It was a beautiful winter’s afternoon. Our guests were setting off on a sunset bush drive into a Big Five game reserve, situated just outside the world-famous Kruger National Park.
Leanne, our new GM, joined them on the drive and wanted to share her experience with you.
The journey got off to a great start, with a sighting that is becoming rarer by the day day. Two white rhino, trying to remain hidden in the thick bush but spotted by the keen eye of the ranger. As they travelled further, through the dense vegetation, into clearer savannahs, they passed a herd of impala grazing peacefully together with a dazzle of zebra.
A large kudu bull watched as they drove along the gravel road, his impressive horns curling high into the sky. They headed over to the far side of the reserve, to where the main dam, a source of water for the animals, was situated.
The birds flitted around, getting ready to settle in for the night as the sun slowly started its descent behind the mountains. From a distance, through the dusk, black dots appeared, which as they got closer, turned into dozens of hot, thirsty buffalo, moving purposefully towards the water.
The dam was quite empty due to sparse summer rains and all the river and dams were growing drier and drier. The buffalo rapidly picked up their pace, creating a cloud of dust behind them. It then became apparent what was causing the urgency in their steps.
Three adult lioness, lying quietly on the wall of the dam. They soaked up the last rays of warmth and seemed to be taking no notice of the buffalo.
The game viewing vehicle located the best viewing spot and parked, waiting to see what would transpire. On the far side of the dam, elephants sucked up what they could from the scattered puddles. It was a wonderful, tranquil scene, straight out of post cards and nature documentaries.
But then everything changed. The lionesses sprang into action and quietly moved towards the middle of the dry dam, flattening themselves, in full stalking mode. They knew that the buffalo would start to move around to the opposite side of the dam, to where the elephants were drinking, where there was still water.
The 4×4 quickly moved off, so that all eyes could get a good view of the action to come.
They were just in time to see two lionesses leap onto a small young buffalo calf and take it down. The third lioness who had not taken part in the hunt moved towards the kill and settled down next to the others.
As an act of bush courtesy, the vehicle had to move away from the scene to enable other vehicles the opportunity to come in closer and see the kill.
Thrilled at what they had just witnessed they drove off, heading into a thick bushy area near the river. The action continued as their tracker located a male leopard, lazily lying high up in a tree. By the looks of his bulging stomach, he had recently eaten and was settling down as darkness fell to take a nap. This also meant that it was time to start returning to the gate.
They returned quickly for one last look at the lion kill.
On their arrival they were surprised to see that the carcass was still fully intact. In fact, it was still very much alive. Lions kill by biting their prey on the neck and closing off their air supply, slowly suffocating them. Then they saw the reason why. Ten young cubs.
Their skillful mothers were giving them hunting lessons. They would allow the cubs to try and jump on and force the weary buffalo to the ground. If the buffalo got a little too strong and showed signs of escaping, then one of the mothers would “weaken” it by applying more pressure to the neck for a few minutes. It was both sad and enthralling. One could not help but pity the calf, but it was a lesson that had to be learned. Harsh but essential for cubs’ survival.
Leanne and the rest of our guests were so fortunate to witness this amazing lesson.
The images (both mental and on their devices), kept them oblivious to the cold night air as they returned to the gate for their shuttle back to the lodge.
The end of another perfect day in Africa.