The hide to seek

Pamushana | March 2016

I spent many of the afternoon’s hours alone in the photographic hide, musing about how audiences are often given the wrong impression of how easy it is to see wildlife in the wild, when a twohour documentary condenses an animal’s story into an action-packed sequence of birth, life and death.

Then a host of oxpeckers heralded the arrival of a couple of wizened old buffalo bulls – and with the light just right I knew magic was about to happen. (See mid-shoot selfie above.)

The gnarly, armour-plated battleships of beasts drank confidently while the pristine, delicate, excitable oxpeckers clung onto their hides, inching their way down to the water, so that they too could drink. It’s fascinating how vulnerable being on land makes an oxpecker feel. You could see that the yellow-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus) that did acrobatic manoeuvres to drink upside down were more comfortable than those who’d risked drinking from the water’s edge.

After the sun had set and the buffaloes had disappeared into the night I was busy packing up my camera gear in the hide when I heard the faintest sound of lapping. My head torch revealed this magnificent male cheetah that was essentially no more than two metres from me (albeit I was inside the hide).

What a generous master Patience is!