You know you’re in Africa when the closest thing to a traffic jam is being stuck bumper to bumper with a herd of water buffalo. And this is exactly where we found ourselves on one of our early morning game drives. No sooner had we driven 15mins into the reserve than we found ourselves stopped short by a group of eighty water buffalo milling around with no apparent purpose or direction. Some had wandered onto the road and stood there in complete boredom, while others lay in the grass, occasionally swatting the birds that had set up camp on their backs. Many of them were preening themselves by licking the inside of their nostrils (a difficult task made easy by their long pink tongues) or the birds were doing it for them by pecking the sleep from their eyes. Whatever they were doing, they weren’t doing it in a hurry that’s for sure. So we watched and waited. And waited. No road rage from us volunteers though, no – it was a perfect opportunity to take lots of photos!
When we finally did make some headway, we did a beeline to the nearest watering hole, eager to see who else was up and active at that time of the morning. By a sheer stroke of luck, we found not one, but three different species of animals all sipping water from the same hole. A tower of giraffes stood at one end, a dazzle of zebras had the other side secured and a few shy wildebeest stood coyly in the middle. Our guide Letishia killed the motor and we sat in complete stillness while watching them quench their thirst. While witnessing this rare display of animal unity, she enlightened us on a few interesting facts.
For instance, giraffes don’t have a voice box. They communicate by emitting vibrations into the Earth. Incidentally zebras can also pick up these vibrations and they choose to hang around giraffes so that they can tap into their danger signals. Who would have thought eh? More interesting than this however, is that giraffes will only drink water if they absolutely have to. They can go for days without topping up their water reserve and will only do so if they’re running on empty. To truly understand why, you need to see a giraffe drinking as this is an experience in itself! They will walk up the very edge of the water, widen their front legs into a banana split (which can be hilarious to watch if the ground is slippery) then bend each of the their front knees so that they can slowly lower their heads and chest to the water. You see, the distance between their heads and the water is so great that they need to perform this tricky maneuver just to maintain balance. As you can imagine, this compromising position can make them a very easy target if ‘discovered’ by a predator – which is why they’d rather go thirsty.
Makes turning on the tap and grabbing a glass of water seem far too easy…Then again, I forget that we’re the super predator.