
The buffalo that were in the watering hole moved to make way for the elephants but they didn’t go far. It was beautiful to see buffalo and elephant mixing freely. A few zebras grazed quietly nearby. We didn’t see lions but Godfrey said one or two would definitely be there in the grass.
I wanted to stay for what I was sure was going to be a lively party but we wanted to get to Mbisa before sunset. At breakfast that morning, Tracey and Cynthia had talked glowingly about Mbisa, a place in the park that Tracey had said was her favorite. Now we were on our way there.
Mbisa was quite a distance from camp and along the way, we ran into several animals – elephants, wildebeests and zebras.
As we left the watering hole, the vegetation began to change from dry brush to desert sand complete with palm trees that seem to reach the sky; the terrain so flat, I felt I could see as far as the skyline, where I imagined a beach would be.
Even though I knew there wouldn’t one, I was disappointed when we got to Mbisa and all I saw was a watering hole. However, this sunset and the lone bull elephant made up for what I missed.
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