A BOUNTY OF BUFFALO

The pedant in me questioned the word ‘buffaloes’ with which I ended my last post. As usual the net came to the rescue – here is wiki-answers’ take on it. The pedant bowed to the poet and ‘buffalo’ prevailed… Smile

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So… Our fourth and last game drive; we leave camp before sunrise on Sunday. It is beautiful. And in the open vehicle, despite the very low speeds, it is downright icy.

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We drive for quite a while and see little that is particularly exciting, but the bushveld is beautiful in the early light, and we all enjoy that.

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From conversations on the radio and on meeting another vehicle I gather, from where I am sitting in the back row, that we are planning to meet up with a very large herd of buffalo making their way to the water.

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Eventually we come upon a few buffalo. To me the bushveld as a whole is still the more interesting to look at…

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Gradually we realise how many there are around us – and, when quietly grazing, how much like cattle they behave and sound.

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As we quietly watch their slow movement, someone comments on how it seems they all have different personalities – some placid, some grumpy, some dowdy and some grand. But make no mistake: a buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals of the African bush, especially a lone old bull – for they look and act as though they have a hangover and would like to blame life for it…

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We move on, towards the water where they are obviously heading, and on the way stop for the umpteenth time to admire the grace and beauty of the most common of all the bushveld animals – the impala.

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We drive to the dam towards which the buffalo are heading and stop for coffee and rusks. There is a nifty fold-out table around which we gather before moving off, steaming mug in hand, to admire the view. At night we have drinks served from this table as we watch night descend on the bush. The tracker’s seat is beyond the table, now with its backrest down; it is possible for him to look right down at the tracks beneath him. In the dead tree beyond there are communal weaver nests.

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Another view of the game-drive vehicle with its four rows of seats, each higher than the one in front of it. These vehicles have come a long way  since the first ones I saw – Land-Rovers way past their sell-by date with the coachwork chopped off and rickety grandstands attached any old how… They are now delivered off the shelf, having been adapted from brand-new bakkies (trucks/utes) by  specialist coachbuilders. But lets move on to the opposite side of the dam, because from the many oxpeckers in the air – the birds that follow the buffalo and clean them of ticks and other parasites – it is clear that the buffalo are approaching the water.

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You’d be forgiven if you can’t see the leading buffalo in this picture,  but the three resident hippos have all surfaced and their ears and eyes are trained on the approaching rumble.  Unthreatening as the experience might be, in nature being observant is everything…

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Then the first ones arrive. I was looking to see: would it be a matriarch? A dominant bull? But it seemed to be a gentle rolling over, a speeding up as the water was reached, pockets of activity as youngsters gambolled, planless and shapeless as the great plan of nature so often appears to be…

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And still they keep coming, spreading out along the water, sudden rolls  of activity in the grass beyond, but mostly just a steady movement.

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Although the water does seem to induce a rather unsubtle friskiness in the bulls, which the cows strangely don’t seem to appreciate and which the humans, equally strangely, find fascinating…

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And still they stream towards the water, more and more…

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…and the humans count and quantify amongst themselves: “There must be a thousand!” “No, surely not that many?” “Count a section and extrapolate…”

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For, unlike the buffalo at the water, we seem to battle to quietly, contentedly, observantly, just to BE.

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6 thoughts on “A BOUNTY OF BUFFALO

  1. Another exciting and very interesting post, Jack! You are so very lucky to still have large wild herds of buffalo to enjoy; of course, here in N. America, our buffalo (bison) herds have largely disappeared and the few we have in parks are no substitute for the millions that used to thunder by for hours in the prairies. Now, they are all in small herds in parks or farms(!) where they are raised for meat. there is one such farm a few kilometres from where I live – on Vancouver Island , which never has had any wild animal larger than an elk – quite a come-down for the once majestic King of the Prairies!

    • We have a disease called anthrax, Gordon, which, to pun horribly on modern jargon, ‘goes viral’ every 50-odd years and decimates the buffalo. This happened I guess about 20 years ago and it is the first time I have seen quite this many since the late 80s…

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