Alika spotted a single water buck one hundred meters in the distance. Her brother Africa was sleepily sauntering along in the warm sunset, displaying his typical laid back traits. Alika’s ears pricked up and her eyes were unmoving, focused solely on the prey she had spotted. Picking up her pace she headed for the long grass, knowing that the camouflage would aid her attack. This formed a nice direct line between her and the water buck, now less than 50 meters away. Africa, now curious about Alika’s movements, stopped in his tracks, quickly pricking up his ears, assessing the situation and followed into the long grass.
Ears back and back lowered, Alika was in stealth mode and stalked the water buck until she was around 20 meters. The water buck had clocked her. My heart was pounding. How was this going to end?
With its head down, the water buck charged at Alika. Alika ran back. Africa meanwhile observed where the water buck had run to, 20 meters off in another direction. He paced round to flank the buck while Alika took up her position to make a second run. Closing in on the buck from both sides, the buck faced Alika and chased her back again. The buck got further away this time, across some water an up the bank.
We had to take the long way round and thought they’d lost it. Five minutes later we were back in same bit of bush as the bucks and the spirit of the hunt hadn’t died.
Singling out the same buck Africa and Alika engaged immediately. Africa ran off to the left in the long grass again. Alika confronted the buck head on. The buck froze. When Alika charged she charged back. Standing 10 meters away I was a little cautious of being caught up in something I really did not want to be caught up in. I continued in awe snapping pictures.
Undeterred both cubs took up the same formation as before. Alika confronted the buck head on. Africa pounced into action from behind as soon as the buck charged. Chasing on its right side Africa caught him. I gasped, one of them was worst off for sure. Either Africa had sunk his claws in or had been impaled on one of the huge horns when it gored his head down. Not so. Both made of tougher stuff.
One more charge was yet to happen. And I had a really good feeling about this. In the previous charges they had closed him in. Cornered and with the lions pouncing from 5 to 10 meters, the Buck didn’t seem to have many seconds left to say his goodbyes. I lifted my head from the action to take in the moment. A herd of zebras had come to watch or help out the buck. I’m not really sure what they were doing but I don’t blame them for wanting to watch up close. I lifted my head further to see a herd of elephants coming over the far hill at sunset. An unbelievable moment. Now back to it my attention quickly refocused on the heart of the action.
A chorus of roars filled the twilight bush. I knew this came from the lions in the release enclosure at the other side of the reserve.
Africa and Alika were somewhat deterred by this. Their ears perked up and their expressions softened like a child being put back in his box for talking out of line. With their tails between their legs they backed off. The buck seized the opportunity and scampered.
They came so close, so close to a kill and left a somewhat comic ending.
Well done guys and maybe next time.
To find out more about the Lion Rehabilitation Project in Antelope Park, or to become a volunteer, click here.