On our second day, we set-off for a particularly early game drive, hoping to catch the African sunrise. The morning air was so cold that I had to wrap myself with thick blankets before heading out to the bush.
We drove around for a while before coming across a large herd of African Cape buffalo roaming languidly across the dry yellow plains.
We sat in our vehicle and enjoyed the company of these massive bovines from a distance. They grazed peacefully, save for the occasional bellow or grunt. The calves stuck close to their mothers whilst the bachelor bulls, their lethal horns proudly displayed, kept to themselves. Colourful ox-peckers followed their every move; frantically picking at the abundant parasites.
In the distance, we spotted a pride of seven lions stalking the buffalos. Their tawny bodies, rippling with muscle, blended seamlessly into the background.
The lioness leading the hunt stood majestically next to a termite mound. She surveyed the herd of buffalos, searching for a straggler or a weakness in the herd.
The lions picked up their pace and quickly moved into position to launch an ambush. A red lechwe sensed the danger and quickly fled the scene.
|Can you spot the four lionesses in the background?|
Suddenly, everything began to happen so fast. A francolin gave out an alarm call and the spooked buffalo herd took flight.
The lions spotted a cow lagging behind. She seemed to be having difficulty in keeping up with the others.
Sensing an opportunity, the hunters moved in on their quarry. Within seconds, they were wrestling with the buffalo. One grabbed her rear while another pounced on her back. A third clamped its powerful jaws over the buffalo’s snout and delivered the ‘kiss of death’.
The buffalo was soon pinned to the ground. It struggled desperately, frantically kicking its hooves in an attempt to break free.
The rest of the buffalos regrouped like a huge black wall and marched towards the lions in an attempt to rescue the stricken cow. However, the lions stood their ground and defended the kill. One of them charged at the buffalos and they hurriedly backed-off. Each time the buffalos moved forward, the lion forced a retreat.
We watched, transfixed, as these events played out and were lucky enough to capture some of the action on video.
To our surprise, the lioness which had been fending-off the buffalo herd, did not partake in the feast. After a short rest, she got up and walked away.
We were puzzled by this strange behaviour. I thought to myself, after all of that effort, why would she simply walk away from her meal?
Our experienced guide suggested that we should abandon the kill and follow her.
The answer was soon at hand. She had returned to collect the pride’s cubs.
|Her pride (and joy).|
|The playful youngsters struggled to keep up…|
Upon reaching the scene of the kill, the ravenous youngsters made a mad dash for the carcass.
|“I am the King of the castle!”|
|An adult lioness and her cub.|
We remained with the lions for the next few hours. We were engrossed by the spectacle, despite the foul stench emanating from the dead buffalo.
|The lions begrudgingly tolerated our presence, giving an occasional growl of disapproval.|
|Not knowing when its next meal would come, this cub kept eating until its little belly was engorged.|
Eventually, with the carcass stripped down to bare bones, we left the cats and headed off for our ‘sun-downers’. I sipped my drink and pondered over our amazing experiences with the lions.
As the day came to an end, I marvelled at the beautiful African sun as it slipped below the horizon like a dying candle flame. This would be our last night at Kwando concession. The following morning we were due to travel to our next camp. I wondered to myself, what adventures would be in store for us.