After a recent spate of cold weather, the bush gods dealt us a break with a relatively mild morning and we decided to take advantage of the slightly warmer temperatures by leaving early. My guests were on their final game drive of their 2 night stay and we were yet to have a good quality lion sighting, so expectations were high and the pressure was on. This morning however, luck was on our side. Not 10 minutes out of Bush Lodge, my tracker, Zulu, spotted shadows moving in the dark morning light and we went in to investigate. To everyone’s delight, the cloudy night had given the lions the advantage of complete darkness and as we approached the shadows, the scene of yet another successful buffalo hunt was revealed.
The Southern Pride are buffalo experts. During my 2 year tenure at Sabi Sabi, I have witnessed them feeding on buffalo carcasses more than any other animal, and that is no mean feat. The buffalo is the most fearsome of the Big 5 for many reasons but perhaps the most prevalent, in this instance, is their huge strength and massive adrenaline yield. They exhibit adrenaline levels approximately 300% that of a similar sized animal and are therefore notoriously difficult to bring down. The pride however, have developed hunting strategies to counteract these qualities and are regular slayers of this feared beast. Every pride will learn from their elders specific skills for hunting certain prey and the Southern Pride have made buffalo hunting their forte.
By the time we arrived on the scene, the lions had engulfed most of the meat and their swollen stomachs betrayed their greed. This did not stop them from trying to cram more protein rich meat into their bulk and the pride were still clustered around the shrinking prize as their razor sharp carnassials sliced through the soft flesh. Every now and again the males decided to reinforce their dominance of the situation by snarling and growling at the pride as they fought over the remaining meat. The sound that comes from a male lion during exchanges like this strikes fear and respect into the heart of all watching and leaves no doubt of the immense power they possess.
As the older members of the pride squabbled over the carcass, the 2 young cubs amused themselves by practicing their hunting techniques on each other. These skills will be critical in shaping them into the fearsome hunting machines that will grace the bush, and they delighted us by leaping on each other and frolicking in the grass only meters from our Land Rover.
In great news for the pride, and us, after we departed the sighting I heard reports that another female had arrived on the scene accompanied by 2 more young cubs! We had feared the worst after a marauding buffalo herd had found their den site a few weeks ago but I am delighted to report that we have 2 healthy new additions to the Southern Pride and the proud mother choose today to introduce them to their extended family. Although I was unable to get any pictures of the new arrivals, I hope to do so in due course and will keep you all informed of their progress.
The rest of the morning was filled with the usual wonder of the bush as we bumped into a crash of 5 male rhino as they cut a swathe through the dying grass in their endless search for nutritious fulfillment. For me, the most exciting part of the remainder of the drive was witnessing a Juvenile Martial Eagle harassing a pair of petrified steenboks. Although not fully mature, the strength contained in the talons of a Martial Eagle is more than enough to subdue our smallest antelope. The eagle made a couple of aerial forays whilst attempting to secure a substantial breakfast but its inexperience was no match for the lightning fast pint sized antelopes as they darted to safety.
We returned to Bush Lodge in high spirits after another amazing morning in the bush and attacked our breakfast with similar relish to that of the lions. Excited chatter filled the breakfast table over the demise of another buffalo at the hands of the Southern Pride and what the future holds for the next generation. I watched from the sidelines, content that my guests were preparing to depart Sabi Sabi on a high and that their experiences over the last few days would stay with them forever. This vicarious joy is one of the most rewarding parts of being a guide and I now look forward to seeing what adventures the bush has to offer to my new arrivals.