Africa

The Crossing And The Crocodile: Witnessing My First Kill

A crocodile chases a wildebeest during a crossing

A crocodile spies his prey

On my recent trip to the Masai Mara I was lucky enough to see two crossings. The first was pretty momentous and starred a crocodile the width of a dinner table. As I’m sure you’ve probably guessed he wasn’t there to cheer on the wildebeests.

When we arrived at the at the edge of the Mara River, according to the reports on the radio, the wildebeests had been building at the crossing point for over an hour. The crocodile was motionless on the edge of the river and I quickly forgot about him as soon as the wildebeests made their move an hour later.  I was concentrating so hard on photographing the hundreds of wildebeest that had finally pulled the trigger on their two-hour should-we-go-or-should-we-stay-now debate, that I never saw his massive form slip back into the water.

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As the crossing whipped into full swing, I’m not sure what caught my attention but I looked to the right. It took a few seconds to register what I was seeing and a couple more to start focusing on it. The croc had found his victim and the struggle was underway.

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It was the first kill I would witness and I’d been dreading it. The day before I saw a cheetah leave her cubs under a tree, trot off into the distance and return with a gazelle hanging from her mouth. I didn’t see the actual deed and, surprisingly, when it was upon me I didn’t react the way I expected. I thought I would want to leave. I thought I might cry. But I felt nothing other than a surge of adrenaline as soon as my brain registered what was happening. My heart pounded. I was seeing a kill! A REAL kill. It was all too quick and surreal. It was as if I was watching a documentary of a crocodile drowning a wildebeest. In a strange millisecond of morbid humor I noticed a large hippo watching the carnage only a few feet away. I remember thinking that all he was missing was a bag of popcorn.

Crocodile pulls wildebeest under the Mara River

As I watched the wildebeest struggle my emotions caught up with me and I told myself to look away. Five seconds later I couldn’t help but look back.  Maybe, I thought, the wildebeest would escape. I knew that was ridiculous the second it popped into my brain but I hoped I’d be pleasantly surprised.

Wildebeest crossing in the Masai Mara, Kenya

The carnage over, the wildebeest continue crossing

Nothing.

I saw nothing except the craziness of the crossing. The croc had slipped below the depths and the wildebeests, as if nothing had happened, were splashing through the water exactly where the duo had gone down.

I saw my first kill.

There would be others during my stay, but this one, my first, was over.

12 replies »

  1. It didn’t. I mean, the whole crossing was very vivid but so chaotic and the croc/wildebeest action was a blip in the whole thing. It happened so fast it didn’t really register other than whoa, I just saw my first kill. Something just died in front of my eyes. Which felt surreal. I also didn’t see it’s last breath.. It was pulled under the water and frankly, I’m glad I couldn’t see under the water.

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    • I was lucky in a way, the 6 kills that I saw (two the actual deed was obscured either by water or distance) were relatively tame. The cheetah and lion kills were quick and to the point. My biggest worry was that some prey would go through some protracted, long death that was bloody and involved the animals basically screaming. That I think would put me over the edge. Some guests that were in the Mara before me saw a wildebeest that had broken its leg during a crossing ripped apart by hyena. They said it was gruesome. I think that would have put me over the edge.

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  2. Wow, great photos!
    In my own safari trip (in Tanzania) we had a chance to see a full hunting “expedition” – we spotted two lionesses from far away and followed them until they encountered two antelopes who were grazing quietly. One of the lionesses stayed back (only god knows why) while the second one approached quietly and jumped at the antelope. Even though I was standing safely in the car I felt excited as if I was down there myself, ready to jump at every moment.
    Eventually the lioness attacked but didn’t catch the antelope… At least I have the whole thing on video!

    BTW this is my first time in your blog, I read some of the posts from the Masai Mara trip and I really enjoyed the photos and the commentary 🙂

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      • Hi!
        Actually it wasn’t posted, but it took me about 30 seconds to upload it so here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIRbL8VsYNo
        Not premium quality, while trying to follow the chase I screwed up at some point (that was one massive zoom) and I didn’t miss more than 1 or 2 second before they got into the bush.
        In the middle is an annoying guide who tried to take his passengers as close as possible to the action and got yelled at by all the other guides. Also you’ll see at 00:12 a hippo nonchalantly watching the action (either that or a hippo-shaped rock).

        I’m actually touring other travel/photography blogs before opening my own, checking out the platforms that people are using and getting ideas and so forth. I’ll probably open it after the midterms. Most of my pictures are better than this video 🙂
        Good day!

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