In my early years in Kruger after a brief contract at Olifants camp I moved down to Berg en Dal to do the day walks from the camp. It was great – a completely new area to explore and a lot closer to my where parents lived. Not to mention the great encounters with rhino in the Southern area’s of the park!
I moved to the Berg en Dal staff village into one of the Wakka’s. Wakka’s were built for the guides. Orange pre-cast cement flats that were hot enough in summer to incubate chicken eggs right inside! Thank goodness for my air conditioner. My new Wakka was located close to the fence. Which was great as I could see game walking to and from the dam during the day.
My parents were visiting over a weekend and we had just finished braaiing when I heard a large mass of hooves moving away from the dam. When I checked with the spotlight I saw a nice size buffalo herd. They were nervously moving from the dam towards the living quarters that are located about 500 meters from the main Rest Camp.
I quickly got my folks to jump in the vehicle as I suspected lions where close. I then phoned Oom Gordon, the duty manager at the time, and told him to meet me outside his house with his group of guests so we could all go and have a look. We drove out of Berg en Dal and around to the living quarters. As we drove past the fence I scanned my spotlight on my right and immediately saw hundreds of bovine eyes reflecting back at me.
We could all feel their anxiousness and while I scanned the herd they started to run. In the mass of moving bodies we spotted a buffalo with a lioness on it’s back! She looked like she was riding the buffalo in the Durban July.
I swung the vehicle around and drove alongside them to get ahead. The herd was in full stampede now to get away from the lions and they were running straight towards the compound!! I wanted to try cut them off before they trampled the fence.
It was a wild and bumpy ride! Ahead in my headlights I could see many curious onlookers hanging on the fence to see what the commotion was. I hooted and yelled at them over the stampeding herd to get away from the fence.
Luckily with the noise I made, I managed to divert the main herd away from the fence. They veered off just in time! The spectators at the fence also realised the trouble that was thundering their way and they scattered in terror.
Unfortunately, not all the buffalo diverted. The lions pushed a break-away group of buffalo on my left into the smaller camp adjacent to the living quarters. This smaller camp had a few temporary buildings and a lower fence. It was intended for the contractors working in the camp. I heard the small group of buffalo crash into the fence and again I turned the vehicle toward the contractor’s accommodation to shine some light on the situation.
In the chaos the lions pulled down a sub adult buffalo right in between the prefab houses! I stood there with my torch shining on the lions while the people inside grabbed what they could to get away from the lions and into the safety of the main living quarters. The one with the higher fence and no lions or buffalo inside!
The lions took no notice of the panic stricken contractors. And I must say afterwards I had to laugh at what some of them thought to be important in times of peril. I watched one guy fold his mattress up with a chess board and all its pieces. And with this tucked under his arm he ran past me with pawns falling to the ground as he hurried away from the lions.
We stayed as long as we could and then left the lions to finish their kill.
The next day there where a hundred different stories to tell between the staff. But the most common feature was the red eyes from lack of sleep. Hearing a pride of lions devour a buffalo right next to your house kind of messes with a person’s ability to sleep 😉
Until we meet around the fire again!