The age old battle between predator and prey is what capture many peoples minds when they think of Africa, yet very few have the opportunity to witness such an event. Some go to Kruger as often as possible to see it and some never want to see such an event, which ever you are, it is part of nature and nature is truly beautiful.
Now for those who know the Kruger National Park will know that this road is the predator highway at this time of the year, the end of the dry season. Most of the water inland, like the pans, dams and small rivers have dried up and this forces most animal species to go to the only water source that is still available, the sabie river! Predators also know this and follow the herds to the river and they know by staying on the river the prey species will come to them and all they need to do is to wait in ambush and bang, lunch is served! Although this sounds easy, its more difficult than you think, especially when the prey fights back, like buffalo. Over all the pickings are much easier for predators at this time of the year and driving along the river you are almost guaranteed to see some sort of cat.
Now these cats, lions and leopards, also change their typical behaviour. Every book that you will read on animal behaviour they will tell you that the cats are mostly nocturnal and active late afternoons and early mornings, however come the dry season they change their normal behaviour to adjust so that they are more successful. During these times, most of the surface water away from the permanent rivers dries up and animals are forced to go to the permanent water sources. As the dry season progresses, the distances these animals must walk to and from their feeding grounds and the water becomes more and more. This puts stain on them, and they become weaker and weaker as the dry season continuous. By the end of the dry season it also becomes extremely hot with temperatures soaring to between 43 and 48 degrees Celsius, and thus most herbivores will spend the cooler part of the day feeding and then migrate to the water sources so that they are there during the hottest part of the day to quench their thirst and rest up in shade.
Predators have adapted to this and one can clearly see that when driving along the river between August and November. If you drive this road in the early morning you will get your predators, but they will mostly be inactive and resting, apart from when they are on patrol to mark territory. You will also see less herbivore activity along the river in the early hours of the day. By 10AM the temperatures start to soar, and you will notice the herds coming into the river for a drink and this is when the predators also start to become active and hunt. The predators use different tactics and all of them are extremely successful. These tactics range from ambushing pray at favourite drinking spots to actively walking along the river through the dense vegetation and chasing prey down. The lions on the Sabie river are also very used to large number of vehicles on the roads and some of the prides have learned to use this to their advantage. They have learnt that by coming on to the road there is usually a traffic build up and they will then start walking on the road in between the cars and then use the cars as cover to get closer to their prey like impala or kudu and they then launch their attack from there with huge success.
On this eventful day we were traveling with some German guests along the sabie river between Lower Sabie and Nkuhlu. Just after Lubey Lubey bridge I decided to go into one of the little side loops to get a better view of the river. As we entered, I saw 2 buffalo bulls running at high speed on the other side of the river and immediately knew lions where hot on their heels. A pride of about 14 lions where hot on their heels. I needed to keep up with them as they were moving up stream and with the thick vegetation it made it quite difficult to film, drive and find spots where we could see from however, we managed to get most of it. The lions targeted one of the two buffalos and managed to get it down on 3 occasions, but his mate wasn’t going to let him go down that easily, every time they pinned him down, he cam back rushing in and chasing the lions off. Eventually they spotted a herd of elephants and these two boys went straight for them and ran through the herd. This tactic saved the buffalo as the lions stopped in their tracks and abandoned the chase.
The buffalo the crossed the river and came up towards us where we could see the damaged the lions caused on this bull. Even though the lions missed, it is still an amazing experience to witness nature at its rawest. The pride of lions managed to kill anther buffalo later that day in some thick vegetation.
This time of the year is the perfect time to witness lions and leopards on the hunt and if you want to experience this in 2020/21 you can visit our website at www.wildphotoafrica.com or send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here is the link to the video of the event. Note that we were constantly moving to keep up with them and find places in between thick vegetation to view them from.
My name is Mario Paul and I am the owner and lead photographic guide of Wild Photo Africa. We specialize in private photographic safaris in the world-famous Kruger National Park and surrounding private game reserves. We have our own private open safari vehicle that is rigged for photographers in mind.