Built for the kill

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

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The Amazing Hunt

Dining like a king

Lioness hunting buffaloDeep 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…”

Lionesses hunting buffaloSuddenly, 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

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Living with African wild cats

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
Kapama Karula

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A startled herd and a lurking leopard

Witnessing the birth of an impala

Every day is a unique opportunity to connect with the African bush and on this day I was most fortunate in driving by a truly remarkable sighting. It was an impala ewe with something hanging between her legs.

Birth of an impala

I was on my way to pick up my guests from the nearby airport and enjoying the beautiful drive in my open safari game drive vehicle, the sound of lions roaring and birds chirping filling the air. I stopped when I heard distress calls from a herd of impalas since this is usually a clear indication that a predator is lurking nearby. It was then that the impala ewe caught my eye and I immediately realised that the thing hanging between its legs was the impala’s calf – still in the process of being born.

Birth of an impala

The rest of the herd called the alarm again, I searched for the cause of their distress with a combination of concern and excitement. Seeing nothing, I laid down my binoculars and just then a leopard bolted out of the bush, scattering the startled herd. The laboring ewe tried to delay the birth of her newborn lamb, but it was too late. The tiny calf fell to the ground in a bloody mess and the ewe sprung to the safety of a nearby thicket.

Birth of an impala

The leopard was nowhere to be seen and the distant alarm calls from the scattered herd told me it has moved off. Surprisingly, this calf had gone unnoticed.

Birth of an impala

Alone, it stretched its long, skinny legs and stood up to take its first few wobbly steps. Its mother returned, together they made their way back into the thicket and out of harm’s way.

Birth of an impala

Heaving a sigh of relief, I made my way to the airport and shared my remarkable sighting and excitement with my new guests. It’s rare moments like these that makes life in the raw African bush so special.

Written by: Gregory Heasman

Kapama Karula

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Sheltered between the herd

Kapama’s new baby giant

Elephants are big, bold and beautiful, not to mention being up there with dolphins and chimps in terms of intelligence. With their beautiful long lashes, wrinkly trunks and Africa-shaped ears, you can’t help but love them, and baby elephants take cuteness to a whole new level. And guess what? Kapama is one elephant calf richer!

Elephant calf

One morning, my guests and my tracker, Richard, and I went searching for the herd. It was their last game drive at Kapama and elephants were the only animals they really wanted to and hadn’t yet seen. I mentioned to Richard that I had seen a fresh tree pushed over on the road near the waterhole– a clear sign of elephant activity – just next to Southern Camp. “Yes, I also heard them this morning. They might still be nearby,” Richard said.

 

We hadn’t driven far when the silence was broken by the sound of trees breaking all around – they were very close to camp indeed. Moments later two elephants hurried across the road to the nearby waterhole, and I suddenly brought the vehicle to a halt. My heart thudded and the sound of cameras clicking became evident. We waited for the rest of the herd to follow, but they remained deep in the bush.

Elephants at waterhole

“Let’s carry on. Maybe it’ll give these guys some time to come out so we can try again,” I explained. Just as we set off to drive further into the reserve, a movement far down the road at the waterhole caught my eye… big flapping ears! At last!

Elephant calf with mother

“Ah, look at the baby,” one gentlemen guest exclaimed. I turned around and saw the new elephant calf, about a month old, only a few metres away from the game drive vehicle. After being carried in her mother’s womb for almost two years, a teeny tiny giant stood sheltered between the tree-trunk-sized legs of the herd. Ten elephants stood nearby, cooling off in the water. You can probably imagine the excitement and sheer delight on my vehicle.

Elephant calf

The tiny giant was very interested in our vehicle and ventured close enough to give us a sniff before racing back to stand beside her mom, who remained splashing peacefully in the water near the Land Cruiser. In the African bush, every moment has the potential to be extraordinary.

Elephant calf relaxing in the mud

Written by: Liesa Becker

Kapama Southern Camp

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Whooo’s there?

Breakfast on my doorstep

 I’m a new ranger at Kapama and have been guiding here for about 3 weeks. One morning, I was woken early by the loud, unhappy screeching of a guinea fowl, but it was only when I left my room on my way to work in the pre-dawn gloom that I very nearly stumbled over the reason for its distress: a Verreaux’s eagle-owl on the ground right in front of my bedroom door, its feathery meal clutched in its talons, but as I walked closer to the sighting the guinea fowl saw an opening and managed to escape while it sidestepped the large bird of prey.

Verreaux's eagle owl

I glanced back at the eagle-owl, which was nowhere to be seen. I gave a step forward to have a look at the injured little guinea fowl and all of a sudden I felt a wave of air rushing through my hair. As I looked up I watched as the eagle-owl swooped down unseen from the roof and instantly injured the guinea fowl only two metres away from where I was standing. Noticing my presence the owl took off, carrying its breakfast to an African Thorn tree at the nearby waterhole.

Verreaux's eagle owl

It was amazing to get close enough to admire the eagle-owl’s big pink eyelids, mottled feathers and its sheer size. Later that afternoon it flew away from the waterhole, taking what remained of his prized kill with him, I wondered if it was taking the remains of the guinea fowl to its nest. In persuit of its nest, I followed while respectively keeping my distance. The sound of chirping chicks became more evident and at about 15 metres from the waterhole the owl started to slow down as if it was about to make a landing. My eyes caught a stick nest (constructed by other birds), I couldn’t see if there was any chicks inside, but the sound was clear enough to hear the little owls, the eagle-owl has landed, passing the food into the nest.

Verreaux's eagle owl

As you might know by now, the Verreaux’s eagle-owl or giant eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus) is a large, nocturnal, African bird of prey. It is Africa’s largest owl and the third largest owl species in the world, and a close-up encounter such as this is incredibly special. Interestingly enough, it hunts at night for mostly small to medium-sized mammals, like monkeys, hares, and hyraxes, as well as birds up to the size of a bustard, so a guinea fowl would be a perfect light meal.

It’s not every day you see these magnificent nocturnal hunters, especially in the middle of the day and so close and on the ground, but no matter what the situation, if you encounter a Verreaux’s eagle-owl, stop what you are doing and enjoy the special sighting, you never know where the eagle will land next!

 

Written by: Matthew McDonald

Kapama River Lodge

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