After yet another successful safari here at Sabi Sabi, it was almost time to say farewell to my guests Lothar and Ursula, but not before a trip to our very own private airstrip. The morning drive yielded somewhat disappointing results as we had to abort a tracking exercise where we were right on the tail of a male leopard. You see, we were running late for a site inspection of Selati Camp and the sightings up to then had been fantastic with the exception of seeing the Southern Pride, but as luck would have it, they were found this very morning in the south-western sector. I relayed this information to my guests and organized to take them to the airstrip a little bit earlier so as to relocate on the much anticipated pride of lions.
We departed from the lodge at 11:30am with the flight scheduled to take off at 12:50pm so it was always going to be tight, especially due to the fact that we still had to find the lions and I only had a general idea of where they were said to be lying up. The great thing about lions though is that if they choose to settle somewhere in the morning, you can pretty much take it to the bank that you’ll find them there in the afternoon and I was counting on exactly that. Needless to say, what was expected and what we would be about to witness were two completely different things.
We made our way to the area around Kalenge Dam via the main firebreak which was burned in recent weeks, and as a result there is a good flush of fresh, sweet grass attracting a multitude of grazing animals to the area. We passed substantial herds of impala and waterbuck, but that’s not what we were there to see and so we paid them little attention. We rounded the corner where the lions were said to be lying up and nothing – no lions, no sign of them at all. I was now beginning to have some feelings of doubt as to whether or not we would find the cats, but then I referred back to the knowledge of lion behaviour. They must be here somewhere, I thought. I decided to loop back around to the firebreak, scanning the bush intently.
We rounded the next corner just north of the dam itself when I spotted the first lion, the big Kruger male. His gaze was fixed and intense. I saw two more females and then a third, which crossed in front of the vehicle. I now realised that they had caught scent of the waterbuck and were now hunting. In the midday sun, this is the only reason they would be expending the energy. We approached the firebreak again when all of a sudden, females and sub-adult males burst through the tree line toward the herd of unsuspecting waterbuck. It was pandemonium. The waterbuck scattered, with lions hot on their heels and us hot on theirs. They got one! We pulled up seconds after they brought it down. It was a sub-adult waterbuck. The lions were so ravenous and caught up in the frenzy of it all that they did not even care to kill the animal and instead, just began feeding right away. I will admit, it’s not the most pleasant spectacle watching an animal being eaten alive, but it’s not long before the animal passes. The emotion of it all quickly fades and it all seems very, well, natural. It is during moments like these when one really sits in absolute awe of the power and ferocity of these giant cats. It took these eight members of the Southern Pride just six minutes from start to finish, to kill and devour the entire animal!
In all the excitement though, I never thought to question where the rest of the pride was and then we saw them. The rest of the pride had captured a second waterbuck in all the commotion. They had captured an adult this time, but I imagine it met its demise in much the same way as the first. It seemed as though these lions hadn’t had a meal in weeks, by the way they were gorging themselves. This incredible sighting truly is a once-in-a-lifetime affair, and not only for my guests. I have seen many a lion kill, but a whole pride and two animals taken simultaneously, from start to finish? I don’t think so. This is a spectacle that, even us as Guides rarely get to witness.
It always amazes me how spontaneous life in the bush can be, going from serenity to chaos and back again in the space of half an hour. Unfortunately for us, after 20 minutes of madness, our time with the infamous Southern Pride had come an end and my guests still had a flight to catch. I’m sure that for my guests, this is one trip to an airstrip that we will never forget! I know I won’t…