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Side portrait of buffalo with large horns

The Buffalo Boss

By Game Drive, Sightings

Out here in the bush, we don’t take ‘the bull by the horns’, we take ‘the buffalo by the boss’.

Not literally, of course! That would be a death sentence, which many a lion has experienced when taking on a buffalo. This beast charged its way into Africa’s iconic Big 5 because of its size, unpredictability, and general moody temperament. In fact, they are known for simply charging without warning – just imagine an 800kg male buffalo running at you at 50km/h!

Considering that they are so bad tempered, it’s not surprising that they are referred to as an ‘obstinacy’ of buffalo when in a group. They generally live in large, protective herds that, together with their characteristic bosses, makes challenging their stubbornness an unwise idea. Quite an apt collective noun, we would say.

Buffalo with large buffalo boss stands in grass looking at camera

And, as if they couldn’t get any more hardcore, the pair of horns that adorn their heads gradually fuse together into a thick, helmet-like growth at the base. This particular feature is unique to the Cape buffalo because all other types of buffalo, like the Asiatic water buffalo and American bison, generally have horns that grow separately on each side of the skull.

What defines the buffalo boss?

The horns are thick, solid bone and are fully formed by the time the buffalo reaches five or six years old. Younger bulls will often still have hairs on their horns. The bosses will only become hard at around eight or nine years of age. Buffalo are dimorphic which means there is little difference between the male and the female. The one fairly conspicuous difference between the two is that female buffalo have narrow horns that are, on average, about 10 to 20% smaller than the males, and they do not grow a boss.

Buffalo with big buffalo boss and birds on face looks at camera

For male buffalo, the boss signifies coming of age. At around the same time the boss forms around the male buffalo’s skull, the bull becomes eligible to compete for breeding rights, consequently becoming the herd bull and passing along his genes. And, while in their reproductive prime, male buffalo spend a significant amount of time ‘in the ring’ and need a strong boss to protect their brains.

As buffalo get older and their reproduction peak pass, male buffalo are usually chased from the larger herds and either form bachelor groups or live out the rest of their days alone. These elderly buffalo males are called the dagha or dagga boys – dagha is the word in isiZulu for mud and refers to these buffalo spending many hours wallowing in pools of mud.

People on game drive watch buffalo standing in water drinking

Now that you know a bit about the buffalo boss, it’s time to see one in for yourself in real life! Contact us to enquire or book a Big 5 safari in the great wilderness of Manyoni Private Game Reserve.

5 Fantastic Wildlife Sightings at Rhino River Lodge

By Safaris, Sightings

One of my favourite questions to ask a game ranger is “What has been your favourite wildlife sighting so far?”
After all, surely they’d have some epic stories to tell after spending several hours out in the bush each day. However, to my dismay, the rangers often come up blank. It’s not that they haven’t witnessed anything spectacular; on the contrary, rangers witness so many special sightings that it can be hard to recall them all, let alone pick a favourite. (Tough life hey?)
Rhino River Lodge Ranger, Kyle Naude’, is one ranger who is particularly good at recalling sightings. As he is an avid photographer, Kyle loves to document his sightings while out on game drives and after several years in the bush, he’s seen a lot!
Prepare to go green with safari envy as Kyle shares his top 5 sightings from his time at Rhino River Lodge so far:

lion-cub

Lion Cubs in the Riverbed

Kyle: “I really enjoy photographing cats, especially when they are active. At the moment, we have quite a few lion cubs in the reserve which is providing great photographic opportunities. This is one of my favorite photographs because it is a reminder of an amazing sighting we had of two cubs in the riverbed. They were playing, stalking, jumping and tripping one another, and all this happened around the vehicle!”

cheetah-prowl

Male Cheetah on Patrol

Kyle: “Seeing cheetah is in my top 5 of a ‘must have’ sightings. These animals are my absolute favourite. Fortunately, we have a male cheetah that often patrols around the Rhino River Lodge area and sightings of him are always good. This particular photo was taken when he was patrolling the southern fence line, alongside two other male cheetahs from the neighboring reserve.”
wild-dogs-play

Playful Wild Dogs

Kyle: “Wild dogs are always fun to watch. They are very interactive with one another and there is never a dull sighting. This specific photo shows just that. After making an impala kill, the excited dogs began chasing each other around, as well as some nearby vultures that were trying their luck with the dogs’ kill.”

leopard-kill

Leopard on a kill

Kyle: “Although this is not the best photo in the world, it is one of the best leopard sightings I have ever had. Earlier that afternoon we had found a dead impala. Not knowing what the cause of death was, I told all my guests that we will follow up in the evening. When we returned that night we found this beautiful female leopard feeding on the impala. Everyone was in awe and we were lucky enough to sit with her for 40 minutes before we decided to leave her to enjoy the rest of her meal.”

grumpy-rhino

Grumpy Black Rhino

Kyle: “Black Rhino, what more do I need to say? I think with at least 70% of the sightings I have had with these amazing animals, I’ve been mock charged. With their infamous temper, it is always exciting seeing these animals. On this occasion, I was fortunate enough to capture this grumpy black rhino making a hard effort to entertain us.”
Never a dull moment at Rhino River Lodge! Armed with his radio and camera, we can’t wait to see what Kyle spots next.

