Walking is my favourite activity on offer in the bush, I feel that you get a much more personal experience and that the special moments come thick and fast. I recently took a walk that holds out for me as one of the most exciting walks I’ve ever been on in a long while. I think I need to give you a bit of background first. Walks tend to be less big animals and more an opportunity to walk in the bush and get a feeling for the environment on a very personal level. So most guided walks tend to be in slightly more open areas and they concentrate on the smaller aspects of the bush that would escape you in a game viewer, like the tracks, tree’s and flowers. On this particular morning I had quite a large group on the walk with me and I had decided to walk from hippo dam, which is to the west of the lodge and south of the Sand River. Inyati’s position on the river means that pretty much anywhere we walk is very thick. So as a trails guide we use other mechanisms to identify that there are animals around us on the walks. Things we like to identify are tracks and signs, Red-Billed Oxpeckers and any noise that might give away an animal.
On this particular morning I was slowly navigating my way through the drainage line and the confluence of the sand river close to the lodge, when I noticed a single set of buffalo tracks. I then got the guests around me and got them down on their knees as we were going through the steps of trying to identify what it was. While I was pointing out its features I realised just how fresh the track was, aging can be a tricky process but let me assure you when I say that if the track is still crisp on a blustering day then it is fresh. I then rapidly concluded what I was telling the guests and added that the track was very fresh, I pointed out that in the area we were in the buffalo would have the upper hand and so I turned 90 degrees away from the track and was preparing to loop around it. The buffalo had other ideas though and had cut back on itself right into our pathway. So as I was moving down into the Madje Mbhirri drainage line, I noticed about a hundred meters in front of the group, the distinct shape and curve of the dagga boy’s horns whose tracks we had moments before been inspecting. The situation could not have been more perfect for us. There was a giant termite hill that would give us the best view and safest options and so I moved the group onto the mound and got them all seated. The buffalo was exhibiting beautiful behaviour that gives them their reputation for being dangerous; He was lying up on the bank of the river in the shade of a tree. He had no idea we were there watching him. While he gently ruminated in the cool of the shade I explained as much as I could remember on buffalo as the moment had got me excited which tends to cause me to babble a lot. After half an hour we slowly got up and snuck out of the area and around him and continued back towards the lodge.
The excitement wasn’t over though because the pan just west of the lodge always attracts animals and as we came to the edge of the treeline we noticed a big bull elephant wallowing in the mud and spraying himself. He was there for at least 20 minutes and we enjoyed his antics. He made it clear that, that was to be his morning activity and so when I started to hear the guest’s stomach grumbling for a well-earned brunch I got the group moving and we moved down onto the river and walked past the hippos lazing in the water and finally crossed onto the lawns of the lodge.
The reason why I loved this walk so much is that we engaged with these animals and they were unaware of our presence, we viewed them in exactly the manner they would be acting if we weren’t there and so got to see a truth, a perfect moment in those animals behaviour. It is why walking has become my firm favourite thing to do in the bush with guests.