It started off like any other afternoon drive. We left Kapama Southern Camp just a little earlier than the other vehicles and drove around looking at all the wonderful things the bush has to offer. It was an overcast day, so it was windy and slightly chilly, but that did not affect our mood at all.
The guests I had on the game drive vehicle were all very interested in the facts about the bush. There was a family of four and a honeymoon couple from the United States of America. They were over the moon with excitement about being out in the African bush! The Family of four were very interactive, asking amazing questions. For example, the young daughter asked me, “do all animals have four legs or do they have two arms and two legs?” Fortunately for us, there was some giraffe around us so I explained: “All four-legged animals do have two arms and two legs”.
We continued with the drive and saw many of the animals that the Kapama Private Reserve has to offer. About an hour and a half into our drive, we came across some sub-adult Lions, walking up a steep part of the road heading to the open plains. So naturally, I turned the game vehicle around and followed the young Lions. Much to our great surprise, these lions began to show signs of stalking prey.
I turned to my guests and explained the behaviour of these young Lions. “Head lowered, ears flattened against the head, walking in different directions to flank the prey, and of course the absolute focus in the lion’s eyes and their body language, are the tell-tale signs of hunting.” As these were young lions, they did not have the hunting experience that the adults have.
So, there was a lot of chasing and missing, which tends to play with your emotions a bit – when you see Lions chasing something, you get that rush of adrenaline through your body. Eventually, the Lions found themselves amongst the impala they were hunting.
To keep up with the Lion’s movements we had done loops and zigzags, physically and emotionally. Eventually, we found one female watching some male Impala with such focus that even our presence did not seem to bother her at all. We sat watching her watch the Impala for what felt like an hour or two.
Unexpectedly the female halfway between a walk and a crawl started moving closer. Suddenly, she stopped dead in her tracks. The young female Lion paused a moment then began to move closer towards the Impala – the closer she got to the Impala, the lower she got to the ground.
In a blink of an eye, she took off and ran straight for the unsuspecting Impala. As she took off from our direction, the other Lions who had positioned themselves on the other side of the Impala charged in for the takedown. At this moment everyone on the vehicle was quiet, waiting and watching with anticipation, the emotional rollercoaster overwhelming us to a point where I was sure we were all holding our breath. But unfortunately, from what we could see, it was a miss. We drove round to find the Lions standing in the clearing with the look of utter confusion on their faces. We were all convinced it was an utter failure of a hunt. Then suddenly, the lion we had been watching took off once again into the bush and down an embankment.
The only way we could catch up with them was to drive back to the spot where we first saw the Lions. Before we could descend into the embankment we saw a female Hippo and her calf standing on the low water bridge. Of course, we had to stop and watch this exceedingly rare Hippo activity, being out and about so early in the afternoon. The guests and I were all excited at this sighting. It was a very short-lived sighting as the female Hippo with her calf walked back into the bushes towards the water. After the fantastic Hippo sighting, we proceeded to catch up with our young Lions, hoping maybe they did indeed catch an Impala this time around. We drove for about a kilometre thinking the Lions missed the kill. As we moved over a hill, low and behold the Lions were feasting on an Impala kill!
We had missed the Lions kill by mere seconds. I immediately positioned the game viewing vehicle for everyone to have a clear view of the lions feeding. Had we not bummed into the Hippos, we would have seen the whole process from beginning to end. The Lions would have clamped down on the Impala’s throat, suffocating it while the other began feeding. Nevertheless, to see feeding Lions so early after a kill has been made is still fantastic to watch. There was a lot of growling and snarling coming from the Lions as they all fought for the meat that was on the carcass.
However, one Impala is not enough to feed four hungry young Lions fully – this was but an appetizer to them. We sat watching the lions for a good ten to fifteen minutes before any other game viewing vehicle eventually came and joined us. Unfortunately for them, the Lions had decimated the carcass leaving their faces drenched in blood, the bellies full.
We moved off to find the perfect spot for our sundowners. We stood together reminiscing over the absolute fantastic afternoon sightings. The sun began to drop below the horizon, giving us a superb sunset. As it was still overcast, it allowed for some very vibrant and vivid reds, oranges, and pink colours in the sky. We finished our sundowners and made our way back to the comfort of Southern Camp.
I can say that on the way back to the Lodge the talking behind me did not stop for one second about the fantastic sightings we had. It is a moment that I shall not soon forget, and neither will wonderful guests who were patient enough to sit and watch the lions.
Story and photos by: Southern Camp Ranger St John