A Dutchman living in Kenya enlists a couple friends to sneak into a national park. Instead of gentle elephants, they find a protective heard of buffalo at the edge of a meadow. Scared of the intruders, the buffalo start stampeding. Follow your first instinct- run.
Thijs: I was living in Kenya.
I was near a national park, so central Kenya, close to Mt Kenya, which is the highest mountain of Kenya. My first time in Africa as well. I was thinking I would see so many animals. I made some local friends from town. I knew there was a national park nearby, so every time we were in the bar, I would say to them “Let’s go to the national park tomorrow. Break in. Cross underneath the fence. Let’s go in there and see if we can spot some animals.” But they’re always saying “No, don’t do it. It’s crazy. You will not survive it.”
At one point, after three months, two other students came. One was from a guy from Germany and a girl from Zambia. On a lazy Sunday, I was saying to them “I have a great plan. I’ve been to the national park many times, breaking in.”
Me: You just told them you had done it?
Thijs: Yeah, of course, otherwise I couldn’t convince them. “I saw some animals, and we didn’t have to pay.” Normally, you do have to pay. National park entrance fee is $80 a day without a guide or car, so you end up paying $150 for a day. I didn’t want to pay that!
I was saying to them, “We just walk to the entrance and we see what happens. Maybe we can see some animals from the other side of the fence.”
We went there, and at one point we saw the fence. It was not that high.
“Shall we just walk in?”
“Sure, you know the way, right?”
“Yeah, of course!”
So we had to cross a meadow before we reached the jungle. A large meadow. Then, we went into the jungle, literally the bush. It was really thick. We had to walk down towards a river we saw from the top. We thought it would be a great plan, just follow the river so we don’t lose the way, you know? I left a shirt hanging a tree, to remember at that point, we had to go up again to return. Great plan, yes?
I thought, “This is going to end up well. We’re going to see elephants.” We’re walking alongside the river, but we saw only elephant dug and shit from animals. We didn’t see anything. I said “We might as well walk a bit up into the jungle, maybe we can see something? The girl from Zambia said she would stay behind. Fine, we left her behind. We walked almost 20 meters into the thick jungle. At 20 meters, we heard something massive rustling around the bush. Our hearts were in our throats. “Oh fuck.” We started running back.
First instinct, you run away.
We were at the river again. Of course, you’re young and you’re thinking:
“What was it? Did you see anything?”
“Let’s walk back and see what it was.”
So we walked back again to the same spot. Then we saw the horns of the buffalo. A buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals. Apparently. We heard that afterwards. We saw the horn appearing from the bush. We’re scared to death, kneeling to the ground. We ran back, but it didn’t chase us. Our hearts were in our throats. We continued along the river, but at one point you couldn’t walk next to it, so we had to jump on the rocks in the river. It was not that deep. There were vines coming from the trees, so we were using them to walk back.
I slipped, and my shoulder popped out of place. There was a tearing noise, and the girl from Zambia was in front of me, but she heard it. “What was that?” I popped it back, but I couldn’t move it for awhile.
Then I realized “What are we doing here? Why are we here?! This is such a bad idea.”
So we decided to go back. I saw my shirt and thought, “Fine, we have to go up.” But the moment we exited the jungle, we had to cross the meadow. There were so many buffalo with cubs, however. We were rethinking it. “Alright, what should we do?” We had to cross to get to the fence, but the buffalo were really close to us. There were 600 meters we had to cross and they were really near to us. The German guy said “First, if we do something, I first need to pee.” Straight thinking, that’s good.
He was going for a pee, and I thought this the perfect moment take really good pictures of the nearby buffalo. I was crouching and being really silent. I was taking pictures from the bush, so they couldn’t see me. But then, there was a lot of noise coming from behind me. The Zambian girl decided to follow me, but she stepped on everything that made noise, every branch. So the minute that she came, making an awful racket, one buffalo turned around.
I went to hide behind the bush again. You’ve seen The Lion King, right? At one point, the dad gets killed by the wildebeest, and you hearing the thumping on the ground. It was like that. It felt like an earthquake. You just hear the hoofs on the ground. “Oh fuck, what’s going to happen.”
We peer around the tree and saw the whole group coming together in one pack, charging towards us. We forgot about the German guy and started running towards the fence. Then, we saw the German guy, holding his pants up, running. We were so scared! Running running running, we saw the fence and crossed underneath the fence. But then we realized, we could walk straight underneath it. Those fences are meant to keep the elephants in. Normal human beings and buffalo can just walk underneath it. We ended up running four kilometers, like really running. Then we were safe. That’s the main thing. The German guy said “… Should we take pictures again?” So he wants to walk back.
We go back to the local pub and I told my friends there what happened. “That’s so crazy, why do you do this? You have a death wish,” they told me.
Me: Did you tell them you never have done this before?
Thijs: [Pause] No. But they followed me, yeah? Anyways, I’ve learned from that mistake.
Me: What did you learn from that mistake?
Thijs: Well, I would never do it again.
Me: [Laughs] That’s enough.
Enjoyed this story? Read about a poor guy almost losing his leg in Bolivia