An unpredictable day in Africa

One afternoon drive, we already had a great beginning with seeing two male Leopards having a territorial dispute. The older male Leopard ended up getting pushed out of his territory and the younger male won territory that he could finally call his own! A little while later we had found a pride of Lions, one male and two females lounging around like lions do!!! Finally we decided that this was too much action for one day and a drink was needed. We stopped at a waterhole, with the sun setting just behind it.

Young male Lion

Young male Lion


We had just served everyone with drinks and chatting about the day’s events, and all of a sudden my tracker Tully asked us to keep quiet! It was as if someone had switched the radio off, we were deadly silent! Not far from us we heard these strange snorting noises and Tully explained that this was very unhappy Impala’s. So we very quickly packed up to go find out what was
upsetting these Impala’s so much. Drove one block switched off the engine and listened, drove to the direction of the snorting and switched the engine off and listened. We found the Impala’s all facing the same direction and as we looked beyond them we saw this little white body lying on the ground. As we drove closer i could not believe my eyes, we had just witnessed Africa’s largest snake- the African Rock Python kill a young Impala.

Males can get up to 4.5metres and females 5metres and easily weigh 55kgs, that’s a lot of snake for some people to handle. Their diet is varied but they can consume small antelope, monkeys, fish, monitor lizards and even small crocodiles have been recorded. Today this Python had killed a young impala, and it was through the mothers distress calls that we had gotten this phenomenal sighting. African Rock Pythons seek prey with their heat sensors, ambush and then use strength rather than venom. As the animal exhales the snake constricts and with every breath until the prey is exhausted of oxygen. Once the prey stops breathing the Python then releases his grip and goes towards the head and starts to consume his hard earned prey. At this time the snake is at its most vulnerable to predators, so he swallows the prey surprisingly fast. Once the Python has devoured his prey he goes into hiding like a cavity of a tree or maybe an old Aardvark hole, so that the digestive juices can take over!

African Rock Python - Phot by Morah-Leigh Cooper

African Rock Python - Phot by Morah-Leigh Cooper

It just goes to show that the bush is extremely unpredictable, you never know what’s around the next corner and if you us all your senses you just might just get so much more…

Morah-Leigh Cooper-Ranger, Kapama Karula

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5 Responses to “An unpredictable day in Africa”

  1. Belinda says:

    Was just there and not sure if I would have looked as I cannot stand snakes but this is just such a rare sight so you are so lucky

  2. Oskar and Magnus Svensen says:

    Dear Mike Kirkman – Head Ranger,

    Thank you for the information about the pythons because it was very interesting.-Oskar

    Do you have mambas at kapama ? Magnus

    mum does not want to see any snakes !

    Thanks again Oskar and Magnus

    • Mike Kirkman says:

      Hi Magnus and Oskar
      Yes we do have Mambas on Kapama, here it is the Black Mamba. They are one of the biggest snakes in the area, but we do not really have many problems with them, because luckily all the snakes are very shy animals. So you can tell your Mom not to worry.
      Which Lodge will you be staying at when you come to visit us at Kapama?
      See you soon
      Mike Kirkman

  3. Oskar and Magnus Svensen says:

    Dear Morah-Leigh Cooper – Ranger,

    We are looking forward to visit Kapama Game Reserve soon.

    I thought your article about the snake eating the Impala was very awsome.but i never knew that rock pythons had heat sensors,i thought it was only pit vipers that had heat sensors-Oskar 🙂

    What is the chance of seeing a snake in the wild on our visit at Kapama such as rock pythons and puff adders?
    Can i please use this artical in my school blog about snakes for my project. What are the most usual times of the year to see snakes and what time like morning mid-day or night ?

    from your interested readers Oskar and Magnus 9 years
    P.s very interested in snakes

    • Andries Jamneck says:

      Hello Oskar and Magnus
      Hope this finds you well. Pythons also have the heat sensors so that they can find their food, but it is a fairly new discovery, so might not be in some of the older books. The heat sensors are on their lips. Many of them use these in the dark caves and tunnels, and in our area the inside of the big termite mounds where their food is. But they also hunt by lying in ambush along animal paths or close to water, and even sometimes in the water itself. This is almost certainly how the python caught the impala in the blog story. Some of the big ones that don’t need to eat often can wait in one spot for weeks for just the right opportunity to come past.
      To see snakes on your safari is very unpredictable. During the winter months it is very hard because many of them spend their time underground, or hidden away. They are more active in the summer months, but even then the snakes have to stay well hidden because there are other animals that will eat them, like the eagles and mongoose. Many of the snakes we see are actually seen by the birds first and it is their alarm calls that alert us to the snakes. But you never know what you will see on your safari, so when you get here ask your ranger about snakes, and maybe if he hears about one they can take you there.

      Good luck and we hope to see you and your family soon

      Mike Kirkman
      Head Ranger
      Kapama Karula

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