A game drive is always very unpredictable; especially your evening game drives as the day turns to the dark of the night. We use spotlights at night but we do not shine on diurnal animals as this light can seriously harm them or give them temporary blindness handing a huge advantage to the nocturnally adept predators. This restricts the amount of animals we can stop at and we therefore continue the search for the various nocturnal hunters. I have had evening drives which have yielded very little but the other night was of epic standards and would give the guests a truly unforgettable experience.
It all took place in the southern part of the reserve, where the Earth Lodge rangers were driving a large group. Game viewing wise, it had started very quietly and all rangers and their guests met up on a beautiful open area to watch the sunset. The sunset was magnificent causing the sky to turn blood red. Little did we know how this colour would set the tone for the night part of our safari. While on the drinks stop a couple of the rangers said that they had heard lions contact calling in a location very close to Earth Lodge and we all decided to investigate. After continued efforts to find these lions, Mike decided he would return to Earth Lodge and on his loop back bumped into a huge breeding herd of buffalo. In a split second he picked up on a lone female who was after a baby buffalo – she did it, she made the kill! Against all odds a lone female confronts a herd of approximately 250 buffalo and walks out the victor. This sent the herd in a north westerly direction and all this going on less than 150 meters from the back of Earth Lodge – even the staff heard all the commotion.
With all the excitement, Marcus and I made our approach to the location of the sighting. When I arrived, I witnessed the last breath of the baby buffalo while the large female stood proudly over her conquest with the steam from her breath filling the night sky. While she was breaking open the carcass, we noticed the approach of another female and a little while later a smaller cub. They were the members of the Southern Pride – some of the strongest females in the Sabi Sands who have ruled the lands of Sabi Sabi and who love the taste of buffalo. The same question was on the rest of our minds – where were the other members?
While we were enjoying the sighting, we had a call from Justin to say that he and Joe had the rest of the pride making their way to our location but between us and them was the rest of the buffalo herd. Upon seeing the herd, the pride got into formation and attacked the herd, jumping on the backs of large buffalo cows in an attempt to bring them down with their weight. This was going on around the vehicle – buffalo running everywhere; lions following their every move – it was chaos! The pride then managed to bring down a juvenile buffalo – all this less than 300 meters from the other kill. Two kills in the space of 20 minutes on the first safari and first game drive for some of these guests. Some of it seemed too much for the guests, some wanting to return to the lodge. The growling and fighting amongst the lions at the carcass was clear for everybody to hear, even with a sub adult male biting the dominant Kruger male on the nose, causing him to loose blood from his nose like a prized fighter after a heavy round. Both sets of lions ripped into the carcasses devouring every bit of meat they could find. They had just exhibited the reason why they are so big and why they are so successful.
It was a while before we decided to leave them, with the guests leaving with the stark reality of Mother Nature at her best and worse. Some great photos were taken but more importantly – memories that would last an eternity.