It’s winter here in South Africa, but in the bushveld temperatures can still reach nearly 30 degrees Celsius during the day. As the African sun climbs, animals wander to the nearest waterhole – home of the crafty crocodile.
The largest of Kapama’s water sources is the Klaserie River. This area of the reserve boasts some beautifully scenic views and it’s where crocodiles maintain a particularly large stronghold. That’s not to say it’s safe to swim in any of our other bodies of water! Throughout the warmer months it’s quite common to see these scaly giants sunning themselves on most sandy banks.
Late one morning while out on drive, we stopped beside one such waterhole. There were no crocs to be seen, but the tension in the air was tangible as wildlife gathered for a drink – they knew what could be lurking beneath the surface waiting for the perfect moment to strike. A warthog approached to wallow in the mud at the water’s edge, risking the danger for a little relief from biting parasites.
Within seconds, a toothy grin appeared right in front of the warthog and with a quick and efficient SNAP the warthog was caught. Razor sharp tusks are no match for a scaly suit of armour, and soon the writhing warthog disappeared into the churning water.
We all seem to share a natural fear towards these prehistoric creatures – it’s probably what fuels our fascination towards them. Watching them basking on banks or cruising slowly through the water is enough to send a chill down most spines, but watching one rise up out of the water to ambush its prey was a reminder that, out here in the African wilderness, we may not be quite as firmly at the top of the food chain as we like to think…
Written by: Jimmy Vincent
Southern Camp Ranger
Guest visiting Kapama look forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily living to experience tranquility, unique culture, spectacular scenery and close-up encounters with Africa’s wildlife on every game drive. Most guests recall that seeing a kill in a private game reserve results in the ultimate safari experience, maybe it’s the anticipation that builds up as these animals stalk their prey.
We watched as a dazzle of zebras grazing through the vast African plains on the reserve. Two of these zebras started to display ferocious territorial behavior. But suddenly, we heard monkeys alarm calling and the Zebras left nothing but dust behind. We watched in anticipation, as we knew that the zebras were running out of fright for its predator. Within minutes the Guernsey pride lions were in reach of the zebras. It goes without saying that for the lions, it was a successful day in the African bush.
During another safari game drive we were most fortunate to have a cheetah sighting, to our amazement we noticed that this particular female cheetah was on high alert and it became clear that it was stalking its next prey. We respectively followed the cheetah tracks, the vegetation became dense and there stood the impala, the next intended victim of the stalking cheetah. The cheetah crouched low with its ears pulled back and eyes focused on its meal. The impala moved obliviously towards the cheetah and we found ourselves holding our breaths. When the prey was more or less twenty meters away from the cheetah it leapt into action. With speed and agility on her side it took down the impala with not much effort at all.
The cheetah stood over her prize for about five minutes, probably to catch its breath before it started to feed on the impala. It was yet another eventful week on the reserve.
Written by Andries Ndlovu
Kapama River Lodge
Dining like a king
Deep in the African bush lies a variety of creepy crawlies, lazy leopards and cheeky monkeys, but most will agree that the fearsome lion is the most incredible – when he’s not asleep! The king of predators often keeps us on the edge of our seats, and on this particular day, it kept us holding our breaths as well.
“Lion! Lion!”, hissed one of my guests as he caught a glimpse of tawny fur through the bush. I hit the brakes not far from a lioness lying prone in the grass and was delighted to discover she wasn’t sleeping, but stalking! A glance in the direction of her focused gaze revealed a delicious herd of buffaloes marinading in a mud pan.
“Rassie, isn’t this lion a little small to catch a buffalo?” another guest asked hesitantly. “On her own, yes, but I have a feeling she’s got her eye on one of those calves…”
Suddenly, four more lionesses jumped out of the bush, scaring the buffaloes into the tickets. The air was filled with anticipation and the sound of thudding hooves, and there was no way we could keep up with the action. Instead we waited on the road to listen for the kill.
Four minutes passed in absolute silence, giving the dust just enough time to settle before being kicked up again by the whirlwind herd of buffalo in the road behind us. They stopped and turned, anxiously staring into the bushes, so we crept back to take a closer look. The lions had caught a small buffalo calf, much to the dismay and the milling herd, which lingered, stomped and mobbed the lionesses until they backed off and relinquished their injured meal. The buffalo herd surrounded the calf and wasted no time running away, with the lionesses hot on their heels once more.
The chase went on for another thirty minutes, with the injured calf lagging further and further behind. Its mother persisted in fighting off the hungry cats, until the pride split up and managed to separate her from their prey for good. The buffalo herd finally admitted defeat and left the lions to their meal.
Mother nature never ceases to amaze, and although this wasn’t everyone’s idea of an enjoyable sighting, it was truly awesome to see nature unfold before our very eyes.
Written by: Rassie Jacobs
Kapama River Lodge
In search of Kapama’s big cats
Everyone loves a good predator sighting, and there’s no greater thrill than getting close to the big cats that call Kapama home. Our bold lions, elusive leopards, and elegant cheetahs never fail to get the adrenaline pumping, and we are really fortunate to be able to get close to them without disturbing their natural behaviour.
