Africa

On Safari in Kenya: Zebra vs Crocodile!

Zebra escapes from crocodile in Masai Mara, Kenya -001901.jpg

It’s hot. Really hot.

It feels as if we’ve been stuffed into a convection oven and I pray for a breeze. The temperature and immobility are making me sleepy but there’s no way we’re leaving.

We’re in Kenya on a WildEye Photographic safari. Our jeeps are parked along a 20-foot embankment where the Mara River bends almost 90 degrees. From here, we can see both sides and upriver for a considerable distance.

Zebra drink water out of the Masa Mara River in Kenya

A herd of zebra are drinking next to the water’s edge and there are two large crocodiles, gliding back and forth hoping to snag a striped lunch.

Skittish to the extreme, the zebra overreact to the slightest thing. A ripple in the river can send them stampeding in a cloud of dust as if being chased by a lion.  They don’t go far because they’re thirsty. They huddle for a few moments, scan the water, then try again. Rinse, repeat.

Zebra drinks water out of the Masa Mara River in Kenya

On the opposite side of the river, two new zebras appear, walking out of the trees and down to the shoreline. Without the hesitancy of their buddies on the other side, the first zebra marches into the water and begins drinking. The second zebra follows dutifully behind.

I hold my breath. A horrible thought creeps into my thoughts. What if a crocodile lunges out of the water, grabs the zebra by the snout and drags it into the river? I hate the idea, but that doesn’t stop me from focusing my lens on its muzzle. Only a few days before I’d seen numerous wildebeest killed during a crossing. You never know what’s going to happen.

The duo eyes the herd across the Mara, their noses tilt towards the sun and smell the air.

Then it hits me. These idiots are going to try to cross.

Crocodile tries to bite a zebra in the Masa Mara River in Kenya

Inside our jeep, the whereabouts of the two crocodiles becomes of paramount importance.

“Do you see the crocs?” asks my jeep-mate Nancy.

“Nope, can’t see them,” answered Lori, my other pal in the vehicle.

“Sammy, do you see them?” I ask, my eyes scanning the water with my lens. Sammy is our guide. He has the eyes of an eagle, if anyone can find them he can.

“I don’t see them,” he replies.

For a moment I feel relief, and then I remember they could be hiding under the water.

Crocodile tries to bite a zebra in the Masa Mara River in Kenya

If only we had x-ray vision.

As I feared, the first zebra begins to wade into the water. Alarms go off in my head as if an air raid is looming.

“Don’t do it!… Don’t do it!” I say outloud. Hoping the zebra can hear and understand. Nancy and Lori chime in as we helplessly watch the oblivious zebra walk farther into the river.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the second zebra start to follow.  A cheesy horror flick, is playing out in front of my eyes. I hear the two-note soundtrack from Jaws in my head.

Crocodile tries to bite a zebra in the Masa Mara River in Kenya

The first zebra hits deep water and begins to swim. I grip my camera, eye squinting through the viewfinder, ready for action. I am sure this cocky fellow is a goner.

Chris, a fellow traveler in the other jeep shouts, “It’s going after the second one!!!!”

I look to the right and a wall of water splashes skyward, followed by a glimpse of a large scaly tail. I see the second zebra twist sideways. My finger is pressing so hard on the shutter I’m surprised it isn’t driving a hole into the case.

Zebra kicks crocodile and runs out of the Masa Mara River in Kenya

There’s another splash and then the whoosh of water being forced sideways at great speed. The zebra somehow managed to spin around. It plants its front hooves into the riverbed and kicks the croc in the face, racing out of the water at breakneck speed.  It stops only after reaching the sandy bank, sides heaving from the effort, ears perked forward in alarm.

My heart is racing. Everything happened so fast. I’m thrilled the zebra isn’t hurt but sad that it’s been separated from its friend on the other side..

Zebra run out of the Masa Mara River in Kenya

The zebra turns and stares at the others. So close yet so far. I imagine it calculating the odds of trying to cross again with little math equations spinning around his head.

It steps towards the water but then thinks better of it.  Water drips off its body as it slowly walks up the embankment from whence it came. As if in a Disney film, the zebra looks back, hesitates a moment, then disappears into the trees.

Foiled, the crocodile sinks below the surface of water.


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The story of a hot day, thirsty zebra, and the hungry crocodile that wanted some lunch (1)


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NEXT:  A First Timer’s Guide to Planning a Safari in Kenya

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62 replies »

    • That was quite a sighting wasn’t it? What a great trip. Can’t believe it was 3 years ago already. Hoping to go back soon as well. Working on a possible September trip. Crossing my fingers. 🙂

    • Thankfully, the zebra escaped, but in all reality, seeing a kill is few and far between. I’ve seen them but I’ve actually been lucky. Being on safari is an extraordinary experience. Absolutely life-changing.

  1. Amazing photos as always, Susan — though I have to say your Mongolia photos still are my favorites.

  2. Great shots. We saw Wildebeests cross when we were there. Just a follow the leader, one broke a leg going down the steep embankment and all crossed. There were hippos down the river. Our driver told us he had some people from National Geographic’s there for a week and saw nothing. It was so exciting!

    • Wow.. sounds like you had a great sighting. I’ve been lucky too, but have heard accounts of people going multiple times and seeing nothing. So glad that didn’t happy.

  3. Just heading to Kenya on my first visit soon so this was well-timed. I would be rooting for the zebra to get away too, even though I know crocs must eat. The bravery – or stupidity – of wildebeest and zebras!

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  6. My heart is racing – literally pounding in my chest! I am in awe – the skills as a photographer to be focused on what’s happening thru the lens….. thoughts racing in my mind “don’t look up Susan, you might miss the shot” LOL!! Your photos grab me LITERALLY! I am ready for a long, tall glass of wine now LOL

  7. These are amazing photos. What suspense!
    When I lived in Kenya, newspapers routinely carried reports of people (adults and children) being grabbed and killed by crocodiles, usually when they were getting water or washing clothes. A person is so much smaller than a zebra; it must be so terrifying.

    • Thank you so much!

      Those crocs are HUGE..I am always blown away by their size. There was one I saw once that was 16 feet long and 4 feet wide. I mean… How could a human ever hope to get away?

Would love to hear from you!