Photographs taken by Neil Goodes during his safari at Londolozi show a different angle on what has been one of the most dramatic wildlife sightings of the year – the crocodile, wildebeest and hippo…
“We’d already seen numerous noteworthy sightings and I had noticed some storks that I wanted to photograph when our Ranger Richard along with our Tracker Lucky, stopped to listen. Richard then announced that he had heard a cry. ‘That’s a wildebeest distress call, I think he has been attacked by a crocodile in the dam.’
The cry had come from Shingi Dam, situated only 500 metres from where we were parked. We raced over to find a wildebeest cow on the side of the dam with a crocodile firmly gripped onto the face of the animal. The first thing I noticed was the immense size and power of the croc.
The second thing that struck me was how quiet everything was. It was as if everyone including the birds had little interest in the sad fate that awaited the wildebeest. Everyone, except for a little calf, that stood next to its mother. The young animal stood helplessly but would run between its mother and the herd – unsure of what to do.
Watching the wildebeest and crocodile you wanted the wildebeest to break free but you knew it wasn’t going to happen. You knew you shouldn’t really watch but you couldn’t take your eyes away.
Gradually the crocodile began to pull the wildebeest into the dam. It wasn’t one way-traffic and sometimes the wildebeest would manage to take steps back to the edge. This would be followed by moments of no action. The wildebeest stood motionless with the crocodile’s jaws clamped around its face. Suddenly the waters erupted and the power of the crocodile could be seen as he relentlessly tried to topple the wildebeest onto its side.
The wildebeest herd that had been standing nearby departed from the scene along with the calf. I realised that this was the end for the wildebeest. If for some reason it did manage to escape, the hyenas that were lurking on the bank would surely make a meal of the badly injured animal.
The wildebeest was being dragged deeper into the water and you could see the terror in its eyes.
A tug of war
A hippo in the dam decided to investigate and made its way towards the wildebeest. Richard had initially thought that the hippo would come to the assistance of the wildebeest and this gave us a glimmer of hope.
The hippo had no intention of helping out and instead lashed out at the cow. The croc tried to drag the wildebeest out of the way of the hippo but the hippo circled and attacked again, sinking its teeth into the poor wildebeest.
The hippo now had the lead and the crocodile seemed to disappear but was most likely still holding on under the surface.
A pattern began to emerge and again there were moments of no action followed by a burst of activity as the three animals emerged from the water. This continued for about 30 minutes and eventually the wildebeest was drowned. The hippo at this stage had become tired of the constant tug of war between the tireless croc and released the wildebeest.
The croc sailed away with its meal.
I felt emotionally drained and my tiredness came partly from operating two cameras and focusing intensely – but mostly drained from what we had just witnessed.
The action that took place reminded me of how primeval life in the wild can be and how easy it is to become detached and comfortable when seeing something of this nature. The episode really made me refocus and appreciate how thin the strands of life can be for the majority of wildlife.”
Camera details: Neil used a Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens on a D800 body and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 on a D300 body.
Written and Photographed by: Neil Goodes.
Video below filmed by: Jess Boon
If this sequence interested you, why not have a look at the wildebeest, hippo and crocodile sequence taken by Londolozi Trainee Ranger Nick Kleer