You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

“Well you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd But you can be happy if you've a mind to” These are the lyrics to a Roger Miller song written back in 1965, just a year before my first visit to the Kruger National Park as a 13-year old.






For more than 2 years I have been contributing back page articles to this magazine and I have also completed a couple of online courses with them.

My biggest achievement(?) is probably the fact that I started a course with them about 20 years ago…and I have yet to complete it!

That being said, I have never missed the monthly deadline for my articles.

This article first appeared in The Wildlife Campus magazine in October 2021.




Since then, I have crossed paths with many buffalo herds, while in a vehicle or on foot when on a walking trail and one thing is clear, this is an animal that you do not want to take for granted.

Several years ago while on a bushwalk, the field guide that I was with was explaining some of the animal species that we might encounter, “Next time to see a buffalo, he said, you will notice that they always look at you as if you owe them money”! No sooner were the words out of his mouth than we came out of the thicket that we had been walking through, straight into a small herd of this iconic species. It went against every fibre of my being NOT to run but seeing these animals can weigh more than a ton and can reach speeds of over 50 km/h, I froze while they slowly munched their way past us.




This was not our only encounter on that particular walk. We had done a wide loop to get back to camp to make certain that we did not bump into the ‘money-lenders’ again but lo and behold when we got back to the main lodge entrance, there were two dagga boys (old bulls that no longer are excepted by the herd and go off to form grumpy old bachelor groups) waiting to see if we were up to get past them. Indeed we were and both myself and the guide returned unscathed to share our encounters at breakfast.




It is several years later and I am at a different lodge out on a game drive with a family from the USA. The youngest son was looking rather uncomfortable and after a whispered conversation between him and his mom and then mom and the guide, it was decided to stop to let the young fellow have the comfort break that he so desperately needed.

He and mom leapt out of the vehicle and vanished behind a nearby termite mound…only to reappear moments later, ashen-faced and leap into the vehicle, without the required break having been completed. Before they could tell us why it become obvious as a herd of about 200 buffalo came slowly walking out of the bush behind the termite mound. Needless to say, the guide very quickly relocated the vehicle so that the youngster could complete his business. I have always wondered what he told his school friends when he returned home…




I have been near herds when they have lost members to wild dogs and lions. Never a pretty sight or sound, but part of the fabric of nature that binds both predators and prey inextricably.




Probably one of my most memorable experiences was at a lodge in KZN where they were due to release a herd onto the property… Sounds relatively easy? Well, all the humans involved got the memo as to which direction the buffalo needed to head in when released. It seems that the buffalo did not.

They came thundering out of their transporter and rocketed off in the right direction… for about 200m, then wheeled around and came hurtling towards our vantage point. Luckily we were relatively prepared for this and no one was injured. The buffalo ran through the camp and generally created mayhem before finally heading off into the sunset.




I have followed herds that have newborn calves, innocent and inquisitive but always wary and never far from mom.




And I have spent time at mud wallows with huge bulls who are at the end of their lives. Looking deeply into eyes that have a lifetime of experiences to share.




But, I have never tried to roller skate with them, and I certainly have no intention of trying…even if I had a mind to.




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