a cruel but necessary death – part 2

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my radio so when Terry called in that the mother cheetah and her cubs had caught, but not killed, a steenbuck was a prime example. I loved the fact that he had made us aware of such an incredible sighting but I was hating the fact that I was still a 15 minute drive away.

When we eventually arrived on the scene the small antelope had already been reduced to bones by the three hungry cheetah. From all the commotion caused by the hunt the vultures were dropping out of the sky like lead balloons. Some of them landed on the ground very close to the kill while others chose to decorate the dead trees dotted around the open area we found ourselves on.

cheetah on a kill while on safari at Sabi Sabi

The cheetah had had their fill and slowly moved off giving the vultures the chance they had been waiting for. They floated out of the trees right where the cheetah had been feeding. As the cheetah moved towards a thicket one of the vehicles looped around to catch them coming out the other side. On the other side was an interesting surprise, the Maxabeni male leopard. The vultures must have caused more of a scene than we originally realised. They were not the only ones wanting to take advantage of a possible meal. 

The cheetahs were still moving through the thicket unaware of Maxabeni’s arrival and they emerged on the other side and there was an explosion of spots. The Maxabeni male was on the tail of the mother cheetah, she hung back an extra half second to attract all of the attention and allow her two cubs to flee. Her speed saved her and kept her just ahead of the leopard which had taken a lengthy run up. All three cheetah opened up enough space between themselves and the leopard and on the several occasions he tried to catch them but they were always a step ahead.

leopard chasing cheetah while on safari game drive at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserveleopard chasing cheetah while on safari game drive at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

The heavyset Maxabeni male eventually gave up on the cheetah and turned his focus to the remains of the kill. With all the commotion the vultures had taken refuge in the surrounding dead trees. On his way towards the kill the vultures in a dead tree seemed to catch his eye and he adjusted his course slightly and broke into a slow run as he approached the tree, head up and focusing on the reaction of the vultures. He arrived at the massive trunk and all of the birds were still perched above, seemingly unfazed by his attempt to intimidate them. He almost seemed disappointed with the outcome and launched himself at the old giant. The vultures panicked and took off and one of the most incredible pictures followed with these massive birds taking off at slightly different times, which made the tree look like a fountain on a colossal scale.

leopard and vulture while on safari at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

There were two Hooded vultures that stayed behind but they too eventually took off leaving the male all alone in the dead tree. He settled and looked back from where he had come and then we noticed the Nottins female on her way in. Was this all for her? Like a teenage boy showing off for the onlooking girls. After some time he descended and the two of them mated, continuing the ritual they had started a few days prior. We left them on the open area bringing to an end one of the greatest sightings I have ever seen and just lucky enough to also be a part of this.

leopard in a tree at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari lodges



  1. mj bradley says

    What a wonderful drive! It is not often you can put down a once in a lifetime sighting… Thank you for sharing your little corner of paradise.

  2. debbie grimes says

    These photos just take my breath away. We visited Sabi Sabi this past June, and I’ve extended my visit there vicariously through the Facebook postings of you and other rangers. Thank you so much.

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