Thuli (my tracker) and I set off early on Boxing Day with one goal – to track down the Lions which had evaded us on our last two safaris. We had hoped it would be a belated Christmas gift to our guests, who were dying to see them.
We had not even covered half a kilometre before picking up the tracks. They stood proud in the mud as it had poured with rain the night before. We followed the trail easily but moved slowly while we read the story told by the soil. We could see that the Lions were hungry. They had paced back and forth, split up repeatedly and charged after many different antelope. Some of the antelope had slipped and fallen but there was no sign of a kill and still no Lions! We kept working the trail for the next hour but eventually it headed into a thicket which cut us our chase. By this stage I could tell that our guests thought we would never see anything and so we moved off to view a large herd of Buffalo grazing nearby before heading back to Karula.
On our way back, as we were turning into the Karula entrance, Thuli looked to his left and saw the three tawny figures moving off down the road – a hundred yards from where we had started that morning! Everyone was ecstatic as we followed the three Lionesses closely. Almost immediately they crouched down in the road and in the distance we could see a huge kudu bull. The excitement was palpable while the lions waiting for the Kudu to move into thick bush. Eventually he did and they began to encircle him and set their trap. Fortunately for him there were more Kudu in the bush that spotted the cats and they all ran off giving their alarmed barks.
The Lionesses had begun to settle down again when one spotted a flicker in the bush and charged around the thicket. The other two quickly realised what was happening and charged around the other side. The only thing we could hear was the thundering hoof beats. By the time the Kudu saw them it was too late. She slipped in the mud and they overwhelmed her. She managed to get to her feet at one stage but the Lions showed their strength and smashed her to the ground once again. With two last groans she was gone. It was over as quickly as it had begun.
While the Lionesses were feeding they pulled out what appeared to be the liver (which is surprisingly large) but on closer inspection it had white stripes all over. It was in actual fact a foetus, ready to be born a month or two later! Very sad and tragic, but interesting nonetheless.
One of my guests, Mr Alan Silver from the United States, managed to keep his composure and get some fantastic action shots. Thank you for these Alan! The story would be nothing without them.
Cameron Pearce – Head Ranger, Kapama Karula