Hi Folks! This is another segment in my first-safari experiences I thought I’d share with you. As you know, I’m a non-hunter following African hunting safaris, in which, I foiled the first buffalo sighting for the hunter, Tim, in my article “This Ain’t Indiana.” If you missed it, I’d be honored for you to read it. This is the continuation of the story from that article.
So, what I’ve learned from that experience and those thereafter, cape buffalo are highly adept at sensing any danger. I never realized how sensitive they are to any sound, movement, or smell. So, to get on with the story, we continued on looking for the huge herd. The day that followed got very long. As the buffalo sense you, they will run . . . fast . . . . for long distances! In which, if you should want to follow them, you’d better be prepared to walk . . .and walk . . and walk. And, once you get close to them, you must approach very slowly and quietly. All this walking, and some cute new hiking shoes, caused some serious blisters on my feet. I was exhausted, sweaty, and in so much pain, but I kept up like a champ; however, I did not pass on an opportunity to take a load off!
We bumped the buffalo several times, and at last, we got the opportunity for a shot. We were on a comfortable flat spot, about 100 ft. in diameter, where a narrow mountain ridge path emptied out to our left. Straight ahead was the herd! There they were just swishing their tails and grazing; we had an opportunity. Doug, the PH, selected a strategic position and chose to set up the shooting sticks just “ahead” of the path. I selected a position to sit my butt down which was in front of the path to watch Tim. Doug had the hunter, Tim, gently lay his rifle on the tri-pod of hand-hewn sticks that was lashed together with leather strapping, to sight-in a chosen buffalo trophy. Tim was aiming oh so carefully to get off a perfect shot, getting just the right grip, settling down, deep breath. . . then . . . an urgent distraction!?
Something VERY big was tumbling large rocks down the Cliffside on the ridge. To what was their immediate left, say 8 o’clock (and straight ahead from my position), not 40 feet away, some tall thin treetops began to shake from the ridge-path. We couldn’t see what was causing it because there was a hillside preventing us from seeing around this ridge. The shaking seemed to jump from tree to tree as it continued getting closer and closer, not to mention more violent as it approached us! We were all watching wide-eyed, waiting for Godzilla to pop-out, just when . . . a rather large, surprised cape buffalo appeared. I’m not sure who had the biggest “What the f**k” look on their faces, us or her!! But what was really frightening is just behind her, a calf appeared! OMG, a female buffalo with a baby in-tow. I knew to stay still, sit down, and don’t run, especially in such a dangerous situation as this!
It was a standoff. She started huffing loudly, and hammering her right-front hoof into ground scraping it with such force dust and rocks were sent flying. A repetition of huffing and threats. She charged a few feet, stopped abruptly, then backed off. Then again, then backed off. This was one angry off momma protecting her baby. The gun was useless – she was too close, and it was pointing in the other direction, besides, we didn’t want to harm her. Just then, the highly trained, and highly skilled PH did a little “dance” with her. He raised the sticks, then looked at the ground, letting her know he was standing his ground but not a threat to her (he hoped). They both seemed to be “communicating” in physical motions.
I was looking at her straight on, not 20 feet away – sitting on the ground, scared to death, paralyzed. She didn’t notice me because her eyes were on Doug. I knew I was toast if she decided to run over me. At least I had a little comfort knowing the trackers were behind me, surely they’d rescue me if something happened. After some time had passed, she backed up, gathered her baby, and headed back the way she came. The herd ran away, and we left alone, stunned, and just happy to still be alive and unhurt.
That night we were back at camp talking about what had happened. As we were retelling the story, even as an observer, I contributed how I felt. But then I quickly realized my false-comfort when the videographer said, “Yeah, I never saw those trackers run so fast over the hillside as soon as they saw that buffalo!” Thanks Heroes lol!
Once again, I definitely know and understand what it is to become face-to-face with dangerous game. There is nothing in this world that makes you value life, than being faced with the fear of losing it. And, on a side note, I also understand the value of breaking in my shoes well before I go on safari! If you like this story, check out another of my first-time safari experiences, “The Ridge.” And if you’re ready to “Step up your game,” give us a shout!