Sea of Horns

During our visit to the Kruger in 2017, one of the day trips we made from Olifants Camp entailed driving out towards Phalaborwa Gate, spending an hour or two at the Sable Dam bird hide, and then returning to camp. I personally prefer visiting Sable Dam well before midday, as the sun is behind you when looking out over the dam from the hide.

Sable Dam was very quiet when we got there, and while we spent about an hour in the hide we did not see very much. We decided to drive back to the main tarred road following the tracks through the Mopane thickets along the dam’s shoreline.

At one of the vantage points overlooking the shoreline, we disturbed a large flock of cattle egrets at the water’s edge. We took a few shots of them as they took off to go settle on the other side of the narrow inlet. We decided to wait there for a while hoping to get more shots of these wonderfully elegant birds in flight, but it was apparently their siesta time.

We saw that there was quite a large dust cloud developing over the dense Mopane bushveld behind the egrets, and soon realised why when an advance party of around 20 huge buffaloes emerged from the trees and lumbered down to the water to wallow in its cool wetness.

The dust cloud was progressively getting closer and we started hearing the bellowing of many more thirsty buffaloes underway. As we became aware of the herd’s smell, a steady stream of these huge behemoths suddenly emerged from the trees to join their colleagues already in the water.

After a while, there were well over five hundred buffaloes milling about, taking turns drinking their fill. It was almost as if a huge conveyor belt was steadily disgorging thirsty buffaloes at the waters edge to replace the sated animals that moved off to rest on the slopes of the dam. There was much pushing and shoving going on, but it seemed pretty well organized and every buffalo got a turn to drink.

Once the drinking orgy was over, while one or two pairs of bulls sparred half-heartedly with each other in the shallows, the majority of the beasts lay down closely together to form a sea of horns spreading from the shoreline back into the Mopane thickets.

After a short rest, the leading buffaloes got up and slowly starting walking back into the bush they had emerged from half an hour earlier. The others followed suit, and 15 minutes later it was all over.

We had sufficient time for a leisurely drive back to camp, including a stopover at Letaba Camp to enjoy an ice cream while taking in the wonderful panoramic view over the river bed spread out in front of the restaurant patio.

Just another perfect day in Africa

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