Of all the animals to visit our camp in Djuma, most are on the small end of things. While we of course are careful of the larger animals we share the reserve with, it is rare we actually encounter them, more often finding evidence of their passage such as dung or tracks. But sometimes during the day, larger visitors wander into the camp’s borders and make themselves known. These are the antelopes of the preserve, our horned guests.

While antelope can often be overlooked, falling to the wayside in the shadow of lions, leopards, and elephants, they’re still fascinating to encounter up close. Often they come in through the back gate of the camp, trotting past the Final Control. Although they look small on camera, they’re surprisingly large in person! I remember moving around the bend of the studio and coming face to face with a nyala. It’s quite a thing to see, with its massive shaggy browncoat, huge horns, and standing almost as tall as me. For the nyala’s part, it looked just as surprised to see me and froze in place, blinking as if to say “What are YOU doing here?”

I took a step back, moving away from the animal slowly, trying not to make eye contact. I moved back around the bend, putting some distance between myself and the studio. Soon enough, the nyala wandered around the bend and bent down, beginning to much on some plants. I watched it for a few minutes before leaving it to its meal..

Of course, I was curious as to why antelopes wander into our camp. The reason is rather simple, actually. Being prey animals, antelope need places where they can safely rest and feed, of which the wild beyond camp provides very little. Our camp, with its walls and easily accessible well hydrated plants presents such an opportunity for these creatures. So, they’ll wander inside, eat their fill, and then move off, ready to do it again tomorrow knowing the camp presents a safe feeding ground for them.

It’s kind of flattering, in that respect, knowing that prey animals have learned that your camp is a safe zone and thus wander into seek shelter. As they don’t overstay their welcome, don’t steal food, and steer clear of us, who are we to deny our daily visitors?

Featured Image: Nyala. Credit: James Hendry

Written by Jake McDaniel