AT A WATER HOLE I

A young couple walk purposefully down the brick path toward a bench overlooking the water hole at the rest camp and sit down. He sports dark, closely-cropped hair and is wearing a baggy green top over tight jeans. The glistening white of his sports shoes strongly suggests they are new arrivals for he has clearly not walked far along the dirt roads and dusty paths that vein through the camp. He doesn’t notice the Cape Sparrow perched to the left of him on the Spekboom hedge.

She is wearing khaki cargo pants still stiff and showing factory creases. A blue hooded top covers her hair as she sits staring straight ahead, ignoring the cheerful calls of the Cape Weaver on her right, even though it flutters down now and then to search the brick paving around her feet.

He unfolds the coloured map they were given at reception and tries to hold it firm against the gentle tugging from an impish breeze. He turns the map this way and that before stabbing his finger on the water hole they are seated at. “We’re here,” he says with a degree of authority. He runs his finger along the patterns of roads radiating through the park. So absorbed is he in this task that he doesn’t notice the back of a lone buffalo disappearing among the Spekboom and other shrubs a little to the left of the water hole.

She picks up a pair of powerful binoculars and scans the area around the water hole. Neither the presence of a flock of Guineafowl nor the pair of Hadeda Ibises appear to hold her interest, for she quickly lowers the binoculars to rest on her lap. She leans towards her companion. “There’s nothing of interest to see here.” Her voice is flat. He is still studying the map but obligingly leaves off to raise the binoculars to his eyes. He sweeps across the landscape too quickly to pick up either the heron keeping watch over some ducks …

… or the Black-backed jackal that had come for a quick, furtive drink.

“I hope the rest of the park doesn’t look like this desert. All the pictures showed green grass and trees.” There is a whine in her voice as she strokes the binoculars on her lap with her index finger. He grunts and returns to perusing the map before looking up with an endearing smile.

“I overheard in the gents that this area has been denuded of vegetation because so many animals rely on this water for drinking.” He looks at her sulky face and pats her shoulder. “It’s early days though.” He folds the map and rises from the bench. “You hold the map,” he says, giving her a hug.

She shivers in the now icy wind. “Yes, we’ll be warmer in the car.” They walk away holding hands and so do not see the Kudu bulls emerging from the thorny scrub to quench their thirst.

35 thoughts on “AT A WATER HOLE I

  1. Good lesson here. We need to open our eyes. I know I miss things, too. And we also have to remember that wildlife doesn’t perform as though it is Disney on Parade. Animals have their own agenda, and often it’s not being seen. We live in the woods with lots of wildlife, but only rarely do we see any of them.

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    • I read long ago in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television the author’s opinion that nature programs on TV gave children the wrong idea about nature, and the expectation of excitement; if they had spent time outdoors they would learn the need for patience and attentiveness, and the true nature of wild animals, that they are mostly shy.

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      • While I would not necessarily argue against nature programmes on television, I agree with the reasons you mention. Actually spending time outdoors, be it in a garden, park, at the beach, a lake, a dam or in a national park teaches us so much about patience and attentiveness.

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      • I found birds in Uganda a lot less shy, or less scared of humans, than those here in the UK, and therefore so much easier to photograph. Or may be it is just because there are so much more of them.

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      • It boils down to developing a sensitivity about the environment one is in. Your observation about the birds in Uganda is an interesting one

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  2. You have to wonder if they’d return. We have run into people on the trail very discouraged at “seeing nothing”, ie. birds, when I had a full memory card of insects, flowers, etc. I see you too had a good day 😊. Lovely photos, Anne.

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  3. How often you hear visitors complain that they went to the game reserve and “saw nothing”. Sad for them. Perhaps we should print this piece of yours and add it to every map as an introduction of how not to go about visiting a national park, game reserve, botanical garden, etc etc etc

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  4. Sies tog. En hulle het ook nie die stilte ervaar nie. Die rustigheod van die natuur nie. Die wonder van siten wag en sien wat die natuur vir hulle bring nie.

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  5. En dit beklemtoon my verantwootrdelikheid as ons binnekort met die kleinkinders wildtuin toe gaan. Ons moet hulle leer om te wag … en nie net leeus te verwag nie, maar ook klein goedjies raak te sien.

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