Preda­tors on the prowl

Most peo­ple want to see big cats when they visit a game re­serve. If you’re re­ally lucky, you might even wit­ness a kill. It can be sav­age to watch, but it’s cer­tainly some­thing you’ll never for­get. We’ve put to­gether an ac­tion-packed spread of three amazin

go! - - With My Own Eyes -

LIONS VS BUF­FALO, KRUGER PARK

Hav­ing just hiked the Sweni Wilder­ness Trail, we treated our­selves to a cou­ple of nights at Hamil­ton’s Tented Camp south of Satara. On the day of our de­par­ture, we de­cided to get an early start as we had a long jour­ney back to our home in Som­er­set West. Our last stop in the park was Shi­mang­wa­neni Dam, where we watched the wa­ter­birds as they fussed around on the banks. But this wasn’t to be our farewell scene. Af­ter about 20 min­utes, a young male lion saun­tered out of the bush, stretch­ing lan­guidly in the morn­ing sun. The rest of the pride soon emerged to as­sem­ble on the dam wall 1 . These were the first lions we’d seen on the trip and we were sur­prised at the size of the pride. It was a typ­i­cal fam­ily gath­er­ing, or so we thought… Look­ing at the se­quence of pho­tos now, it’s clear that it was ac­tu­ally a well-re­hearsed ambush. The cubs were be­ing es­corted by a lower-ranked fe­male, but this fact didn’t alert us to what was about to un­fold. A group of “dagha boys” – old bach­e­lor buf­faloes – ap­peared from an­other di­rec­tion and am­bled to­wards the dam for a drink 2 (pre­vi­ous spread). They saw the lions too late. The buf­faloes turned tail and fled, and the lions emerged from their var­i­ous ambush po­si­tions 3 . The buf­faloes headed straight for our car, then swerved, with the lionesses in hot pur­suit 4 . There was chaos in the car as my hus­band Coe­nie grabbed for his cam­era and I tried to get un­der the dash­board, so I wouldn’t have to watch the blood­shed. Af­ter be­ing told that I was wit­ness­ing a once-in-al­ife­time event, I ex­tracted my­self and started record­ing video. I rea­soned that I’d see less, but at least I’d cap­ture it on film. The lionesses had al­ready caught up with one buf­falo and tried to bring him down. One lioness in par­tic­u­lar needs a medal for brav­ery: She never let go of the nose, risk­ing death so close to the horns. The air was filled with dust, which added to the eeri­ness of the scene. Ini­tially the buf­falo bel­lowed loudly, but as it was brought down 5 his bel­lows be­came a low­ing. Re­signed to his fate but never giv­ing up, the buf­falo held his ground for as long as he pos­si­bly could. We sat in com­plete dis­be­lief. We were the only peo­ple there to wit­ness the event. Within 10 min­utes, the morn­ing had trans­formed from bird­song to pound­ing hoofs. The kill was shorter and less grue­some than I’d an­tic­i­pated, but it still evoked mixed feel­ings. I was full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the cun­ning and strat­egy of the lions, who never lost fo­cus. Like­wise, I was in awe of the brav­ery shown by the buf­falo. One al­most wishes there didn’t have to be a loser. What a spec­tac­u­lar Kruger farewell!

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