Don’t Argue with the Wildlife
Country: Swaziland by Marlowe
So Lisette and I have left Sondzela backpackers and are on our way to start our Sunset Drive tour at a nearby encampment. The map here demonstrates the path taken to the new reserve, which we did at around 3pm to start the tour at 430.
Descending the hill, we saw a bunch of zebras and waterbucks give us wary looks across the grassland. The grassland descended down towards the small river and we breathed easy as the temperature dropped. Crossing the bridge we saw a small group of zebra grazing warily over a tall but thin forest canopy. It turned sharp right and into a glade some 100 meters ahead. However, on that path stood a dark shape that wasn’t so happy we were there.
The dark shape turned out to be a blue wildebeest, a creature weighing some 250kgs and rather territorial. Since most of the animals had kept a wide berth, we carried on up the trail. The wildebeest stood his ground and faced us.
PERHAPS HE NEEDED SOME CONVINCING
I decided that picking up a large branch might remind the wildebeest of a gun and scare him off. This had the opposite effect: he left the trail and mounted a nearby hill, snorting. When he started advancing towards us by coming down the hill, we decided that intimidation wasn’t going to work. Dropping my branch, we moved quickly to the apparent safety of the bridge. With the wildebeest drawing closer (and by closer, I mean about 10 meters away) and plenty of trees, I started assessing how good a climber it might be. Although Lis agreed that we could probably out-climb the ungulate, she wasn’t so keen on finding out.
Having put some distance between us, the wildebeest relaxed and went back to what he was doing on the trail.
There was no outrunning this thing and intimidation hadn’t worked, so we gave him a very wide berth of about 100 meters and walked around him in a circle. We got to the camp on time and greatly enjoyed our sunset drive with a couple of college students who had just arrived from Canada the day before to begin working in Mbabane. We would run into Mr. Wildebeest a couple more times during our stay at Sondzela and probably blazed a nice circular trail in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, we both loved Swaziland, but if you’re in the country and see this guy, I’d stay away.