Last week, with a small trails group of just two guests, we decided to walk in the Luvuvhu floodplains. Littered with nutritious acacia trees and grasses, as well as several large pans, many animals find this area irresistible. It is always a great bet if you want to see some game. This particular day, however, turned out to be busier than we had bargained for!
From the moment we stepped off the game vehicle, animals abounded. A family of warthogs were digging and snuffing around for roots and grasses some 30 metres away. Normally skittish at the sight of humans, we tried to get them off-guard by sitting down. Their poor eyesight meant they couldn’t identify us and suggested we weren’t a threat. They began to tentatively approach to figure us out. Frozen to our spots, we watched spellbound as they inched to just 10 metres from us before, finally, trotting off after the next tasty meal. A great start!
Moving on, we bumped herds of zebra, kudu, impala and even a family of 4 jackals – by any means this was already an amazing walk! But the best was yet to come. Approaching one of the pans, we saw a herd of buffalo ahead. We tried to sneak up to them but these crafty animals have great eyesight and an even better sense of smell. Out in the open, we didn’t stand a chance and they quickly spotted us. We decided to climb a small ridge to watch from above when, suddenly to our left, another herd of buffalo appeared as if from nowhere. They were only 20 metres away and looking right at us. Luckily, there was a fallen tree between us to act as a barrier, so we carried on up the ridge.
At the top, we began sneaking forwards to try to get a better look on the pan below. As back-up, it’s my job to make sure there are no threats ahead or in other directions and luckily I spotted another 3 buffalo before we walked straight into them! We back-tracked down the other side and settled into some long grass, hidden from view just in time for yet another herd of buffalo who were approaching the pan to drink. Watching them slowly move past, bellowing softly to each other as they went and not realising we were mere metres away was a great feeling!
With the sun now getting low, we decided it was time to head back to the vehicle. However, climbing the last ridge to get home, we were treated to a magnificent sight. A herd of 100+ buffalo were grazing quietly in the bush ahead. As beautiful as it was, there was the slight problem that they stood between us and the vehicle! With no other option, we made a plan to walk straight through the middle….
Prepping the guests to not stop, we set off. We passed the first group ok – they came in for a closer look but decided we weren’t a problem. This is often a trick used when walking in the bush – if you keep walking and ignore the animal, they can often decide you must not be interested in them and thus aren’t actually a threat after all. The next guy, however, was an infamous dagga boy. Old, mud-covered buffalo bulls that are permanently grumpy from their aching bones and sore, scar-ridden skin.
As a rule, we never approach dagga boys on foot. Unfortunately we needed to keep going forwards so we crouched down in the grass and hoped that he passed us by without event. Closer and closer he plodded, now heading right for us until, about 30 metres away, he lifted his head as if to sniff the air. Had he got wind of us? His head went back down. Not yet. Walking again, he turned slightly so his course was now away from us. We were in luck! A few more moments waiting and it was finally safe to continue.
Almost dark now, we managed to dodge, bluff and scuttle our way past 2 more groups of buffalo to finally make it safe back to the vehicle. Although we don’t exactly wish for these sort of situations on a walk, it was a thrill nonetheless! Hiding in the grass while these huge animals pass right under your nose brings out some sort of primal connection to nature. Something that as a race we have forgotten or lost long ago. Truly, there is no better way to feel alive than to immerse yourself in nature and take a walk amongst such amazing animals.