Trading cold for a lion kill

I have been a game ranger for six years, and every morning when my alarm clock wakes me I wonder what sightings and surprises the African bush holds for the day. It’s mid-winter, and cold as I gingerly get out of bed to prepare for the morning game drive. I can see the setting moon through a gap between the curtains, and the stars wink at me from a distance. Outside is still dark and completely silent.

As we depart from Buffalo Camp for the morning game drive, I look back to check on my guests sitting on the vehicle. It looks like everyone is wearing every single item of clothing they brought along on safari. They’re bundled up with clothes layered like onions – beanies, scarves, gloves and double-lined jackets. The unspoken belief is that if we persevere through the cold of this winter morning, the African bush must reward us. “Let’s go,” they say enthusiastically, from beneath the blankets, which are the final layer for warmth.

Guests on an early morning game drive through Kapama Private Game Reserve watch in awe as a pride of lions takes down a wildebeest

Guests on an early morning game drive through Kapama Private Game Reserve watch in awe as a pride of lions takes down a wildebeest

It’s not long before my trustworthy tracker, Foster, points out clearly visible lion tracks in the road ahead. There’s not one, not two, but many tracks, and they are all fresh. It seems this pride, like us, was up early and on a mission of their own – despite the cold winter morning temperatures.

Before long, we are rewarded and find a pride of eight lions. They are alert, curious and also cold. Some move cautiously closer to the vehicle, and in their amber eyes I can see they are intrigued by the vehicle’s engine radiating welcome warmth. One lioness in particular seems laser-focused on the vehicle but, an instant later, her whole demeanour changes. Eyes, ears and body are suddenly on high alert. I see a similar and instant change in every single member of this pride, and then I also notice a herd of wildebeest not far away. They seem edgy and unsure of their next move; surely they must sense danger nearby.

A satisfied lioness after eating her share of wildebeest for breakfast

A satisfied lioness after eating her share of wildebeest for breakfast

I soon realise that the vehicle is serving as support in the lions’ plan to ambush the wildebeest, and before long they explode from behind the vehicle in different directions towards the herd. The sudden burst of energy, the swift and agile movement of their limbs and the seemingly choreographed hunt is almost too fast to follow. The guests gasp as the lions charge towards the panicked wildebeest herd.

And then… success for the lions. A wildebeest falls and the lions have breakfast, as the African bushveld starts waking up around us. Our reward, in turn, is an outstanding sighting and an unforgettable experience for each person on the vehicle.

The moral of the story: sometimes your warm and cosy bed is not the best place to be on a cold winter morning in the African bush. Just a little discomfort and cold can yield enormous reward, like witnessing a lion kill.

Written by Joe van Rensburg – Ranger, Buffalo Camp
Edited by Keri Harvey

 

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4 Responses to “Trading cold for a lion kill”

  1. Anette Kampf says:

    Experiences like that is what makes us come back again and again – just remembering the cheetah-kill last october and also the eveningdrives in may, which brought other interesting incidents along. Hope to see you next time !

  2. CHERIE COHEN says:

    Wow!!! Lucky guests …
    We were at Kapama this past April, and while we saw wondrous sights, we were told that winter in SA promises an entirely different safari experience.
    Perhaps foresaking some of our glorious Canadian summer might be a worthy consideration if we ever decide to return to Kapama.

  3. tomas says:

    Spectacular story about lions. I could feel it as I was there. And I am in Argentina.
    I hope I can return to Kapama
    Regards
    Tom

    • Linda Patent says:

      This was a great mental picture of what was happening. I remember the feeling of curiosity and excitement every morning as we set out, and every evening as well. It was anticipatory as Jakes rolled out of River Lodge every morning and every afternoon. These stories keep reminding me that I must soon plan to return. !!!

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