BATTLE AT PHINDA. WELL, ALMOST...
Wide-eyed excitement and enthusiasm – the thought that crossed my mind when I set eyes on the Baker family for the first time. Nicholas, Lisa and Kate’s flight had been a tad late and the standby ranger had linked them out to us on game drive. With introductions done and dusted we set off further into the wilds Phinda has to offer. Minutes after meeting them I could sense from them an immense feeling of appreciation for everything that has to do with nature. Some of the best guests a guide could ever hope for.
We spent some time with herds of wildebeest, zebra and impala before heading to a waterhole where the Mountain Pride had killed a zebra earlier that day. As we made our way there I could see the eagerness etched on the Baker family’s faces. The anticipation reached a climax as we rounded the corner and there they were – five terrifically muscled lions draped over each other next to the water. Gasps of awe and fascination could be heard from the rows behind me. Music to any guide’s ears. I was truly hoping that these ‘fat cats’ would be a bit more active than a mere flick of an ear or a swish of a tail every once in a while. I mentioned that lions often start feeding off carcasses again as soon as it gets a tad cooler.
Our patience was soon rewarded rather handsomely. The sun was setting by now and as soon as the it touched the Ubombo mountain range there was a stir among the felines. Both the young males got up to add to their already bulging bellies. That’s when we noticed the distinctive shape of a crocodile’s head for the first time. It was lingering about 10 metres away from the resting lions eying out the dead zebra which found its last resting place a further 10 metres up the bank. The ever present low growls of lions competing over a kill filled the background as we watched the crocodile for a while. The 2 young lionesses were the firsts to see the croc. They both were just peeking at it over their bulging tummies.
As darkness fell something in the air changed. Almost as if a tone was set. The stage for something special was surely about to happen. As the first stars started to rise from their slumber, so did the crocodile. Metre by metre, the crocodile edged forward until it was completely exposed from the water. It always astonishes me to see how big a crocodile really is when you can see its whole body and not just the scaly head. I could not believe what I was seeing. Still the crocodile edged onwards, towards the carcass. This crocodile had one thing on its mind – dinner. That’s when the adult lioness picked up her head and locked eyes with the croc. What happened next will puzzle me for the rest of my days. The lioness simply got up, moved 2 metres away from the massive reptile and fell asleep! The 2 young males that had been feasting off the carcass wandered off for some reason. This is what the crocodile was waiting for. Its stride was now determined.
And then all hell broke loose. In perfect unison the 2 young lionesses got up and walked straight up to the crocodile. With amazing speed the croc whipped itself around and faced the lions, all the while bearing its rows of razor sharp teeth. But the most intimidating must’ve been the hissing sound the crocodile spat at the lions. A sound I never want to encounter. The lions backed off and joined their mom. A wise move indeed. The crocodile nonchalantly walked up to the carcass, grabbed hold of the stomach and marched back to the water. Here it proceeded to consume it with two big gulps.
When I came to grips with what I had just seen I turned to the guests but could not utter a single word. Where have you ever heard of a speechless ranger!? Seeing both of these supreme predators in one sighting was magical in its own right but seeing them share a kill is something that I will never forget. Imagine that this was your first lion /crocodile sighting in Africa?
Posted: Phinda by Jacques-Pierre Joubert, Date: 27 September 2012