I have just finished driving a family for the last week, and the sightings we had together were fantastic. On the first couple of drives with my last set of guests it felt like we couldn’t turn a corner without coming across something interesting, and on a hot afternoon about halfway through their stay, we decided to head towards a waterhole to just sit and wait to see what would come down to drink.
The result was unbelievable.
The waterhole we intended to go to is just on the edge of the open grassland area of south western Londolozi. On the way there we came across large herds of zebra and wildebeest that all seemed to be congregating around the open grasslands; this seems to be some of the only nutritious food left here towards the end of our dry season.
After viewing these large herbivores, we headed to the intended waterhole and parked under the shade of a Knobthorn tree and waited.
Our first visitor that afternoon was the beautiful Golden-breasted bunting. This common resident took the opportunity to come down and slake his thirst before a large herd of buffalo made an appearance. Just over a nearby rise we saw one lone buffalo that peered towards the water and began to trot towards us to drink on this hot afternoon. Before we knew it we were surrounded by about 300 buffalo drinking and cooling off in the mud; there was a small flock of Yellow-billed oxpeckers around, which always excites me. This bird – generally only associated with large herds of buffalo in this area – is seldom seen here.
The buffalo hung around for about 30 minutes, as most of the herd had started moving off; there were only a few left drinking and wallowing. Just off to our right, a rhino cow and 3-month-old calf began making their in our direction. Rhinos are very water dependent and will often drink in the late afternoon. I was interested to see whether the rhino would be aggressive towards the buffalo as she had her youngster with her. Interestingly the last of the buffalo herd saw this two-ton animal walking towards them and decided to move away and catch up with the rest of the herd.
So here we are, we haven’t moved for over an hour, we’ve had so many incredible experiences in the same place and now were watching a tiny rhino calf trying to perfect the art of drinking water. “How could this get any better,” these were the exact words I was saying to my guests when Tracker Innocent Ngwenya, who I work with, interrupted me when he called out, “There’s a leopard!”. To our amazement the Kaxane Male wandered in and drank right next to the rhino.
He was born to the Kapen female in 2005, and upon independence moved south the lower Sabi Sand.
The rhino cow not happy with his presence chased him slightly further away, but he settled a few meters away from the two rhinos and continued drinking for the next 10 minutes.
As the leopard finished with his drink, we watched as he moved to a nearby termite mound where I’m sure he spent the night. We all looked back at the watering hole and for the first time in an hour and a half there were no animals around it.
Quite often we get into the habit of thinking that covering ground will lead us to finding more animals, but the longer I do this job I’m starting to learn the opposite. It seems that in our haste it is all too easy to miss exactly what we are looking for, and by just sitting in presence, what we seek will sometimes find us.
Can you relate to this experience? When in your own life have you rushed around without success, and only when you have paused have you realised how much more effective a simple slowing down can be?