It was late afternoon. My guests wanted to watch some hippos so I decided to go to a nearby dam where we had seen them earlier. We approached the waterhole, and my guests were eager to see how many hippos we could spot. Some hippos had their backs and heads sticking out of the water, enjoying the last late afternoon sun rays. Hippos normally wait for the sun to set, and then go feed for the night.
We watched the relaxed hippos for a while, taking in our surrounding, listening to all the amazing curious bush noises around us. The soft admiring whispers of my guests, blended in with the light breeze rustling through the leaves.
Just on the other side of the dam, a big loud splash roused us from our trans. I grab my binoculars to see what in the world it could be, but nothing caught my eye. Then another big splash, but this time with the splash, there was a movement! I noticed a scaly back surface from the murky water and cut through the ripples towards the bank of the waterhole. I kept my eyes glued on the scales.
In a flash, a crocodile emerged out of the water, but it was not alone.
Something was in its mouth, but what? Eager to see what act nature would bless us with, I moved us to the other side where the crocodile came out. With surprise, I informed my guests that the dinner the crocodile was attempting to consume was, in fact, a huge Terrapin. The crocodile had it lodged in its mighty strong jaw.
I was so excited as it was the first time seeing something like this. But I got the feeling that the crocodile might have over thought the situation, expecting this was going to be an easy meal. The crocodile was struggling to break through the shell of the Terrapin. He was bitting, trying to crush the shell, but nothing. The more he tried to crack the shell, the more tired he got. As we watched we could see he was taking breaks in-between the attempted shell cracking. It appeared, for the moment that the Terrapin was winning the battle with its wall of defence. The crocodile was getting inpatient, bitting harder and faster but still the defence stood.
Time to change tactics!
The crocodile suddenly went back into the water submerging himself and the Terrapin. I assumed he was trying to drown the Terrapin, making it easier for him to crack the shell without any escape attempts of the Terrapin. We all tried our best to keep an eye on this intriguing sight! But eventually, we could not see anything. We waited around for about 20 minutes, scanning the banks for any movement or sign of what the fate of the Terrapin might have been, but…..nothing! We decided to move on with the rest of our evening game drive and make our way back to Buffalo Camp for a delicious boma dinner.
Not knowing who won the battle is a bit frustrating, but yet exciting. It could have gone both ways! The crocodile could have gotten a meal, or the Terrapin, with just a shell, might have escaped with his life and lived another day. But either way, it was an amazing experience to witness something like this. To see the designs of animals in action, to understand why they are built the way they are and the fight to stay alive!
Story and video by: Ranger Ben Scheepers – Buffalo Camp