“Buffalo, I just want to see a buffalo”. Out of the big 5 this was the only one Anjou hadn’t seen. He came on a drive with me because he couldn’t face going on back home and not having seen the big mean black cow.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, please no cats. I’m tired of them”
“Ok then, buffalo it is”
The reality of every lodge worker is that, unless you’re a guide or a tracker, your exposure to wildlife is quite limited. Because of this (and because of mental sanity) it’s normally common practice for guides to take people on a drive whenever we have an afternoon off. Everyone needs a little reminder of what the place we live in is so special and unique and the best way to remember that is to live it.
The irony of it all is, every place where I have chosen to work, seems like cats are easier to find than the mighty Cape Buffalo – no big herds wherever I work, just the smaller group of the so called Dagga (muddy) boys.
The first thing we saw…. was not a buffalo. It was a dung beetle. A tiny little black insect rolling a big ball of crap. I got so excited and hyper about it and went on and on… and on, that eventually he had no other option but consider them nice enough to view (they’re cool, can we go now?). With little expectations of finding a buffalo, but a lot of hope we carried on looking for them. A waterhole was a good option, it was hot – a good chance for them to be in the water; of course they were not. But while we looked we found many more things, elephants all around us, hippos singing in the water, nyala posing in the golden light. Our hearts were happy and right that second, when everyone had been quiet for a little while, and while I was enjoying a moment of gratitude for all the beauty around us.. they there were! Three big bulls enjoying the mud. Anjou almost fell out. He was so happy, so ecstatic.
“Now I can go home, I have seen them all”.
I didn’t think we would see them. I said to him there was little hope. I think I played little in the part of finding him, but I think this was a gift for him from the Universe. To me the gift was that one split second, that moment when you see something through someone else’s eyes for the first time. It’s a unique moment, an addiction that I wish I could explain. Like everything in Africa it’s only a feeling and it lasts only a moment, but it’s powerful.
We clearly didn’t go home because there was still light and still a while to go. So we carried on. It was a quiet day, not too many animals out and about so we decided to stop and enjoy the sunset. While we did, the Universe had a surprise for me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. My brain didn’t register and I turned around. I saw him again. Refused to believe it. Got the binoculars out.
“OH MY GOD.
Guys look, now
I need to a take photo otherwise they won’t believe me!”
“What is it Ale?”
“It’s a rhino, a black rhino”.
Hand are shaking, eyes got teary. A black rhino. A wild black rhino for the first time in two years. I’m still thanking all the Gods, the old and the new, for this. He was the first one spotted on the reserve in the last 25 years.
“Now you have seen them all, now you can go home”
Sometimes, the best moments in life are those fleeting secrets, the unexpected ones. The ones that your friends appreciate because of your emotions. The ones that remind you what it’s all about.