Shadows

As the stifling heat began to relent and the Sun sank lower on the horizon, a pack of southern Africa’s most endangered and efficient predators began to move.  Black shapes started slinking through the shadows; oversized ears standing to attention as they honed in on the gentle rustling of the dry grass close by.  The impalas continued to feed quietly in the failing light, blissfully unaware that they were in mortal danger as the shadows enveloped them.

Suddenly the lead dog broke from its cover, rifling towards its quarry with blistering speed.  The rest of the pack swiftly joined the chase and streaks of black lighting covered the ground with consummate ease as the gap closed.  The impala however live their life with the constant fear of predation and their honed reactions gave them a head start as the chaos ensued.

For the next few minutes, our guests watched in awe as the hunt progressed.  Impala stotted in all directions, kicking their legs out behind them in a ploy designed to distract and confuse.  The dogs came close on many occasions but this time, the impala’s survival instinct outweighed the canine onslaught.  Their fleet footed gymnastics were able to keep the rampant predators at bay but the sighting was still one racked with excitement and tension.  The age old battle of predator and prey raged for perhaps 5 minutes until the dogs abandoned their chase.  Unperturbed by this night’s failure, the dogs retreated into the shadows from whence they came to regroup and re-strategize for their next hunt that would no doubt be launched soon.

We lost sight of the hunters as the shadows deepened and the fading sunlight was swallowed by the blackness of the African night.  The darkness accentuated their distant chirping calls as the pack members found each other, and their patiently waiting pups in the aftermath of the battle.  We pulled over to enjoy the last rays of light close to a waterhole and toast another amazing sighting.  Blackness had now overcome the day and our own hearing was honed to compensate.  Echoes of the dog’s chirping had faded and we sipped gin and dry lemon, each losing ourselves in the still tranquility of the night.

A noise close by; a ripple of water and the faint sound of sand being disturbed caused us to turn on the spotlight.  The water hole was bathed in yellow light and to our wonderment, no more than 50 metres away, the dogs softly lapped water to quench their thirst now that the hunt had subsided.  The dogs were oblivious to our presence and continued their routine as we watched on.  There was nothing to say or do except take in the spectacle.

The bush theatre had given us a spectacular encore that none of us will ever forget.  The world is a balancing act of opposing forces and emotions.  We had been privy to see the dogs in full flow not 30 minutes earlier and the spectacle itself was exhausting to watch, but now, the beauty of the natural world righted that chaos by delivering us an emotionally charged and moving scene as they frolicked by the water’s edge, displaying great tenderness as they groomed each other and cemented their bonds.  No one said anything. We simply took in the moment and I have no doubt that we will all remember that beautiful spectacle forever.

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