At the beginning of the game drive, the whole family had been playful and laughing as they boarded the van, reminding me of the days my mother used to tell us at such times, someone would cry before the end of the day.
We were just about to hit the final stretch to the hotel when I noticed a lone giraffe standing in the middle of a cluster of bushes which hid most part of its body, leaving the long neck sticking out like a tree trunk. The many years in the bush has sharpened my sense of anticipation and the smell of trouble. Instantly, I knew from the agitated look of the giraffe that it was in danger. My first guess was that it could have fallen into an aardvark hole and injured itself, or it was in labour pains and about to give birth. Much as I wanted to pass by and head straight to the lodge,I chose to slow down a bit and watch carefully. Even before the van came to a complete stop, I had ruled out the two possible reasons for the giraffe's behaviour. This animal was about to fight the battle of its life. From the look of his age, the giraffe may have fought similar battles before and won. But this could be his greatest, and probably the last. All around the giraffe, were silhouettes of members of the largest pride of lions that had colonised the area around the lodge.
I could not tell how long it had been since I stopped the van and killed the engine. One thing I knew for sure was that I had not informed the clients the reason for the sudden stop. The tension was so much you could slice it with a knife! I could hear the heavy breathing of the mother seated right behind my seat, and the shuffling of the camera bag that the son had been given to handle. They had noticed what was happening and they were getting ready to document the action. The father was already on his feet and the buzz of the professional video he was using told of his alertness. He was already engaged. But none of us was ready for what followed.
Almost at once, in a highly synchronised movement, five lionesses moved out into the open and blocked the only exit route the giraffe was eyeing. Three jumped on to the neck and a huge black maned male went under the giraffe and quickly sliced off the testicles and begun to chew them! As the giraffe frantically tried to shake off the three lionesses on his neck, the male went back underneath the giraffe and held on to the front legs. One of the females managed to hold on to the head of the giraffe, twisting the neck towards the other two. While supporting their weight with claws dug deep inside the flesh of the giraffe, the two females used their teeth to rip out the throat and expose the jugular vein to the outside. Blood sprouted out like a fountain and a jet hit the windscreen of my van, painting the whole front view scarlet red! The sound of the blood gushing out of the giraffe, and the growls of the 10 plus lions, made the scene resemble a Stephen king horror movie.
Inside the van, the mother and her daughter were shouting and hitting me on my back, telling me to get out of there. The father was filming and at the same time asking me not to make a move! The son did not know what to do. He was too scared to even take a photo! On my part, I did not know which order to follow. I started the engine, but I could not engage the gears. The van was revving madly, but not moving! As I fumbled with the gears, I saw through the red windscreen, the giraffe coming down with a huge thud, with the three females riding expertly on his back like the jockeys in a horse race. It landed less than a meter from the van. that got me off the stance. The gears engaged and i was out of that scene in a flash! In the van, the crying had started! But it wasn't me.