As we got onto the vehicle ready to head out on the afternoon safari, my guests asked how I planned to top the last two safaris. The grins on their faces showed how happy they were with what they had seen and the sarcasm in their voices clearly indicated that they didn’t believe it could get any better. My plan for the afternoon was to wait until after sundowners to go and see the lions. In the morning we had seen them all fast asleep and I wanted to give the guests the thrill of following 11 lions through the bush in the dark.
It wasn’t 15 minutes before we bumped into the dominant male leopard from the eastern section of the reserve who we refer to as Sandriver. The blood on his face clearly showed that after we had left him that morning, he had found something to eat. We followed him for about 20 minutes as he marked his territory, leaving us with the distinct smell of buttered popcorn as he urinated on the bushes next to the road. Yes, that’s right, leopard urine smells like buttered popcorn! We eventually left him to explore more of the beautiful reserve and we enjoyed some great sightings of zebra, wildebeest, impala and elephants.
After watching another amazing African sunset we made our way to where the lions had been sleeping and as we got there they had become mobile and were looking like they had one thing on their minds…dinner! The cold bite of winter had slipped into the air as the sun’s light started to dwindle on the horizon.
The Southern Pride moved with purpose as the darkness of night fell over the bush and their intensity indicated that they had picked up the scent of dinner. The pride was headed straight towards a large herd of impala that, coincidentally, had not only attracted the attention of the lions but were already being stalked by Nottins, the female leopard with 2 cubs. My adrenal glands started working overtime as I heard the news that we had 11 lions and leopard hunting the same herd of impala.
We positioned ourselves in the best place we could without interfering with the hunt, switched off all the lights and waited. Hearts pounding with excitement, brains overloaded with adrenalin and ears twitching, waiting for the sounds of chaos as the lions and the leopard were poised to launch their attacks. The first to assault the herd were the lions and all we could hear were the stampeding hooves as the lions chased wildly after the agile antelope. Hearts now racing even faster and my fingers waiting on the key ready to get going towards the action, but not yet…still we had to wait for the distinctive sound of something going down. Eventually it came…the lions had pulled down a massive impala ram no more than 50 metres from the vehicle.
Lights on, engine roaring and within seconds we watched as the rest of the pride moved in to join in the feast. Table manners out of the window and heads into the fray, the lions all tried to get a share of the meat that was on offer. Tempers flared, paws struck any lion that got too close to another and the sounds of feeding filled the cold air. We watched for about 20 minutes as the lions reduced the impala to almost nothing. It was now time to go back to Little Bush Camp to enjoy our own dinner. My guests sat as quiet as a church mouse all the way back as they tried to process the spectacle of raw nature that they had just witnessed! In their silence I turned, with a huge grin on my face, and said “that’s how we top the last 2 drives…”