Working in the bush offers the opportunity to witness incredible wildlife interaction every day, but a few days ago, I saw something almost unbelievable.

It was a beautiful sunny morning as I made my way back to my living quarters after the morning game drive.  I saw this majesticmartial eagle flying around and landing on the ground a few meters away in the bush.  I thought I might try and photograph it – but what followed I could not imagine.

I moved into the bush as quietly as possible and positioned myself close enough for a few great shots of the eagle sitting on the ground.  I did notice that it was constantly looking up at the sky.

Now the martial eagle is the largest eagle in Africa, with an average length of 78-96 cm, and a wingspan of 188-260 cm.  As one of the world’s most powerful avian predators, this eagle is fearsome with few natural enemies.

The diet of the martial eagle ranges from game birds and Egyptian geese, to reptiles such as monitor lizards and snakes.  Regular mammal prey includes hares, mongooses, squirrels, baboons, monkeys and sometimes young impala and smaller antelope. The martial eagle hunts mostly in flight, circling high above its territory, and stooping sharply to catch its prey by surprise. On occasion, they may still-hunt from a high perch or concealed in vegetation near watering holes. Birds are typically killed on the ground or in trees, and sometimes in mid-flight.

So, as this eagle was looking up, I noticed there were some hooded vultures flying quite low above us getting ready to take the thermals higher.  Out of nowhere this eagle shot up into the sky and slammed into one of the vultures flying above us, pulling it downwards before hitting the ground with a huge thud.

These two big birds were fighting on the ground – it was just dust and feathers. The eagle made it look easy keeping the vulture pinned on the ground using its size and sharp talons.  The vulture flapped its great big wings but every attempt was useless against the eagle.  After a few brief moments of panic, the dust finally settled,and I saw the martial eagle spreading its wings victorious over its prey.

For a moment, I could hardly believe what I had just witnessed. This was truly one of my best wildlife encounters ever. Thank goodness I had a camera, because no one would believe my story if I didn’t have proof!

Written by: Pieter Barwise

Kapama River Lodge