Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

I’ve been putting off telling this story on my blog…but I feel that it’s time. In November 2013 I went on a very long safari-roadtrip with my lovely wife and our 2 young children. The destinations were to be the Etosha National Park in Namibia and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa.

The story I want to tell played out in Etosha. We had come to the last few nights of the Etosha leg of our trip and were based in the Namutoni rest camp in the East of the park. On our first afternoon upon arriving in Namutoni, we took a short drive to scope out the nearby popular waterholes of Chudop and Klein Namutoni. We found the resident lion pride having a drink at the Klein Namutoni waterhole around sunset.

lion drinking 1 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

lions drinking 1 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

The pride was clearly getting ready for their nightly foray of hunting. Their bellies weren’t full or bulging at all, and with about 9 adult lions to cater for they would need to hunt regularly. The sun was just setting, and the tension was palpable. All the other animals that had come to drink could sense the lions were not just lying around…

impala etosha 1
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

lion walking 1 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

Much like on a morning only a year earlier (read THIS post for that story), my wife made the prediction that they would make a kill during the night. Boy, would she be right…but that’s what you’re reading this story for, so I will carry on.

lion sunset 1 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

We eventually had to leave the pride where they were, as the camp gate time was beckoning. I have a gripe against Etosha gate times in general…as they work on the exact time of sunset and sunrise, and often the best light and sightings happen before sunrise or shortly after sunset. At least in the summer months in the Kalahari and Kruger you get some good leeway either side of sunrise and sunset for those epic moments!

lions etosha 3
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

lion giraffe 5 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

The next morning, I was up early and ready to go out. My wife waved me on, as the kids were having a rare morning of still being asleep (usually they were up way before we want to leave for game drive), and she decided to rest a little too (she was minding them every day in the back of the vehicle, after all). I was first out the gate on a cloudy morning, and also the only one from Namutoni heading out for Klein Namutoni that morning, which is about 4km from camp. All the other vehicles going out on an early game drive seemed to turn right out of the camp towards the Chudop triangle…not a bad decision given the open setting and density of predators in this area…but it was a bad decision for them on this morning!

No sooner had I turned into the gravel road leading up to Klein Namutoni, when I spotted 2 of the young males of the pride we sat with the previous evening on a serious trot. Now, if you’ve spent any good amount of time observing the behaviour of lions, you’ll know that they only ever run or trot like this for 2 main reasons – to get to food or to get to a competitor and fight. As I came around the next bend I saw the reason for their brisk pace: a large and old Giraffe bull was ambling up the main road, trying to run but obviously dog tired! The pride must have been chasing him for hours during the night, as his hind legs were dragging (but he was as yet not wounded). I kept a reasonable distance and allowed the chase to go its natural way. As always with these kinds of sightings, a part of you hopes the prey will find a way to escape, while another part of you (the avid action photographer) wants it all to go down in a spot where you can take some photos of it!

Anyway…soon the Giraffe seemed to realise that he would not escape, and he stopped just off the road (as you drive into Dik-Dik drive past the waterhole) and turned around to face his assailants…the tension was incredible, and my mouth was agape as I realised I would be the only person to witness this taking place only about 20 meters from me!!!

giraffe kill 4 Etosha 2013
Lions vs Giraffe: The Prelude

There were so many questions running through my mind as these 2 “Spartans” squared up against their behemoth prey…

Where were the other members of the pride?
Are 2 young males enough to take down such a big and muscular quarry?
Would one of them be hit by a deadly kick from the giraffe?
How long would this last?

And of course the photographic questions and challenges!
Low light meant high ISO settings, shallow depth-of-field (considering I was trying to photograph multiple subjects none of which were small), slow shutter speed…

I know that by now you are probably extremely curious and anxious to see what unfolded.
You will have to wait for the next edition in this series – I’ll post it soon, don’t fret!
Suffice to say it is one of my most dramatic sightings ever…and I didn’t even take that many photos, since I was so spellbound just watching it.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned for more soon!

Morkel Erasmus


Morkel Erasmus

I used to relish writing these kinds of “bio” pieces and would flaunt the odd impressive word and use dashing grammar to make it sound like I am a boundary-shifting photographer. These days I prefer stating it in much simpler ways, much more relatable ways, much more believable ways… The fact of the matter is this: I love Africa. I love its people, its wild places and its wildlife. I love being immersed in these places, observing and photographing the fall of light on the land and the daily lives of the creatures that call it home, and presenting the results to whoever will take a look. To me, nature photography is all about being in the moment, and capturing that moment in a way that can relate to someone who didn’t have the privilege of being there with me. Sometimes I am able to capture a unique vision of the scene before me, and sometimes I just capture it the way most folks would according to classical photographic guidelines. Yet I always enjoy sharing the images and experiences and imparting the knowledge I have, both in-the-field and later online or in presentations, workshops and courses. I also just simply enjoy capturing and sharing the beauty of God's creation! The greatest thing I’ve found about wildlife and nature photography in Southern Africa is the unity and familiarity of the community of people that share this passion. We come from all walks of life and all cultures and backgrounds, yet our passion for our natural heritage and our dream to see it preserved for future generations binds strangers together and fuels conversations around campfires long after other people have run out of conversation and energy. Join me on a WildEye adventure to experience this sharing community spirit and learn to anticipate that fleeting moment and be ready for it, learn to immerse yourself in the experience without losing focus of your photographic goals…and above all, learn to see Africa anew… because there are none as blind as those who look but do not see!

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Morkel Erasmus

Since picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, a little over 3 years ago, Morkel has been invigorated with an unbridled passion for the photographic art form. He has grown at a tremendous pace and put immense energy into the creation of his images. He absolutely loves spending time in the wild places of his native Southern Africa. From a young age he has been visiting legendary wildlife and outdoor locations, including the Kruger Park National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, with his family. Now that he has found a way to share the natural beauty of his homeland with the rest of the world he is regularly out on photography trips. An Industrial Engineer by profession, and an accomplished artist in genres like music and poetry, Morkel has always enjoyed whatever allows him to express his creativity to the fullest. Photography turned out to be the perfect "marriage" between his engineering brain and artistic soul. "I hope that in some way I can raise awareness through my imagery of the plight of not only our wildlife but also the fragility of the last remaining wilderness areas that they call home.” Morkel was recently honoured for his commitment to his craft by receiving a "Highly Commended" for one of his images in the 2010 BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He is based in Mpumalanga, South Africa and even though he prefers going on safari with his family and friends, Morkel also leads the odd photographic safari and has recently begun presenting workshops in post-processing techniques.

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