Sleeping with a 800 kg buffalo

16th July 2014
© Janet Wilkinson

© Janet Wilkinson

Sunday 13th July 2014

Each morning camp starts with a couple of energiser games to get the heart and the brain going. They’e good fun and it really brings the children out of their shell. After breakfast it was simply a case of helping the children with their projects and reading my book, I’m reading Bruce Bryden’s “A Game ranger remembers”.

There were a couple of highlights of our morning drive, the first was the really big baobab which one of the girls managed to climb. She, Jessica, was really chuffed as were her friends for her. Then the real highlight was when we went paddling in the Limpopo. The area we picked was shallow enough for there not to be any crocs to worry about. The children loved it, I loved it, such a cool thing to do, especially the impromptu long jump competition in the sand.

Once back at camp we had “quiet time” so that the kids could work on their presentations for the afternoon. We knew there were a couple of ele bulls close to camp. As I was laying back on the sofa one of the children got my attention, they were pointing into the bushes. I guessed it was the eles and went over to join them. There was an ele bull about 30 metres away so I simply told the children to sit down and be quiet. We sat there in the sand, a couple more children joined us, then a couple more until all eight were sat with me.

When the elephant came towards us I moved the children to behind the Natal mahogany so they could go into the tent if need be. The ele continued to feed so I got the children out again, we were now sat just 20 metres from the elephant as well as a second that joined him. This was becoming a bit of a show and one of the gogos (grannies) crawled over on all fours to join us. The best thing about the whole encounter was how much the children have changed with their attitude to elephants. When we first encountered them in the vehicle on Friday afternoon some of them were shaking with fear. Now they were sat very relaxed smiling as these six ton bulls were feeding just 20 metres from them.

© Janet Wilkinson

© Janet Wilkinson

After dinner we sat around the fire sharing stories, I told the one that Graham shared with us about when he was walking through the bush at night being followed by a lion. This went down well, I think extra suspense was added by having to tell it through a translator.

Going to bed was a bit tense seen as I had to walk less than 2 metres away from a 800 kg guard buffalo that was sat right outside my tent. Rupert the resident buffalo was not going anywhere.When I first caught him in my torch light it gave me a bit of a fright. As I walked past him his big head followed my movements. Whilst Rupert was at ease there were a couple of buffalo on the other side of the tent who were having a dispute over where they were sleeping so much so they were crashing about the bush sounding more like elephants.

I’d like to think that he wouldn’t jump up and have a go at me, I’d actually like to think that he’d protect me and the others in the camp if a lion or something similar had a go at us, we were part of his herd.

Whilst it was fun to have Rupert there it didn’t make it easy to get off to sleep as he has quite a nasally snore. Still it was better than the throaty snore of an elephant.