The vultures crowded like excited spectators into the baobab tree. The boldest hopped down and inched towards the buffalo. But a lioness saw them and mock-charged to force them back. She took her turn, then, to tear a piece from the carcass while the male, full for now, reclined in the sun. Another lioness kept watch on the vultures.
“Is the buffalo dead?” asked Nahid to everyone’s astonishment.
“Nah,” said Lisa, “just resting”.
We had turned north from Bulawayo and driven the 200 miles or so to Hwange National Park. It used to be called Wankie Game Reserve, until they found out why visitors were sniggering. It is best known for its elephants. There are something like 40,000 there, in a park the size of Belgium. A small herd bathed in the river, while two young males wrestled on the bank, trunks entwined, tusks locked, stirring up clouds of dust as they struggled for grip.
Always, on safari, the drivers stop and chat sotto voce about the game they saw further down the track. The word “shumba,” – Shona for lion – had sent us hurrying to see the lions tackling the buffalo carcass. So I thought nothing of it when the other jeep stopped, but I was puzzled why the passengers sat grinning in silence. Something was off. Then they bombarded us with elephant shit and drove away laughing.
That evening, after a few drinks – and after cleaning off the elephant shit – we set off in the jeep again with torches. Bush babies leaped between branches, and an elephant padded stealthily across the road. We called in at a smart safari lodge, got more drinks and sat at the waterhole watching zebra and gazelle.
Then, in the morning, we continued north.
© Richard Senior 2015