Monday, 19 May 2014

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.

UPDATE: the next 2 episodes have been posted by now
Part 2 - http://bit.ly/liongiraffe2
Part 3 - http://bit.ly/liongiraffe3

(for the best view of the photos, you'll need to click on one and scroll through them using your arrow keys)


Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/500 SS  |   ISO-220
Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f7.1  |  1/800 SS  |   ISO-1100

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...



Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/800 SS  |   ISO-1400

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.


Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II  |  f2.8  |  1/200 SS  |   ISO-200

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!


Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-800
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!!!


Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 79-200mm f2.8 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/320 SS  |   ISO-4000


Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 79-200mm f2.8 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/250 SS  |   ISO-1400

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

31 comments:

  1. Whoa, I am dying to see how this went down.

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    1. Hi - then you better watch this space :)

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  2. Very anxiously looking forward to the next installment. I have a feeling though the Giraffe escaped !!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this dramatic moment. Great pics and story, cant wait to read the next post of this once in a lifetime photographic encounter. Gideon

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    1. Hi Gideon. Thanks for your kind words.

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  4. Anyone else hoping the giraffe gets away with it? Yes I know the lions have to eat! But I feel I'm already buddies with the giraffe!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! It's always a matter of personal tension watching this unfold, isn't it? New episode is live now :)

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  5. Wonderful story and great shots of this once in a lifetime moment. I do hope that this old bull giraffe was lucky to see another day.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. You'll have to stick with it to the end ;)

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  6. You are quite a tease, Morkel. Can't wait for the next edition.

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    1. hehe - thanks :) check the blog now, as the 2nd episode is live...

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  7. Great...can notwait to hear more...

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  8. Loved your account and can't wait for the next chapter in the tale! It made me very homesick though for my beloved homeland! I grew up in the African bush so your blog brought back a flood of memories. Your photography is brilliant!

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    1. Your words are very kind - I am glad I could evoke some African nostalgia in you. Have a great day!

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  9. I can not wait to see the end result thanks for the sharing

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Dene. The 2nd episode is now posted :)

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  10. Morkel, I love your work and the way you did it, but we all neeeeeed the end of the story pleeeeeeaaaaaaaseeeeee ;)

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    1. Hi Dirk. Thanks for your kind comment. The next episode is live on the blog now!

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    2. yeah, I've seen it and can't await the final episode......great Morkel !!!!!!

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  11. we are all waiting the next piece of the saga

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    1. Next one is posted! Thanks for your comment :)

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  12. What a story. Right place, right time. Thanks a bunch for sharing.

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    1. It's my pleasure - thanks for stopping by.

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  13. Please, please do not keep us waiting for the images or conclusion to this dramatic confrontation!

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    1. Hi there - I hope you found the 2 further episodes to this story?
      I've linked to them in this post now as well.

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  14. Seriously??
    I hope the giraffe makes it out of this situation.

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    1. If you've followed through to parts 2&3 you would know the answer to that is not what you want to hear, Debra. I hope you could value how I've accounted for this tale - one has to die for the other to live.

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