Whispering Death

'I heard a nothing but the breeze and set my senses to ‘hyper-mode’

The lions sat up and peered down the rocky outcrop from where they were basking in the morning sunshine. Something alerted them. Our camera lenses slowly raised into position. 

The focussed looks on the lion's face told the story of something happening in the head-high brush that surrounded the base of the Kopie. 

Standing 10 meters in front of us was a young female kudu oblivious to the lions on the hill. 

 
 

It was a great photo opportunity for our keen group as she just stood still looking into the lenses trained on her. With stunning white and fawn markings, she was a beautiful sight.

It seemed such an obvious place for an ambush. I could imagine the lions saying “we’ll head em’ off at the pass” and this was the pass alright! 

The lions were looking down on either side of the bottom of the hill into the dry yellow grass that rustled 10 feet tall in the breeze. 

With years of experience in the African bush, our tour guide Cuan suggested we just sit quietly, cameras ready. 

The Kudu just stood still surrounded by dry scrub, not visibly aware of any potential danger, despite standing in such an obvious ambush point.

Another male kudu stood deeper a bit further back in the dense scrub flicking his ears before returning to nibble at the vegetation. Nothing to see here!

Looking back at the lions, they were really too far away to get any close head shots but they did make for an interesting group gathered on the hill. 

Some of them lay on their side in the sun while others looked intensely down into the bush in front of us. 

Or were we imagining they were looking at something? In our vehicle we started to ponder the scenario, we had no proof anything was afoot and decided to give it 5 minutes.

The breeze shuffling through the grass and someone coughed in the back seat.

Cuan’s head turned around to look the other way into the bush, listening. “Did you hear that?”

Admittedly I heard a nothing but the breeze and set my senses to ‘hyper-mode’

“A kudu distress call!”

Looking around the Land Cruiser I noted everyone’s face was as intense as that of the lions. 

All our human senses had been awakened from their city slumber.

Dead silence, lions staring down the hill, kudus now on high alert, cameras focussed… Nothing.

I starred at the yellow grass, imagining stalking lions within, but only saw scrub.

It was a very subtle thing, the yellow grass waved to the right but a golden head glided though to the left. Did we just see that? Was it really a few meters in front of us?

I saw only the top of the head, not bounding or stalking but gliding smoothly through the grass. It was too momentary and subtle for any of us to capture it with anything other than our senses.

That was all we would see of the hunt. 

Kudu distress calls sounded like car alarms for a couple of seconds before everything fell silent. 

More than likely the lioness had a Kudu, choking it silently within the scrub, but we couldn’t confirm that, and nobody was volunteering to go check!

It may not have been an epic BBC Documentary with a titanic battle unfolding blow for blow in 4K on our widescreen, but every sense we have as humans was at full capacity, we were all very much immersed in the hunt. 

It was really satisfying to know our human instincts were correct to sense there was a hunt taking place with no real proof. To have it confirmed with a whisper of gold through the grass was exhilarating.

Not everything we see on a photo safari will tell the whole story through pictures every time.

Looking at these pictures of lions on the Kopie and knowing what their faces are saying about what’s happening below evokes strong memories in everyone who was there.

As in life, our photos not only tell the story of what is contained in them but trigger emotions and memories that we can only try to capture, and no place is as immersive of our senses as Africa.