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Living in a cottage on the banks of the Olifants River in the Greater Kruger National Park had its obvious perks. In the bosom of unspoilt nature, wildlife sightings and gripping hunting scenes were ample – like this oblivious waterbuck that came face to face with a crocodile. Words and pictures by Roy Terlien

In the stretch of river where we lived, crocodiles were fairly common and we were able to observe them on a regular basis. Their masterful hunting skills soon became quite apparent. Nile crocodiles, the only croc species found in South Africa, are stealthy and as good as invisible when stalking prey in water. What was not expected was that they would hunt with such obvious intelligence, planning and intent.

Not long before the interaction, I had seen a large crocodile lying on the riverbank at the exact spot where this waterbuck had come down to drink. Feeling a bit like I was part of a sting operation – knowing too well what was about to happen – I grabbed my camera. A crocodile strike was imminent.

I focused on the drinking waterbuck… the following sequence played out almost immediately:

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Crocodile-waterbuck-Kruger-Roy Terlien (9)-min

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The warm-blooded waterbuck got away. Even after getting trapped under a fallen tree where it seemed like the crocodile might have a second go, the antelope escaped. This time.

A second look

Looking at the pictures post event, I noticed two startled vervet monkeys in the background. Their reaction to the drama is sort of comical. (Scroll back through the top three pictures to see the monkeys’ reaction.)

Of all the buck we observed during our stay, the waterbuck seemed to be the most casual towards crocodiles, often nonchalantly walking into the river.

Did you know?

  • Waterbuck is one of the easiest antelope species to identify. That distinctive white ring on the animal’s rump is a dead giveaway.
  • Territorial bulls are known for their rather unpleasant goaty body odour.
  • Only males have horns and fights often result in death.
  • The sex of a crocodile is determined by temperature – higher temperatures produce males, and lower temperatures females.
  • A female Nile crocodile can lay up to 75 eggs.
Additional sources: Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa. A Field Guide. Revised and updated by Peter Apps. 2012. Struik Nature; What’s That Reptile? A Starter’s Guide to Reptiles of Southern Africa. Johan Marais. 2011. Random House Struik.