Originally published at Africa Geographic.

The ‘Big 5’ tips for great wildlife photography

By Rhino River Lodge, Safaris, Sightings

In recent years, wildlife photography has seen a massive growth in popularity. DLSR cameras are now readily available, reasonably priced and user-friendly. However, as ‘easy’ as cameras are to use these days, we’ve all had those moments when you take a photo of something beautiful and the result just isn’t what you imagined or doesn’t capture the essence of what you were photographing. It’s frustrating and can be a little disheartening. That’s why we decided to chat to wildlife photographer and Rhino River Lodge regular, Heidi Watson.

Heidi has always had a fascination with wildlife and the bush in general, from behaviours of animals to the interactions between them. Like many South Africans, her interest in wildlife photography was sparked on her first day trip into Kruger National Park. Combine that obsession with the tools to capture those memories and interactions, and the rest is history.

We asked Heidi to share a few tips on how to take better photos while on safari.

male-lion
Copyright Heidi Watson

 

1. Invest in good lenses

I would have to say invest in your lenses – good quality glass is key. Next, a minimum focal length of 200-300mm. If you are birding, the longer the focal length the better for these mostly shy creatures (400mm and longer) I would say a 70-200 f2.8 (depending on budget) and then something on the wider side like a 24-70mm, and if you wish to go longer than anything over 200mm, it should be a prime lens (which has no zoom capabilities but is a superior lens generally).
At the end of the day I believe you should use and invest in whatever works for you personally. Start with the basics and build from there, not everyone can afford the “pro” equipment from the get go.

bird-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

 

2. Experience is the most important thing when it comes to wildlife photography

Get out there, and practise! Learn as much as you can about your subjects and, of course, be patient.

dirty-lion-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

 

3. Tell a story with your photos

Capturing the soul of an animal in a photograph isn’t easy, but for me that’s what makes a great photo. An attempt at capturing a moment that cannot be recreated by another.

giraffe-moment-wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

 

4. Be considerate of the animals

The topic of flashes is highly debatable, however used correctly they can be effective. This is done with offset brackets and cables to trigger the flash so that it does not flash directly into the subject’s eyes. I do however disagree whole heartedly on using pop up flashes. The other big issue for me is ethics, for example don’t antagonise the wildlife to get a reaction from the animals you are photographing.

wildlife-photography
Copyright Heidi Watson

 

5. Spend time, not money

My main advice would be, don’t follow the fads. Rather spend money on going places. The camera is just a tool; you are what makes the photo speak a 1,000 words. Work on your skills rather than buying the latest and greatest equipment. After all, what use is a bag full of gear when you have nothing to photograph? And lastly, see the world for more then what it is at that moment.

giraffe-herd-wildlife-photography

To see more of Heidi’s beautiful photographs and get inspired for your next safari, visit her Facebook page.

Originally published on Africa Geographic.

 

Guest Experience Highlight: Alison Langevad

By Game Drive, Rhino River Lodge, Safaris, Sightings, Uncategorised

Recently photographer, Alison Langevad paid us a visit at Rhino River Lodge. Here she shares with us some of the stunning photos that she captured during her stay with us.

We asked Alison to tell us a little bit about her photography:
“I enjoy both sport and wildlife photography. I first became interested in wildlife photography in 1995 while visiting Africa. My husband and I traveled extensively through Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda. We were fortunate enough to spend time with the Mountain Gorillas in Zaire, and so my passion for African Wildlife and its conservation began. We have since enjoyed the splendours of Botswana, Namibia and most recently South Africa. For me, Africa has a way of reaching deep into my soul and through photography I hope to share this. I sell stunning images on my website www.alisonlangevad.com and have a Facebook page Alison Langevad Photography so people can indulge themselves a little each day.”

Alison found Rhino River Lodge through the recommendation of a friend, “I connected through social media with a local photographer.  After a trip last year where we spent a short amount of time in KwaZulu Natal then left for Kenya and Tanzania, he wrote me this most amazing long email of all the reasons we should of stayed longer in South Africa. He described all the wonderful places close by we could of explored and suggested them for the future. It’s people who are passionate about where they live that do the best promoting. Word of mouth is invaluable and now after such a wonderful stay at Rhino River, we can do the same.”

