southern pride gets first meal of the year

If one were to base the rest of the year on the first day of the year, then we are in for an absolute treat here at Sabi Sabi. After a relatively slow start to the day, everyone still nursing the bubbly from the evening’s festivities, we headed off on our first safari of 2013. There was some serious rain last night, so it really was a new start in the bush, everything was smelling very fresh, the roads were all washed clear of the 2012 tracks, and ready to see what 2013 has in store.

lions on the hunt at Sabi Sabi

Quite early on in the drive they found the tracks of the southern pride, and not to long after they managed to locate the entire pride having a very relaxing morning. A little while after finding them, the pride started to move, possibly anticipating the day to get hotter, they seemed to be looking for a nice shady area to spend the rest of their day lazing around, little did they know what was in store for them, and more exciting, what was in store for us. Slowly meandering up the road they seemed as if they didn’t have a care in the world, cubs playing around, chasing and stalking one another when suddenly they all seemed to stop at once and focus there attention towards the east, with their amazing sense of hearing you could almost tell that they knew exactly what the noise was, we could only wonder.

waterbuck in a waterhole at Sabi Sabi

They set off in the direction of where the noise was coming from, but with a lot more determination in their walk, almost a trot now, we knew something was up. Half a kilometre down the road we came up to a dam where we saw what was making the noise we were all now hearing, two massive male waterbuck were locked in a battle completely unaware of what danger was approaching. The waterbuck staying true to their name, where battling it out in the water, both shoulder high in the dam, so engrossed in their battle that they did not have a clue what was approaching them, and that a new battle was about to begin, one that wasn’t about the right to mate, but the right to live.

As the lions got closer, one of the males noticed them, immediately making a break for it out of the dam and in the opposite direction of the imminent danger and managed to get away. Unfortunately for the other male, he was far to worn out to even move from his position and seemed to just accept his fate. It was as if it was the end of a game of chess, everyone could see that the lions were about to put the waterbuck into checkmate, it was just a matter of when.

The lions slowly surrounded the dam, blocking off all possible escape routes for the waterbuck…checkmate. It was now a waiting game. The lions being extremely patient hunters lay down in their individual positions around the dam, just waiting for the mistake they all knew was going to come. Some putting a foot into the water every now and then almost to tease the waterbuck, which we could see had now accepted his fate.

lion attacks waterbuck at sabi sabi

Eventually it happened, the waterbuck thought he saw an opening in the lion’s defense and made a break for it, but little did he know how wrong he was. He made a break for one of the steeper banks where there was some long grass, perfect grass to hide a lioness waiting to pounce, and that was exactly what was going to happen. He reached the bank and as he took his first steps onto dry land he realised what a bad miscalculation he had made, out of the grass came 160kg of pure muscle, with only one thing on her mind, to satisfy her prides hunger. She tackled him with such force that she threw both herself and the waterbuck back into the dam. When they both surfaced we could see that she was on the back, and not willing to let go. The rest of the pride had now come to the bank where all this was happening, so there was no escaping that side for the waterbuck. He seemed to know this and immediately turned for the opposite bank, still with the hungry female sinking her claws and teeth into his back. He fought with all his might, that that he had left, and dragged himself and the lioness through the water. purely out of instinct the lioness made her way around to the throat, little did she know this would help the waterbuck being in the water. As she reached the throat, the waterbuck realised she was in range of his back legs, and so he began to deliver lethal blows to the lioness’s chest, each one helping loosen her grip. Eventually he managed to kick her off. He continued making his break to the opposite bank. The lioness turned and swam to the shore know she had done her job, even though the waterbuck wasn’t down, it was hurt.

lion attacking waterbuck while on safari at sabi sabi

It was now the turn of the other females to get involved, they started to run around to the other side of the bank to where the waterbuck would come out so as to intercept him, and that they did. As he emerged from the water two females were on his heels, and then on his back. It was all over, his fate was sealed.

Not for sensitive viewers.


by: Kevin Power (Sabi Sabi Ranger)
All photos taken at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve by Zachery Himel


  1. sheila says

    Wow, that was quite the sighting. Thank you for sharing this fantastic footage. Although I am a huge lion fan, I have to admit I was cheering for the waterbuck. He put up such a valiant fight, but in the end, I’m happy that this amazing pride got a good meal.

    • ranger rich says

      It was a valiant fight in deed Sheila. I was so bummed to have missed it but at least the guests were kind enough to share this amazing footage.

  2. walker says

    That was some video. That poor buck looks like he was spent before the lions showed up-he was bellowing and down whent he other buck still mercilessly rammed him. But he gave some nasty kicks to the lioness -hope she is ok? I was amazed that none of the other lions even bothered to help-like they were just waiting for dinner to be served to them!! Is that normal-do they just wait for other lions to finish the job for them??

    • ranger rich says

      Walker, what happened was the two waterbuck had been fighting for a while before the bellowing of the one alerted the lions. He had apparently taken a nasty hit on the side which had punctured him. I find it amazing though that even though he was carrying a serious injury he was still able to put up such a big fight.

      In terms of the other lions not jumping in to help kill the waterbuck is because the cats HATE water. You can go see another video we posted on you tube showing just how reluctant the lions are to get their feet wet. Just click on the link below.

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