Sanbona Wildlife Reserve: Lion Kill on Foot

White Lions at Sanbona Wildlife ReserveI have been very lucky in my life to have witnessed predators with their kills on a number of occasions. It is always an awe-inspiring, though not necessarily a pleasant, sight. However at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, I was privileged to approach lions on foot.

How it happened…

We had set off in search of cheetah and lion which tend to hang around a certain area of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. We first saw a cheetah beautifully silhouetted on the ridge in the morning sun, checking out the terrain for a possible meal. Soon afterwards we had seen a young male cheetah with a freshly bloodied mouth – but no sign of the kill. After searching for the kill, our ranger Marko felt that perhaps the nearby lion pride had taken the kill from the cheetah – a not uncommon habit for lions.

We were joined by a second vehicle as we started searching for the lions. A couple of times the two rangers left the vehicles to check for spoor. The second time they said that they had found them but that the vehicles could not get there.

Tracking white lions at a kill in Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

‘Would we like to approach on foot?’ What a question. Of course! But I did not do this lightly. Very strict instructions on silence, slow movement and absolute adherence to ranger instructions were given by Marko and we set off in single file. We approached the lions very carefully and were rewarded with the sight of several white and tawny lions feasting on a red hartebeest carcass.

The lions were well aware of our presence and looked straight at us. It was quite unnerving and not for the faint-hearted. Marko had said earlier that if he asked us to back away – if they started to become too interested in us -  we were to turn around and show our backs to the lions as a clear signal to them that we were leaving. I could understand the logic but it was quite something to turn your back on a lion when you knew they were checking you out. But that was what we did and quietly we retreated back to the vehicle. Call me a wimp but I was the first one behind the ranger!

What an amazing encounter at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve!

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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