Working at Londolozi as a Game Ranger you are often asked what is your favourite or most exciting moment here so far. It is always very tough to answer this with one particular sighting due to the endless opportunities we get to experience many fabulous events including both the biggest and smallest of animals.
For me, one of, if not the most ultimate sightings in one’s career in the African bush is to witness Lions hunting and killing an adult buffalo. Having heard from a couple of ex-rangers as well as a few current rangers that it took some of them over four years to witness a buffalo kill, it had me in great anticipation for the day I would get the chance to hopefully watch it myself. Having been in a few sightings where we got to watch lions attempt to hunt a herd of buffalo but not succeed had only created more suspense and eagerness waiting for the day it becomes a reality.
We set out relatively early in the afternoon from founders camp and crossed the Sand River into the northern parts of the reserve. The game drive began relatively slowly, from a predator perspective, for the first two and a bit hours. Due to the dull weather, a slight drizzle and the sun dropping below the horizon we came to a group decision to head back towards camp and try our ‘luck’ the next day.
On our way home we bumped into a herd of elephants that were slowly meandering in the direction of our vehicle. We switched off and sat with the peaceful giants, enjoying the sounds of them around us and the peace and quiet of the African bush. As we were about to switch the vehicle back on to trundle our way back to camp, expert tracker Freddy Ngobeni happened to look over his right shoulder and pull off a magnificent spot of a pride of lions heading in our direction. Now you can just imagine the excitement on the Land Rover!!!
Shortly after finding the ten members of the Nkuhuma Pride we very quickly noticed that all of the lions looked extremely hungry, and were showing great intent on finding something to hunt. Following them for about ten minutes we knew we were assumed we were in for something special, we just didn’t quite realise how unbelievable it was actually going to be. We rounded the corner and in front of us unfolded the most iconic battle of African wildlife. Five Buffalo bulls with ten lions approaching them head-on.
Hunting buffalo takes an immense amount of teamwork and coordination in conjunction with tremendous strength and endurance. A pride of lions are deeply connected and in tune with every other individual in the pride, each knowing their role, strengths and weaknesses. The organisation, team work and understanding that each lion needs to fulfil its role in order to succeed. For over one hour, we watched the Nkuhuma Pride single out one buffalo and while targeting that individual, a few other lions would keep the other four buffalo away. Buffalo epitomise the motto “never leave a man behind”. As soon as one individual gets caught and lets out a distress call the others normally return as a unit and try and drive the danger away.
Eventually, after witnessing a colossal battle ensue the pride were eventually successful in bringing down the buffalo bull. The sounds, which at times were emotional, were truly amazing. The back and forth momentum and the shift of the upper hand from Lion to buffalo was extraordinary to witness. The constant swirling, jumping, kicking and grappling kept all four of us fixated for every second of the battle.
To watch, first hand, the ultimate battle between two of Africa’s most iconic animals will be something ill never forget, and yes, it quite easily could be the most exciting experience I’ve had so far…