• Cleo Bolt

Africa - Kwazulu Natal

Updated: May 21, 2020

Zimanga Private Game Reserve

May 2019

Day 3

As I lie in my bed, I knew that it would be 40 hours before I would return to this soft, warm, oh so comfortable space .....and I wondered what adventures those hours held in store for me....

... so began Day 3 ....Coffee and oat cookies consumed, I climbed into the jeep and once again, as a group, we wove our way through the still dark landscape of pre dawn, stopping frequently to catch a glimpse of nocturnal creatures scurrying into the trees, trees which increasingly pressed around us as we drew closer to the hide.

Imagine a lake, still, dark and deep, reflecting on it's surface the merest hint of coming daylight. In the middle of the lake sits a hide, barely visible to the naked eye, it is here that I was to spend my next three hours. This is the Lagoon hide.

Inside the hide, long windows on either side give way to two very different landscapes. To one side, the lagoon, then the dam and then the ever present distant mountains. To the other side, the lagoon and then lush grass vegetation and trees. It is from this window that I took the photograph of the little Vervet monkey above. He was visible for only a fraction of a second, playing hide and seek with his mate amongst the long grasses. One blink and I would have missed him.

The Lagoon is visited by myriad birds and at least a couple of crocodiles and reminded me very much of one of those cylinder kaleidoscopes that I had as a child when I looked inside it and the world therein was full of ever changing colour and shape and reflection.

I've always been drawn to water and so to be surrounded like this, was for me, remarkably peaceful. I sat, watched and enjoyed the constant toing and froing of birdlife. I found it very easy to become submerged in this world, invisible amongst the native beings and I found that time slipped by imperceptibly so that I was quite surprised when Calvin arrived and three hours had passed.

The journey home was via one of the other hides to pick up a group that had overnighted there (as I was to do later that day).

The three of us waited in the jeep whilst the overnight group gathered up their equipment from the hide. A sound must have caught my attention and I looked to the trees to my left, what I saw were hazy elephant shaped shadows and I doubted my eyes, but onwards the shadows came, their outlines becoming clearer and clearer until out of the trees they came and right in front of me was the magnificent site of a herd of elephants; several adults of all ages, male and female and two juvenilles.

I've always loved elephants. Everything about the way they live, their strong protective instincts, their tenderness towards their young, their family structure, everything. For me, they are wonderful, sentient beings and have one of the most remarkable social structures anywhere in the animal kingdom.

I had tried to image how I would feel so close to elephants in the wild, to look into the eye of an elephant mere feet away from me but nothing I had anticipated could have prepared me for what I felt. There is a mighty wisdom to their presence, they engender wonder and respect, they are magnificent.

I did not know it at the time, but this was to be my only close encounter with elephants on this trip, but it was an encounter that will live on in my memory. I did see them one more time at a great distance at the other side of the Dam, where they were frolicking in the water and I smiled for their obvious joy.

Back at the Homestead, breakfast was served and consumed and conversation amongst out group was easy and convivial.

The hours after breakfast and before lunch became precious to me, I generally sat in the sunshine and looked to the landscape and contemplated the wonders contained within it.

Today as lunchtime drew near and with a growing sense of anticipation, I gathered together my clothing and cameras and a bottle of wine! basically all that I needed to serve me for my overnight adventure.

And so it was that after lunch and a short drive, we arrived at Tamboti Hide at just before 2 pm. The hide is amazing, it has camp beds and kitchen and bathroom facilities. This was hardly "roughing it"! ....

The window of the hide opens directly onto a waterhole and affords an incredible "birds eye" view. It astounded me that we were hidden and yet so close to the front edge of the water that I believed I could have reached out and touched the animals.

We three settled anticipating a wait before seeing any creatures, but just 8 minutes after our arrival an internal buzzer announced movement outside and surely enough, this beautiful, graceful, doe eyed Kudu appeared and was photobombed by an Oxpecker! I had never seen a Kudu before my trip to Africa and I was captivated by them. What a joy to see one at such close quarters, especially along with the almost ever present Oxpeckers. I have always found the symbiotic relationships of different species absolutely fascinating.

I was sad to see the Kudu depart but was equally happy to have seen her and to have been in the presence of such beauty. It wasn't long, however before the internal alarms were ringing out, announcing yet more activity. I looked to my right and there I saw the approach of several, beautiful, graceful female Nyala.

I photographed, I sat, I watched, I enjoyed. I had come to learn that animals would not stay long and that knowledge brought my observational powers into sharp focus. I found myself looking at the minutiae, the twist of a horn and it's beautiful surface; the flicker of an ear; the formation of the feet; the watchful eye and the indecent length of some of those eyelashes!!! I noticed things that may have otherwise passed me by.

The Nyala became a little bit jittery, noses in the air, looking to the unseen off to my left. They departed as one without emergency but with purpose..... to be replaced by ....

.... Warthog families .... I'd grown to love watching Warthog's at the Homestead and here again, they simply made me smile.

The last of the Warthog left us at just turned 4 o'clock and daylight quickly surrendered to dusk and darkness fell.

And after they'd gone and after all of the activity, I needed a mug of tea!

At just turned ten past six, we were alerted to a presence outside and there at the water's edge, we saw the noble, towering figure of this magnificent Cape Water Buffalo.

He had a bloody, gaping wound between his eyes and one of his ears had the margins torn away and there were more open wounds at his neck. During the almost 15 minutes that he was at the water's edge, I put my camera down and observed him and I thought he looked weary to his very soul.

I felt a sadness descend upon me...

The Water Buffalo was the last being I saw that night and as the midnight hour clicked over into Day 4, I could never, ever in my wildest dreams have dreamed what dawn would bring ....

All photographs are mine © Cleo Bolt Photography. Follow me on facebook at Cleo Bolt Photography and on Instagram at lovemycamera1.

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