 

We asked Alison to share her favourite memory from her stay at Rhino River Lodge, “My favourite memory would be the look on ranger Ryan Andraos’ face when we found the elephants. He was such a fantastic guide. They hadn’t been seen for a long time and we found them on his birthday. It was a great, light-hearted afternoon.”

 

We asked Alison if she had a favorite safari subject to photograph, “I don’t actually have a favourite animal to photograph. I enjoy moments rather than things in particular. This makes every day on safari a good day because I’m never disappointed.”

 

 

Alison shared her advice for taking great photographs on safari, “The best thing you can do to get great shots while on safari is give yourself time. It’s not about the equipment because it is quite easy to get up close.  It’s about having enough days to discover these wonderful creatures and then allowing the extra time to watch things unfold. We have learnt over the years to stop dashing around and spend longer in each place. We had enough nights at Rhino River Lodge to enjoy amazing sighting and indulge in our guides deep pit of knowledge, and could of easily stayed longer.”

Thanks very much to Alison for sharing her experiences and gorgeous shots. Make sure to check out her website and facebook page for more of her photos.

Guest Experience Highlight: Terry Lewis

By Game Drive, Rhino River Lodge, Safaris, Sightings

Terry and his wife recently came to spend a night with us at Rhino River Lodge. He captured our attention when he posted the lovely photos he took during his stay to Facebook. We thought we would take the opportunity to share some of those photos with you along with a little bit of their experience at Rhino River Lodge.

Terry and his wife are locals, coming to us from the Durban area only about three hours away. Terry explains how he “discovered” Rhino River Lodge, “Our kids were all going to be away on the Friday night so I searched the internet for a place in Zululand that we could grab for one night. I have been to Zululand Rhino Reserve before so I am aware of the area and the history, but I had not stayed in the south of the reserve before. So I searched on Rhino, and by chance ended on your site. The online booking is a MUST as I took a chance and booked. We families follow really busy schedules while our kids are at school, so getting away for one night is really a treat for us. Being so close to Durban, one night is a good option as we can do it easily, and still drive through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi on the way home.”

 

We asked Terry what his favorite sighting was during his stay with us…”We were spoiled with Lion, Wild Dog, Buffalo calf, Zebra foal, Rhino calf. All were special. The most appreciated was the wild dog. We have never been so close and had so much time with a pack. They are in such good condition. But we also had some time to explore the dung beetle. I appreciated Alex (our Ranger/Guide) really made an effort to show us the stuff that we wanted to see. He is really enthusiastic, and has already learned a lot of the local knowledge of the bush.”

 

 

When asked if he had any special memories from his stay Terry shared “As a couple we were able to enjoy a private weekend away, and partake in an activity that interests both of us. So our memory is the overall experience at a reasonable price.” That sounds like a great memory indeed!

Terry shared some great advice for first time safari travelers “My advice to first time safari goers is that the only way to really see game in a short time is to go to a private lodge as the rangers have a network that know the area. So a lodge like Rhino River Lodge is perfect for that.  A small digital camera is perfect for holidays, but if you want decent animal pics you need a good zoom, even a digital zoom will do. Another bit of advice is to pack clothing for all seasons, and you never know how cold those nights will be on the game drive.”

All-in-all Terry and his wife had some really wonderful game viewing, especially for a one-night stay. Our sincere thanks for sharing the photos and their feedback with us. We can’t wait until we get to have them back to stay again!

What’s cuter than a lion cub? 5 lion cubs!

By Lions, Sightings

Written by Claire Birtwhistle

Guests at Rhino River Lodge were recently treated to the most adorable sighting of five cubs and two lionesses in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. The reserve has a small population of 13 lions, making a sighting like this not only incredibly cute but also quite rare and special.

curious-lion-cubs

Claire was one of the guests who were lucky enough to experience and photograph this special sighting. This is what she had to say about it: “My partner, Wes, and I arrived at Rhino River Lodge on the Friday afternoon but were too late for the afternoon game drive and had to wait until the morning for the next one. I remember saying to Wes that if we missed any spectacular sightings I would be devastated. Little did we know that the reserve had its own special treats waiting in store for us. To say we were extremely eager to get out into the Zululand Rhino Reserve the next morning is an understatement. Meandering across the river bed and out into the bush, it was hard to believe that just the day before, at that very time, I had been fighting my way through Durban traffic. It never ceases to amaze me how one can drive for a mere few hours out of the city and suddenly be surrounded by pristine wilderness. I had three things on my list that I hoped to see: lions, rhinos and the elusive wild dogs. So, as we set out that day I kept my eyes peeled for anything that looked like a cat, a giant rock, or a spotty dog. What began as a somewhat slow start to the morning game drive, quickly escalated when our ranger, Ryan, spotted the first animal on my list. Lions! I could hardly believe my eyes. Wes and I turned to each other and grinned as just a few metres to our left, lying on the side of the road, were five lion cubs and two lionesses. Everyone in the vehicle squeaked with delight, yanked out their cameras and began frantically clicking away.

