Imagine letting the wild come to you

Tales from the Bush

Some think the term “Armchair Safari” was ushered in by Wild Earth television. As the Covid pandemic shuttered households across the world, hundreds of thousands of wildlife lovers got their fix from safaris televised live from the back of safari vehicles. The truth is the concept is as old as the canvas camp chair, planted outside a tent with a view of a lush savannah, forest or cooling water.

The dam before me at Nantwich Lodge in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park was fringed with Cape buffalo, a great grunting mass of life drinking at the water’s edge in numbers so vast it seemed the water level would drop with every unified gulp. The dust never quite settled as the ranks changed in a calm procession that belied the violence that buffalo can inflict when threatened. I was no threat whatsoever, ensconced as I was in my chair under the cooling thatch of the lodge, gin and tonic in hand. It wasn’t only these half-ton beasts that delighted my senses, and it wasn’t just the gin. Birds caught my eye, painting branches and sky in hues of yellow, lilac, and red in light, feathered strokes.

Nantwich-Armchair

I had stayed to watch the birds, forgoing an evening game drive that could offer any manner of wild delight and a sense of FOMO had gripped me as the vehicle departed with its cargo of happy safari goers, cameras primed. I had tentatively left my camera in my chalet, conscious of a need to savour beauty unframed, visceral and real. The birds had delighted me and I relished following their flight with the naked eye; I had not expected the buffalo army that appeared first as a dark line on the horizon and then grew like a swarm as it descended on the dam. I didn’t miss my camera. The scene was too vast to capture in a single frame. Any sense of ‘missing out’ evaporated in the dust in their wake.

Eventually I left my chair, aching to get closer but conscious of the danger and so thankful for the hide near the water’s edge where I would be shrouded. There I found another chair to settle into and drink in the sight of the buffalo now tinged with the raw smell of life; their baritone grunts and heavy footfalls amplified to fill my senses. Something crept into my mind, though. I had a niggling feeling that I was missing something and before I realised what it was, Nantwich’s waiter, Tony, appeared at my side carrying a fresh G&T, ice cracking. My armchair safari was complete.

Nantwich Hide

Written by: Anton Cronje, Editor at African Birdlife Magazine

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