Today we’re going buffalo-rogue. Because that’s the name of Addo’s new(ish) — and very stylish — camp, Nyathi, directly north of Addo Rest Camp in the northern part of the central core area. And wouldn’t you just know it. We had just arrived, we stepped onto the deck of our beautiful beehive-shaped unit, and below me hidden in the dense tangle of spekboom and sweet thorn was the huge boss of a buffalo bull. A fleeting glimpse before he was swallowed up by leaves and branches. That’s the last I saw of him. Sublime coincidence, just a moment in time. I only learned later that i-nyathi is the Zulu word for buffalo.
The 11 units, some of rounded construction, draw also on Zulu heritage, while the thatched conical rondavels reference many African cultural groups. Inside, all surfaces are textured with the indents, striations, wood grains and basket weaves of Africa, while brass and copper fittings gleam with natural warmth. The best part is how discreetly each unit is tucked into dense leafy vegetation. The poisonous milky sap of the abundant euphorbia species is believed to have inspired the name Addo, from the Khoekhoen language, meaning ‘poison ravine’. From each deck are views onto the most verdant, forested, rounded hills (the Zuurberg). This is the best place to be, braai nook in one corner, dinky plunge pool around another.
Addo of course, all 1,700 square kilometres of it, really is about the elephants. So where to find them? Our best bet is always the waterhole at Hapoor. Yet … we’ve had visits that have produced not a single ellie there. Mercifully, this is the wild, where foraging groups follow the vagaries of rain (or lack of it), abundance (or not so much), sweetness of the vegetation, the muddiest most wallowable waterholes. There are times we’ve had to drive to the highest view point to search for the remotest clue of a dusty-red back knitted into the green shroud unravelled below. Sometimes we’re successful, sometimes not.
But this time Hapoor delivered. First a family of five absolutely revelling in the mud. They wallowed and rolled and snorkelled and blew bubbles. The water was a seething cauldron of grunting and tussling and piggyback play. Tusks clacked, trunks curled and unfurled in communication.
Then the support troops poured in. By the end of it, there were some 50 to 60 elephants posturing and pushing and shoving. A teeny baby collapsed onto its knees to try to reach the water with a little straw-trunk. A sub adult let out a resounding trumpet as he eased heavily up the bank. A sibling thrashed the water from side to side with his trunk. “How come I was never allowed to have such fun in the bath?” lamented Hirsh.
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