Life in the African bush has great contrasts. My wife Marian and I have worked together documenting what we see when we are out for a number of years now. I do the photography and Marian will write the stories.
Marian’s favourite animal is the giraffe and when we are out on a drive, we always seem to find at least one and often more. She had never seen a kill and I have seen many, and though our guests often ask to see one, the emotional rollercoaster one goes through in the moment that it happens is intense. Some people are engrossed and others are horrified. It can happen at any time.
So it was in January a few years ago as we were following two lionesses hunting in the cool of an early summer morning. They had moved just out of sight to our left when we saw two giraffe running with a young one sandwiched between them. The lionesses had set up the perfect hunt but it was heartbreaking to see the young one pulled down. We got to the site just as it happened and mercifully the kill was quick.
When we went back the following morning one of the lionesses had returned with her young cubs and so we felt a little better that she had young to feed and that is the way of the wild.
Juxtapose that with a moment of extreme tenderness I saw here at Xigera just two days ago. While we are building the Lodge I go out morning and evening, and the guides record the animal sightings which we pass on to the Department of Wildlife.
There are a lot of elephants around Xigera at the moment as the fruit on the palm trees are ripe and the elephants love them. Some way ahead, Lesh and I saw a young mother and her calf which we guessed was no more than two months old. Elephant calves under a year old can walk under their mothers as a rule of thumb.
We moved off the road to move past them, and the mother was completely relaxed and carried on feeding on the rich cooch grass. The young elephant took its cue from its mother and remained calm even though it was a little inquisitive about us, taking a furtive look in our direction from time to time.
If one is patient and quiet in this moment wonderful things can happen, and so it was that we saw the young elephant roll its trunk back over its head and start to suckle. This beautiful tender moment between mother and calf will live with me forever.