Slow Death of a Buffalo

I had the great pleasure of spending several nights during my recent trip to South Africa in a river-front fixed tent at Lower Sabie Camp which is a permanently pitched canvas tent with hardwood floors built on stilts, complete with a bedroom and bathroom inside.  The view from my porch of a wide meandering river attended by a plethora of Africa’s finest was perhaps the best in the whole of Kruger National Park.


In addition to the giraffe, kudu, zebra and impala I was watching, I also saw several old buffalo bulls lying around the shores of the river chewing the cud. I thought to myself, they must be vulnerable to predators even though I was sure there was enough life in them to put up a heck of a fight.  It was a fleeting thought on that exciting day.


An African river comes to a different kind of life after night fall; the sounds of the nocturnal animals on a windless night carries for miles but what woke me up at 2:30 in the morning was not miles away, it sounded like it was right next door.



I laid there in the black dark behind the canvas walls and listened intently. My heart raced as I concluded I was hearing a kill that was happening right outside my tent. Lions killing a buffalo; one of those old bulls I’d seen earlier, I presumed.


I laid dead still and listened. The buffalo moaned something awful with every breath and this went on and on.  Hyena whooped in the distance.  I was sure they would be headed to the dinner table too. What a day I had in store the next day, I thought, with a kill just outside my tent.   I imagined the pride of lion fighting off hyena, jackal and maybe even leopard all within a stone’s throw as my entertainment the next day.


The poor buffalo though was still moaning with every breath bringing my mind back to present time.  I heard myself say out loud, "Kill him already!" I was thinking those lions were taking too long to kill the poor buffalo.  He was certainly suffering.  My emotions jumped from excitement of what I was to witness the next day to the sadness of what was happening at that very moment.


I couldn't stand it any longer. I fumbled for my flashlight so I could find some clothes to throw on then shined the light around my tent to assure myself the coast was clear.  I opened the door to my tent and shined the light on my porch then cautiously stepped outside.  I shined my light just down from my porch where I was expecting to see the cold eyes and bloodied faces of hungry lions..., but I saw nothing.


I stood out there in of the dark night in silence then heard the noise again.


I suddenly realized what I'd been hearing all along.  It wasn’t a kill at all.  It was the old man in the tent next to me snoring!


The mind can be a powerful thing especially when you’re alone in a tent in the middle of Africa in the black dark!

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