Coming of age

A young male lion’s first buffalo kill

A week ago, my guests and I witnessed a fantastic hunt and kill by a young male lion that was not only wet behind the ears, but also trying to bring down a sub adult buffalo alone. He had been kicked out of his pride at the age of two by the dominant male, so he never had the opportunity to participate in a hunt.

We were enjoying a wonderful morning coffee stop close to a dam in the middle of the reserve when suddenly a loud bellow came from fairly close by. I confirmed with my tracker, Themba Ngwenya, that the sound was a buffalo distress call and then asked our guests to make their way back to the vehicle so that we could go and investigate. We quickly made our way around the dam and, once the screeching sounds got louder, we sighted the young male lion being dragged around in the dirt by a buffalo.

Lions have dewclaws on the inside of their front paws, which act as hooks, and the youngster was using these to get a grip on the buffalo. We sat and watched in amazement as he tried his best to bring the mammoth herbivore to the ground. When lions move in prides, they usually attack their prey from different sides, killing it as fast and efficiently as possible, but because this male was alone it took him close to forty five minutes to tire out the buffalo. Once it went down, the lion immediately changed his position, grabbing the buffalo by the throat to suffocate it. Not long after he had caught his breath, he dragged the carcass into a thicket to keep it out of the sun and to hide it from vultures.

This sighting was not only a lesson for the lion, but also a fantastic experience for my guests and I. It may have been hard to watch, but that’s nature at its best. At least he’s proved that he’s got what it takes to survive in the African bush.

Written by: Gregory Heasman
Kapama Karula

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Wildlife wonderland in Southern Africa

Baby elephants playing together

It is no secret that we love images of elephant calves here at Kapama Private Game Reserve. After all, what could be more adorable than baby animals playing together? Viewing these sprightly, good-natured elephant calves in their natural environment makes for a marvellous safari drive.

Leaving Karula for an evening game drive with four Geman guests, I discovered evidence of elephants on the road – unmistakable, huge circular tracks, not far from the lodge. I immediately told my guests to be on the lookout and their faces lit up with excitement. Within seconds, they were camera ready!

One elephant made a brief appearance and then suddenly there were more. Parked near a waterhole, waiting and listening for the crackle of broken branches, the entire herd materialised and ambled towards us. Passing just a few metres on either side of us, these gentle giants wandered towards the water with three calves between them – two very little and one slightly larger future giants. The herd of elephants wallowed in the mud for some time before moving on again.

The sun was setting and the light was absolutely beautiful for photos of these three show-offs rolling and chasing each other up and down the dirt road as if they knew they had an audience.

Testing their strength against each other with their bodies, heads and trunks, the two smaller youngsters wrestled, rolled and kicked, before teaming up to take on the older calf. As cute as they were, it was clear to see that in nature, there is always a territorial aspect involved.

The following day, with a warm blanket and hot water bottles, we made our way back into the bush for a morning game drive. We came across a heartwarming display, a herd of elephants was standing in a circle to protect their calves from a possible threat lurking in the bushes.

It really is a wildlife wonderland here in the African bush. Every day is a new adventure and we are so often lucky enough to witness a little bit of the magic of Southern Africa.

Written by: Morne Ferreira
Kapama Karula

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Playing hardball

A once-in-a-lifetime daytime pangolin sighting

As a ranger, there are only a few animals that I have not yet seen. Unsurprisingly, they’re all quite rare or extremely shy, but during an early morning safari on Kapama Private Game Reserve, some Italian guests and I were fortunate enough to spot a ground pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater!

The morning started of with a hot cup of coffee in the African bush, before we set off to find the Guernsey Pride lion cubs. Just 5 minutes into our drive, I noticed an animal armoured with heavy yellow-brown scales walking slowly on its hind legs with its tail, forelegs and head just off the ground. My heart did a little dance before leaping into my throat and I had to rub my eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving me. This near-mythical creature had eluded me for years, but there it was, right in front of me. My guests sensed my excitement, and as I explained just how special a sighting it was their own excitement grew and cameras started clicking.

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

This nocturnal animal is seldom preyed upon. When threatened, it simply rolls itself into a ball, exposing only its tough outer scales. The pangolin lives in underground holes dug by itself or other rare animals, such as aardvark. It has a strong sense of smell and claws on its forefeet to open underground food sources. The pangolin has no teeth, but licks up ants and termites with its long sticky tongue. The biggest threat to this remarkable animal is illegal poaching for their meat and scales.

Rassie Jacobs, River Lodge ranger, was also lucky enough to spot a pangolin during a recent safari bush walk: “Johan Taljard, River Lodge ranger, called a pangolin sighting in on the radio. I could not believe my ears and asked Johan to please repeat himself. When he did, I was overwhelmed with excitement – the particular sighting was just a few metres away from us! We walked quietly towards it and fortunately, it was quite relaxed and I was able to photograph it.”

During another bush walk Doctor Mbisi, Southern Camp ranger, also got up close and personal with a pangolin.

Even as a guide, living and working in the bush full time, you’re lucky to get a glimpse of the pangolin after dark. Here at Kapama Private Game Reserve, we have been most fortunate to spot this scarce and special creature in daylight, with enough time to really appreciate its rarity and uniqueness.


Written by: Alister Kemp

Kapama Southern Camp

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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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