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
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!