The King of the Bushveld
The hunt for Lions was on. Straight out the gate from Kapama’s Buffalo Camp we were on the look-out for any possible signs of Lions. I was sure to select the roads that had previously shown great potential for spotting Lion activity, hoping to please my guests. However, nothing is guaranteed in the African bushveld. After a few moments of driving, suddenly my tracker Sonnyboy slowly and deliberately, raised his hand from the front of the vehicle, motioning me to stop. This could only mean one thing.
He had spotted Lion tracks on the road.
Off we went, following the tracks, eager to reveal where to or on what adventure they would ultimately take us. The tracks led us in and out, this way and that. Eventually, we got a clearer indication of what direction the tracks were heading – and east it was!
While we following the easterly direction of the lion tracks, I could sense the anticipation building on the vehicle. My guests were getting rather excited and nervous soft whispers could be heard from behind me.
We slowly approached the area the tracks had lead us to. As we got nearer the scene revealed itself. Not just one, but several Lions graced our view. They were walking in the tree line just off the road we were on.
Suddenly their behaviour changed and our attention was pulled forward. The Lions spotted something moving in front of them. A small group of Kudus, completely unaware of the Lions heading in their direction. The one female Lion moved quickly out of our view making her way behind them, and the other female position herself flat on the ground, her back legs ready for a sprint. I told my guests we might see a Lion hunt and in one motion all cameras aimed forward.
Suddenly without any warning, the Kudus started to run in one direction. The one female Lion bolted towards them as if running for an Olympic Gold medal.
Animals were running all over the place, filling up the air with a dust storm. We tried to keep up with them. Then something caught my eye on the left. A young Kudu calf got separated from the rest of the group with all the commotion and confusion. But she was not alone. Two lions were on her tail running behind her. All we heard was a hard thump, like something hitting the ground, followed by a short deep bellow, then… silence… as if nothing had happened.
Two Lion cubs about 6 months old crossed the road in the direction from which the noise had come. We immediately made our way there. What success for the Lions. They had managed to catch the young Kudu calf. Without any hesitation, they started to feed in a chaotic manner. Each Lion for itself.
What an amazing experience this was. To witness a Lion hunt as well as watch them make the kill is extremely rare. This was by far one of my favourite sightings I have had as a ranger on Kapama and my first Lion kill. My guests, snapping away with their cameras had been exposed to such an incredible act of nature, with wonderful memories of Africa to take back home with them.
Not even 10 minutes had passed and the whole small Kudu had just about been completely consumed by the bigger Lions. The young Lion cubs had to fight, claw and growl their way into the feeding frenzy in order to secure their meal. Mommy Lion was not willing to share as she most probably had not eaten for a long time.
It just shows, you never know what will happen in the unpredictable African bushveld while on safari. From starting off just following tracks thinking we will get sleeping lions under a tree, only to be submerged in a truly incredible moment with a front row seat to nature in the act.
Story and lion photos by: Ranger Ben Scheepers – Buffalo camp.