With the mercury rising to 38°C and with so little left by way of grazing during this prolonged drought in the Kruger National Park, we watched with interest as two grizzled old Cape buffalo bulls (frequently referred to as dagga boys in South Africa – old bulls that have been kicked out of the herd to fend for themselves) lumbered slowly across the bare veld to the almost empty Matjulu waterhole.
The buffalo looked for all the world like two old codgers who had spent a long time together, bound by a history of shared experiences. They walked abreast at times, sometimes even bumping together as they headed for the water.
Number One was clearly the leader.
Slightly larger and more robust looking than Number Two, he carefully eased his way down the ribbed concrete sides of the waterhole and bowed his head to the water to drink.
Number Two circled the waterhole, as if looking for a safe place to enter, before he too eventually lowered his large frame into the hollow and bent down to drink.
The water was not even deep enough to cover their hooves.
They drank for a long time, quenching the thirst borne of a long walk perhaps. Number One dominated what must have been the slightly deeper end of the waterhole. When Number Two nudged his way in he was unceremoniously biffed out of the way and retreated to the shallowest part.
At last Number One had had his fill, looked up and took a measure of his surroundings whilst licking the moisture still dripping from his lips. He slowly turned to nudge his companion as if to say, “It’s your turn now” before carefully hauling his bulk out of the concrete hollow. He stood solidly on the side, waiting patiently until Number Two had also drunk his fill and was ready to get out. The two old codgers stood next to each other for a while – getting their breath back perhaps. Then, by common consent, they moved off together with Number One slightly in the lead.