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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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Africa’s cold-blooded giant

African rock python

The African Rock Python

I’ve been a ranger for a long time, but I’ve never been a fan of snakes. They don’t necessarily frighten me, they just creep me out a little – especially if I need to touch them. It’s inevitable to come across them from time to time in the bush. Sometimes it’s a deadly black mamba and sometimes it’s a harmless spotted bush snake, but of all the snakes in South Africa, the one I mind the least is the African rock python.

We’ve been very fortunate with African rock python sightings at Kapama over the last few months. A young, half-metre-long one was spotted on a recent night drive, sluggishly crossing the road in front of a ranger and his guests, and another, much larger one was observed cooling off in the waterhole near camp. My best African rock python sighting was of a two-metre-long snake basking in a sunny patch in a tree, lying so still that a turtledove landed right in front of it. The snake struck out so quickly we barely had time to blink, and within seconds it had wound its muscular form round and round its prey, squeezing the life out of it before swallowing it down.

African rock pythons are one of the six largest snake species in the world, the largest in Africa, and can grow to a length of six metres (19 feet). Their long, stout bodies are beautifully patterned with blotches of brown, olive, chestnut or yellow, often joining up in a broad, irregular stripe, and their triangular heads are marked on top with a dark brown ‘spear-head’ outlined in yellow. They’re usually found near water, preferring evergreen forests or moist, open savannahs, and they eat anything from birds and rodents to monkeys or fish. Fully-grown pythons have been known to hunt small antelope and even crocodiles. Being non-venomous constrictors, they strike and grab with the help of many small, backward-curved teeth and crush their prey by winding tighter and tighter with each exhalation.

Like all snakes, they’re ectothermic (or cold-blooded), and therefore depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature. This explains why the small one spotted at night took its time to cross the road and why the large one near camp needed to cool off in the water in the heat of the day. The fact that they can get big enough to consider a human child a convenient snack can be quite frightening, but it’s also their size that makes them vulnerable to hunting for food and leather.

I may not like snakes all that much, but finding an African rock python (even a small one) is always a treat – especially if they keep their distance…

Written by: Pieter Barwise
Kapama River Lodge

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Recent Comments
  • Dr Tahira S Ahmed: Our trip to Kapama was one of the best in all our travels . ...
  • Dr Tahira S Ahmed: You already gave warning to adults . Our trip to SA was the ...
  • Karsten Kemp: Yes, these people and mr. Francois van Rhyn were extremely l...
  • Karsten Kemp: That was a very charming rapport and with good pictures. I w...
  • Karsten Kemp: Congratulations with that luck to see the pangoline. Just to...
  • Simon Witney: Sitting in my office in Vancouver, Canada, I open the email ...
  • Helen Cox: Beautiful photos-thank you so much. Now I ought to have ask...
  • Salomien Rudolph: We saw the lionesses and cubs often on our visit in March, e...
  • Karl Brandt: Educational, and (excuse the pun) offering fascinating evide...
  • Karsten Kemp: That was a touching story. That impala-calf must have been b...
  • Krishnan: Enjoyed your piece, Greg! Tells us anything can happen in th...
  • Nalin: Hey Gary. Great sighting I was with Marius when I veistid y...
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  • Elaine Ahlberg: I wish this had happened on my visit -- a true once in a lif...