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
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!