Kapama’s lions are particularly relaxed around vehicles, possibly because they are innately confident within the protection of their pride, but mostly because many of them have grown up with the smells and sounds and chatter of game viewers. This makes them wonderful subjects for photography, especially when their cubs are out and about, amusing our guests.
Getting as close to a leopard or cheetah, though not impossible, is a little more challenging. Nevertheless, there have been many special occasions where I have enjoyed memorable sightings of a lurking leopard or a cheetah feasting on a fresh kill.
On one such occasion, my Argentinian guests were desperate to see a cheetah. It was their last evening drive and though I knew that chances of finding one were slim, we headed out to the north western farm to seek out a speedy spotted cat.
The bark of an anxious nyala alerted us to the presence of a predator so Shadrick, my tracker, jumped off to see what he could find on foot while I drove around the block. When we both came back empty-handed we decided to cut our losses and go and check on a kudu that had been taken down by lions the previous night instead.
The well-fed lions and their cubs entertained us for a while, and we’d all made peace with our cheetah no-show by the time we left them to find a spot for sundowners. But just as we passed where the nyala had called earlier, the snorts of nervous impala brought us to a halt once more.
“There she is! There she is!” came a cry from an ecstatic guest behind me.
Sure enough, there was the cheetah they were so desperate to see, stalking through the bush and away from stares and snorts of the unhappy impala as if she hadn’t been there all along. It just goes to show, those spots really are fantastic for camouflage, and just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Written by: Chane Blignaut
Up close and personal with lions
It was the 22nd of August 2015 and I can vividly recall how beautiful the hot and cloudless spring afternoon had been. I was manager and host for the evening at Kapama River Lodge, and earlier that afternoon I stood on the boma deck and watched as two young male lions lazily flopped down on a small island in the dry riverbed after drinking from the waterhole. From my vantage point, they seemed as harmless as two big house cats dozing the day away. Little did I know that they were not alone – their whole pride was waiting in the wings for the show to begin.
After dinner, when all the guests were sound asleep, I walked towards reception and suddenly we all heard a very loud and sudden shout. I rushed toward the riverbed and found one of the guides, face to face with a lioness in camp! One glance told me that the whole pride was inside the lodge’s fenced area.
It was a strange combination of feelings that gripped me as the guide backed away and made his way back to safety: I kept my head and instructed the guide to check on all the guests and ensure that they stayed safely in their rooms.
Once our head of security arrived, we discovered what had happened – the pride had chased a giraffe right into the camp fence. The lions had followed the giraffe in and made their kill in darkness.
Our first priority was to get the lions out of the lodge as soon as possible. Our head ranger, Liezel Holmes, and some of her rangers, the reserve manager, head of security and their teams joined us in an effort to move the giraffe carcass back outside the fence line perimeter. The lions were still within the boundaries of the camp, but the hope was that they would follow their kill once we were all out of the way. It took nineteen men to move the giraffe carcass.
The scattered pride eventually returned to feed off their hard-won kill, and for the remainder of the week our guests were treated to some spectacular in-house game viewing. No TV documentary could ever match the feeling of being in camp with a pair of binoculars and a proper camera lens, and what better way of watching a pride of lions feed than from the cool water of the swimming pool or the comfort of a lounger?
Each day we watched the carcass dwindle, and soon it was light enough to drag off to the shade at the dry river’s edge. Four days later, having eaten their fill, the lions abandoned their kill to the hyenas and vultures and by the sixth day there was nothing remaining but a hollowed out skull and a scrap of skin.
The rest, as they say, is history and the 22nd of August 2015 is a day I’ll never forget.
Written By: Thomas Ndobe
Kapama River Lodge
Lazy lions and a little luck (not for the buffalo…)
Kapama Private Game Reserve is vast and its lodges are generously spaced across the property, so wild animals from the reserve frequently come into contact with the camp borders and are spotted by guests and staff. These sightings can be some of the most memorable and exciting for everyone lucky enough to witness them, especially when predators are involved. We recently had one such amazing sighting on the outskirts of Buffalo Camp.
Cape buffaloes love water and can usually be found close to perennial water bodies, wading into the water to cool down in the hot Limpopo climate, so we weren’t surprised when the small waterhole in front of Kapama Buffalo Camp attracted a lone buffalo bull, which lay down in the shallows. At about the same time, Buffalo Camp rangers and their guests followed a pride of lions, two mature females and their five sub-adult offspring, into the area. As they came across the buffalo in the water, everyone prepared for some action.
In an attempt to evade an attack, the buffalo moved deeper into the water. Lions don’t enjoy getting wet, so this was a good plan – at least it would have been had the buffalo been able to wait out the patient pride. Unfortunately (for the buffalo), the entire pride parked off under the trees at the back of the camp, near the staff accommodation, and kept their eyes on their prize. One curious sub-adult male approached the fence to investigate the gathering crowd of staff members watching the show, but eventually lost interest and retreated to the shade. When the worst of the afternoon heat had subsided, they all moved back to the edge of the water to wait out the tired buffalo. Eventually, after many hours of standing in deeper water, the old bull moved back into the shallows to rest, and no sooner had he laid down than one of the lionesses pounced for the kill.
The pride feasted, providing a spectacle and great photographic opportunities for the four days it took to consume the carcass. Incredible moments occur when you’ve got the wild on your doorstep, and this is one we aren’t likely to ever forget.