Flirt with danger to find that sweet spot at Ulusaba


Flirt with danger to find that sweet spot at Ulusaba

The real attractions at Richard Branson’s hideout are the expansive views and spectacular wildlife sightings

Stephen Haw

We came across them in the early dark, 500 buffalo slouching across the Sabi Sands. The ranger cut the engine and the lights and we sat in silence, our hands cupped around our ears like giant antennae.

Some people call them a “gang” or, more poetically, “an obstinacy of buffalo”; but for me, as they whorled around us — grunting, snorting, chewing and farting their way into total darkness — it began to feel more like “a revelation of buffalo”. Not the “black death” of which hunters speak, but a benign bovine intelligence … to whom we seemed so incidental, I half wanted to give them a friendly smack on the bum just to help them on their way.

Being “at ease” among wild animals is a tricky business. Get too close and the possibility of real danger overwhelms the thrill that comes from proximity. Keep too great a distance, then why bother? Both Trevor “Savage” and Donald “Sibuyi” (a fitting combination of names for rangers) know exactly where this line is: present enough to read their guests and the animals, know the difference, and yet remain removed enough for it to feel like an unmediated encounter. I’ve never experienced it done so well...

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