Photographed in Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Park, South Africa, this is one of a pair of Egyptian geese that I observed at a water hole late in the afternoon, very late in the afternoon actually (as I’ll discuss in a moment).
In the park, there were several water holes where permanent hides had been erected. I set up the camera and tripod and observed numerous animals come down to the water, giraffe, zebra, elephant, kudu and several bird species.
I was staying outside the park and using a rental car to visit and get around the twin reserves of Hluhluwe and Imfolozi. Being aware that the park(s) closed their gates at a given, published, time, I knew that leaving the waterhole, I had to give myself sufficient time to get out or risk being locked in overnight. Sadly, I underestimated, by quite a margin, how long it would take to drive out. Darkness was falling and there are sensible speed limits in place. In any event, driving quickly on the gravel roads is foolhardy as you must consider the possibility of wildlife wandering onto or across the road in the darkness. Colliding with, or startling, an elephant can end badly for both the animal and the car and driver!
By the time I got to the park exit, it was dark and the gates were shut and locked. Now I had a dilemma! The prospect of sleeping overnight in a car by the side of the road didn’t appeal.
Next to the gate was a track that led a short distance to a cottage, the gatekeeper/ranger’s post? I had little alternative, I made my way along the path to the cottage, nervously peering into the darkness and noting every mysterious noise. On getting to the cottage, I could see that there was a light on, I knocked on the door, no response. Don’t tell me! Surely there has to be someone present. I looked through a window and could see a kettle on the stove. I knocked on the door again only louder. This was enough to stir the ranger inside who came to the door and looked incredulously at his unexpected caller. I explained my predicament and, with considerable apprehension, he unlocked the gates for me, nervously muttering “lions” as he did so.
Lesson learnt, give yourself more time than you believe you need to exit a wildlife reserve!
The image was captured with the 500mm F4.0 telephoto lens on a Canon 20D which has a 1.6x crop factor and so the equivalent angle of view as an 800mm lens on a full-frame body. ~KD.