Day 291: Buffalo Bonanza

Fri. 31st May 2013

Great view at breakfastWhat a way to start the day to wake up to the beautiful sight of the red and orange sky at dawn through the uncurtained windows of our room and have coffee delivered to our door, I can overlook the fact it is 6am. This is followed by breakfast on the verandah of the main building overlooking the waterhole. I am so glad we decided to come here to The Hide Safari Lodge. The talk is of the lions roaring all night again and we head off after breakfast in search of them.

Buffalo getting closeAgain we are the only passengers on the safari vehicle, with rugs around our legs to keep warm as it is around 6° C and cold out in the open air as we drive along. Daffy, our guide spots hyena and lion tracks on the dirt drive and off we go in pursuit. There are a few impala stirring but otherwise all is quiet. The lion tracks leave the road heading right but a short while later the tracks cross the road heading left along with many buffalo prints. We follow on an old track partly overgrown heading for a dried up waterhole feeling like proper trackers on the hunt for our quarry.

Watching usAs the waterhole comes into view we see the lions that we have been tracking – about a dozen of them, perhaps more. They spot us quickly though and run off back into the bus and so we only got the very briefest glimpse of them. While we wait for another group on a second safari truck we hear the lions roaring on the other side of the waterhole. Once the second vehicle arrives it is too late to pursue the lions on foot so we head off after the buffalo, which the lion were chasing. We see two female kudus and a baby and stop for a while in case the lions decide to change their prey but to no avail, no sign of the lions.

Coffee time in the dry waterholeAs it is almost coffee time (yes the lodge have thought of everything!) we overtake the buffalo and stop at a second dried up waterhole where Daffy parks almost smack in the middle to wait for the buffalo to catch us up. I am a bit nervous as to how close they will come. After our coffee we wait for about half an hour until we see the first of the herd appear from the bushes. First one buffalo, then another and then more and more. They quietly graze and are not worried about us as we snap away, not thinking about just how many photos we are taking.

Advancing buffaloAs we arrived first, the buffalo are not scared of us. For at least half an hour we sit in silence just watching the buffalo pass by quite unconcerned about us. Occasionally one will stop and stare but then soon move on. A couple have ear tags and satellite collars, which apparently is part of a study being carried out by a Frenchman. We estimate there must have been around one thousand buffalo. By this time the lions have given up the chase and will have found a shady spot hidden in the trees to rest until dusk.A few of the thousand in the herd

Escorted to the hide with drinksThe journey back to camp was incident free but we will savour the sight of so many buffalo for quite some time. Afternoons are a relaxing affair and we sit on our verandah blogging (almost up to date) and watching the little hornbills in the trees by us and a lone elephant slowly make its way up to the waterhole. Our late afternoon activity today is to spend almost two hours in the smaller of the two hides located around the waterhole to hopefully watch the animals drinking close up.

Bring on the gameWe took books to read in case, and needed them. We saw four buffalo, two monitor lizards, an impala and a waterbuck. We heard a number of the other (human) guests chatting and laughing which was quite frustrating, but I do not think it was their fault we saw so few animals. Just as we were leaving the hide there were a few elephants in the distance heading to the waterhole. About an hour later there were more than a dozen elephants including young ones all drinking at the waterhole right next to the hide – shame they did not come earlier but you cannot predict their behaviour.

View from the hideOn the basis we want to try everything on offer at The Hide we have signed up to sleep in the Doves Nest tonight. This is a big tree house about fifteen minutes drive from the lodge with no electricity, staff and certainly no internet! The bathroom is on the ground floor, an open air viewing platform is up one flight of steps and the bedroom is right at the top. We were dropped off there after dinner, with a radio in case we needed to contact anyone and given instructions not to wander outside the tree house. We sat for a while looking out into the night trying to see if there was any wildlife under the stars in the open expanse of grassland but saw nothing. We heard elephants in the distance and thought we heard a lion roar but nothing came into view. We also watched the lights and spotlight of the safari vehicle weave its way around the track looking for nocturnal creatures as it headed back to camp.

Doves Nest hidden in a treeIt was quite surreal knowing we were the only people for miles around. We snuggled up in the double bed sadly no hot water bottles tonight and were part dressed in case we heard animals closer and wanted to go out and see. Once asleep the next thing we heard, just as the sun was coming up, was a train parked in the siding close by waiting to pass another train heading the other way, on the single track. This spoilt the effect a bit, no wildlife but a great night’s sleep.


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