June 17th 2015, my wife’s 50th birthday; we had been on a roll, enjoying some incredible sights thanks to the combined efforts of our Ranger Garrett and Tracker Life. So when we set off on another cold but beautiful morning, I rather thought that our luck would run out. I was wrong; Garrett and Life followed their instincts and we headed up to the northern border where wild dogs were rumoured to be active. We were immediately rewarded with two of the pack returning to their den in the stunning dawn light.
As we returned south we paused for a moment and with the engine off, we could clearly hear the distress call of impalas. We arrived to see the unusual sight of two rutting males with horns locked and unable to free themselves. Ironically, it was the female distress calls that were to ensure the demise of one of the males and there was an unsettling air of expectancy as the males battled to free themselves…
Almost inevitably, a hyena lolloped into view and despite the large numbers of impala scattering the area, it seemed to instinctively take a direct path towards the stricken males. “This is not going to be pretty” Garrett said in a hushed voice. As the impala sensed the approaching hyena their attempts to free themselves became ever more frenetic, more desperate.
For the viewer witnessing the scene unfold it was a cocktail of emotions; pity, morbid fascination and awe.
Luckily the impact of the hyena attack freed one of the impala which was to guarantee his immediate survival. The other was set upon with ruthless ferocity and after a brief struggle, accepted its fate. Mercifully, the hyena disposed of its kill rapidly; crunching through bones and leaving very little for a smaller counterpart who had tried, in vain, to join the party.
Within 20 minutes almost every element had been consumed and with the circling above us, one was reminded just how efficient this ecosystem can be.
Certain birthday presents can be readily forgotten, this however will not be one of them!
Special thanks to Garrett, Life, Reetel and Will for making our trip so special.
Written and Photographed by: Simon John Owen, Londolozi Guest