Hey Cape Buffalo, I’m Feeling You Now!

This buffalo had a very intense stare but frankly I couldn't take her seriously with the oxpecker on her nose

This buffalo had a very intense stare but frankly I couldn’t take her seriously with the oxpecker on her nose

On each of my last three trips to Africa, I’ve returned to civilization with a new appreciation for an animal that I’ve seen countless times before, though previously cared little about. It’s not a conscious effort, I don’t try to feel differently, it just happens.

On my first trip to the Mara Triangle in 2013, I realized I hadn’t given wildebeests their due. Yes, they’re goofy as heck but after seeing multiple river crossings (they are simultaneously brave, silly and breathtaking), plus the opportunity to watch individuals interact in large numbers, I realized I’d been oblivious to their understated coolness.

Baby Cape Buffalo with its mother in the Mara Triangle, Kenya

A timid but oh-so-curious baby buffalo checks us out

While in Timbavati, South Africa, in June, the hyena (which normally creeped me out) became the object of my affection spending a morning at a hyena den with two females and their ridiculously adorable young pups.  I came away completely enamored.

And so it was with the cape buffalo during my visit to Kenya’s Mara Triangle last month.

Pretty doe-eyed cape buffalo cow in the Mara Triangle, Kenya

I thought this cow had a lovely shaped face and doe eyes. She’s a bit banged up but I dig her nonetheless

It’s not that I didn’t like them before, they’re physically impressive beasts.  It’s just that my experience had been limited to watching them graze. Perhaps a mock fight here and there, but on the average they just ate grass.

The turning point? Nearly two hours sitting smack dab in the middle of a large herd—the most I’d seen together at any one time to date.


Hear no evil


Just a tiny portion of the buffalo herd


Itchy nose! Plus, check out the expression of the cow to the left..priceless.

Cape buffalo lying down in the Mara Triangle, Kenya

Just chilling on the plains of the Mara Triangle


“Crazy eyes!”


Best way to scratch an itch is to use momma

For whatever reason the buffalo weren’t as skittish about the jeep as they’ve been in past and many of them remained lying down within a few feet of our vehicle, giving me a perfect opportunity to observe them more closely. Unlike before, where eating was all they cared about, a variety of interactions took place.

Two cape buffalo nuzzle each other in the Mara Triangle, Kenya

A tender moment between cows

I wish I could tell you that something miraculous happened too but It didn’t.  I saw a lot of little things that captured my heart: a tender interaction between a mother and calf; large groups of buffalo lounging around as if on vacation; the humor of multiple bulls laying down at once resulting in a domino effect that would have given the Three Stooges a run for their money; a series of dopey yet endearing expressions; the magnificence of a huge bull’s boss (the horns), and the lovely doe eyes of a cow.

Nothing earth shattering I suppose, but to me those little moments made all the difference in the world.


14 replies »

  1. Stunning photography Susan! In fact, I just reblogged that first photo on my Tumblr. I travel to Africa quite often (supposedly on “business,” but honestly, it’s much more a pleasure), and the Cape Buffalo are some of my favorites. Interestingly enough, while they appear rather docile (like big cows), did you know they are actually some of the most feared animals on the continent? Right after hippos, in fact! Cape buffalo are fiercely territorial and can be quite aggressive. Even from the safety of a Jeep, seeing the extent of their aggression firsthand can be quite awe-inspiring and fearful indeed!

    Just thought you might like that tidbit 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your photography with us all, these images definitely take me back out there. No place in the world like it!


    • Hi John – I’m thoroughly jealous that you get to go to Africa often. I would love to spend some quality time in the bush. Hoping to work that out some day. Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. 🙂

      In regard to the buffalo: yes, I am very aware of how dangerous they can be, especially when approached on foot. Thankfully, on this day, they didn’t feel threatened by the jeep and were unusually mellow and curious.


  2. I love this photo of the cape buffalo and ox-picker. I have had the fortune to have taken a few photos of the same characters but nothing this unique. brings a big smile to my face. I am fortunate to have friends with a small private camp/land in the mara conservancy and travel there every couple years. its the only way to enjoy the Mara….living on the land and being part of it and the village. Thanks for the photos, they are stunning. can’t wait to get back now!


    • I think heaven must be a private camp in the Mara.. I mean.. It’s too fabulous to even consider. Was it fenced? I would love the opportunity to spend more time in the area with the locals but I can never get there for more than two weeks. It kinda sucks. LOL

      Thank you so much about the photos. I really appreciate it. 🙂


  3. Well hello Susan. Wonderful photography. Thank you for sharing. I am a big fan of the cape buffalo, except when it is them against the lion. Looking forward to venturing through the insatiable traveler to see what other wonders you have come across in your travels. (big smile) – KP


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