The temperature was very high, above 40 degrees Celsius, and so I decided that afternoon to sit and wait quietly in the shade with my guests at Lojaan Dam. Lojaan is one of my favourite places on the property. The scenery is amazing, and this area with its hills, drainage lines and thick bush is the right habitat for buffaloes and black rhino.
Buffaloes are unselective grazers and are dependent on water, drinking at least once a day, if not twice. Black rhinos are browsers, not grass-eating grazers, and being shy and nervous they prefer dense areas with lots of protective cover. They drink large volumes at a time, preferably daily, but can go a day or two without water if need be.
Some buffalo bulls arrived first to drink and dip themselves in the water to cool their body temperature. The temperature was still high at 4pm, so we were astonished to see a black rhino arrive. Normally they wait for the safety of dusk to emerge and drink. The heat, the remoteness and quietness of this area must have drawn the bull out, and it was soon followed by another.
Our first black rhino bull arrived from the east. It did not look around or check the surroundings, but instead made a bee-line straight for the water and started drinking. The second bull came from the north, and I thought we were going to witness a fight, but the first bull lifted its head and looked at the arriving rhino and continued drinking. The second bull joined in but drank a distance apart. Sometimes they will fight, and we have witnessed some formidable and terrifying territorial and dominance fights, and often the victim will rush
into the water and use it as a refuge when being attacked.
Thankfully all was peaceful on this remarkable afternoon. The rhinos drank, the buffaloes waded about and grazed on the banks, herons fished, guinea fowl scratched around and the oxpeckers did what they always do – peck! After drinking everyone went their different ways, including us back to the lodge to enjoy a delicious dinner and reflect on the wonders of nature.
It is always a pleasure to visit Hwata hide, especially during the late afternoon as a number of wildlife species trickle in for a drink. On this very day we were fortunate enough to be rewarded as we had sat in the hide for close to an hour without any signs of wildlife coming in, due to the availability of water at the natural pans; but then we saw a dominant elephant bull arrive.
This was without a shadow of a doubt, one of my best wildlife experiences ever, and I’m going to share it with you from my own perspective, as I was all alone. I’d headed out to my favourite refuge on the reserve, Lojaan Dam. It’s a dam at the foot of a sandstone outcrop, and it holds an enchantment all its own. There’s a dam wall and the water in front of it had receded leaving a patchwork of dry cracked mud. I parked the vehicle behind a rocky area, took my heavy fixed 400 mm lens and camera, and a weighty sandbag, and climbed over the rocks and on to the dam wall.
It was the usual morning routine of not knowing what we are going to see out there, but the moment you board those beautiful open vehicles your heart is full of joy in knowing that you are going to meet Mother Nature at close quarters. After an early morning cup of Zimbabwe’s finest coffee your eyes are wide open and looking through thick bushes for any movements, especially those of the illusive spotted cats. We went through Banyini open plains and there was lots of plains game, a crash of white rhinos and plentiful birdlife.
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!