In the Jaws of a Crocodile

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As a wildlife photographer there are many moments in nature that are memorable, unbelievable and happen just too fast to capture.

Everything has to be perfect, from light, to composition, to having the correct camera settings and lens…

I had one such moment where I managed to get it just right! This does not happen every day and we do not often get the opportunity to capture something as amazing as this… It just so happened that I had the right camera settings at the right time and place!

Half-way into our 17-day photographic safari through the Okavango Delta, we sat enjoying the scenery around us while on a game drive at Mombo. There was nothing too special to photograph but the lighting conditions were good. We then came across an African rock python and pulled over to photograph it. This however was cut short after we realised that there were lions nearby and they were watching us!

We proceeded on our drive looking for a place to stop for a cup of coffee. Just before stopping, we spotted a lone lioness in the distance. She seemed to be looking for something and we presumed she must be looking for the rest of her pride. We moved closer to investigate and we found the pride – all 18 of them.

The large pride of lions was moving with intent, focused on several vultures that were feeding on a carcass across a shallow channel.

The lions of the Okavango have adapted to live in this aquatic environment and are often seen crossing through rivers and channels.

They are usually very careful about their crossing points, often growling, snarling and testing the water to make sure that they are safe from any lurking dangers.

Two of the lionesses, however, walked straight into the water, seemingly without any concern for what might lie beneath, and went straight in the direction of the descending vultures. The first lion did not see the crocodile but the second did. Interestedly the lioness did not react and continued to follow the lion ahead of her.

I gather that a large pride of lions such as this is often driven by hunger and this can cause them to forget about their safety.

The crocodile moved swiftly to the deeper water in front of the second lioness. The lion was completely oblivious to the crocodile’s ambush and within seconds there was a loud commotion as the attack unfolded… I sat completely frozen in my amazement.

The lionesses growled in a way that I have never heard before, what sounded like a distress call. The crocodile then released its grip, allowing the lion to escape… Interestingly the commotion alerted the rest of the pride and they soon made their way to the water as well. They seemed to be confused as to what had happened and proceeded to cross the channel.

Luckily for the pride, each member made it safely across to the other side… It was a tension-filled moment, one that was over within seconds, and I was lucky enough to have hit the shutter at just the right time!

Written and Photographed by Pia Dierickx

Wilderness Moments Photographic Competition:

See more of our entries and enter your image before Wednesday 15 November to stand a chance of winning an 8-night safari to our Wilderness Safaris’ camps.

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