One of the most thrilling things to do on safari is sit in a blind near a waterhole. Every animal out in the bush needs that water and they know where it is. They’re coming to a waterhole and it could be this one. Perhaps it is a solitary kudu bull, or a warthog sow and her piglets. In four safaris, I’ve seen everything from elephants to mice come down to water. And I never tire of it.

On one trip, I watched three giraffes come to water, their heads atop the canopy of trees. One giraffe stood so close to the blind that I could have touched him. “They bring good luck,” the 15-year-old George, a South African boy told me. “Now we get your warthog.” He had no sooner spoke it than two male warthogs appeared. One of them was clearly bigger than the other. I shot it with a 375 H&H.

My dad was with us in the blind that day and neither of us will ever forget that waterhole and George and Patrick, our tracker, both of whom we hope to see again in the next life. Patrick died a few years after that and George was killed on the highway right before he was going to start college.

On my most recent trip we sat at a waterhole and watched 20 gemsbok come in an hour before dark. They spotted the thinly disguised GoPro camera on the sand and came closer to inspect it, which yielded some spectacular footage.

If I know we’re going to build a blind, I bring a panga or a machete of my own, to help in cutting the brush for the hide. I also bring some Gruntline, which is a multifunctional elastic utility cord made of braided polymer. It can come in handy for hanging gear or tying down brush. On the vehicle back, it can be used to strap the horns of your kudu to the vehicle.

Plan to bring a guidebook to the birds and mammals of Southern Africa and maybe bring a Wilbur Smith novel or an account of one of the old time hunters like John Hunter, Frederick Courtney Selous or Robert Ruark. You’re in Africa at a waterhole and anything could happen.

Gary Lewis is an outdoor writer, speaker and television host from Bend, Oregon. Contact Lewis at, on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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Originally Published: Aug 13, 2014

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