lion-cubs-snuggling

There was no need to rush though as the cubs seemed just as curious about us and proceeded to march right onto the road in front of the vehicle, as if to pose.

confident-cub-stands-tall

While Ryan quietly radioed the other rangers to alert them to the sighting, the cubs delighted us with their lion antics, much to one of the lioness’ disgust, who by now had walked off on the other side of the road and was waiting patiently for the cubs to finish performing.

RhinoRiverLodge-lion-cubs

We could see from the lion’s visibly distended bellies that they’d just enjoyed quite a sizeable meal but that didn’t stop the cubs from fighting, playing and pouncing around the place.

lion-family

At just six months old, the little lions had been under strict supervision from their mothers up until now and were only just starting to gain a bit of confidence and curiosity.

mother-lioness-and-cub

This was apparently the first time the cubs had put on such a display for guests so we felt extremely privileged to be part of their audience. It won’t be long now until these seemingly cute creatures turn into killing machines!”

cubs-playing-tag

Originally published on Africa Geographic.

Meet the wild dogs at Rhino River Lodge

By Rhino River Lodge, Safaris, Sightings

Written by Georgina Lockwood

Feeling very Thelma and Louise, a friend and I had set off from Durban for a two-night stay at the stunning Rhino River Lodge in Zululand. The drive down was a piece of cake as we stopped to buy pineapples and Zulu beads along the way, admiring Zululand’s signature Nguni cows and coral trees.

coral-tree-kwazulu-natal-zululand

Kwa-Zulu Natal is arguably the best place to spot black rhino and we also saw loads of giraffes, cheetah and the rest of the Big 5.

© Rhino River Lodge
© Rhino River Lodge

 

© Fiona Leverone
© Fiona Leverone

baby-south-african-giraffe-zululand-rhino-reserve

But one particular animal stole the show.

After a sundowner sipping on Painted Wolf Wines, we went to bed early in preparation for our 3:30am wake up call.

© Fiona Leverone
© Fiona Leverone

Not long after we set off, we found the dogs with one impala at 6.15am, an impala lamb at 7am and a juvenile nyala at 8.30am. The wild dogs had made three successful kills – all before our morning cup of coffee!

wild-dog-pack-kills-impala-zululand-rhino-reserve

The Zululand Rhino Reserve pack is made up of six individuals: two males from neighbouring Zimanga and four females that were originally from Madikwe. These happy dogs are six of 500 wild dogs in the country that form part of a larger conservation plan with Wild Dogs Advisory Group (WAG).

wild-dogs-at-rhino-river-lodge

We followed the dogs as they played, ran, lay down, licked each other and played some more. The dogs chased warthogs out of a hole, setting off a green wood hoopoe which in isiZulu is called iNhlekabafzi, meaning ‘cackling women’.

isiZulu has the most beautiful way of describing animals. As we followed the dogs down the fence-line we spotted iconic black and white Nguni cows on the other side – referred to as inasenezimbukane, meaning ‘flies in the buttermilk’.

© Rhino River Lodge
Nguni rug at the lodge © Rhino River Lodge

When it comes to wild dogs, good fences make happy neighbours, and there is 200km of fence that surrounds Zululand Rhino Reserve. Wild dogs are boundary pushers and come in contact with fences often because they cover such extensive ranges so quickly.

After speaking to Sam and her team at Wildlife ACT, I quickly got to understand the group dynamics and even began to recognise individual dog’s characters and markings. Over time the volunteers have come to unofficially name the dogs, and if you spend so much time with these magnificent creatures, like Wildlife ACT does, it’s hard not get attached to them.

Male 1  is the first to flop to the floor and have a cat nap, hence his nickname ‘Floppy’. Floppy is the low ranking dog and the last to eat at meals based on the pecking order. However, despite his languid nature, Floppy is very curious and is the first to run off to investigate something interesting.

Floppy
Floppy

Male 2 is the alpha referred to as ‘Endo’ because he likes to stand on his two front paws and lift both of his back legs when he piddles. This makes him look like he is popping a wheelie – hence the biking reference.

Endo © Sam Vorster/ WildlifeACT
Endo © Sam Vorster/ WildlifeACT

Female 1-If ever there were an eighth dwarf, Bossy would be it. Bossy was the original alpha female when the dogs were released and she is most likely to initiate kills and plan the route that the dogs are taking. She had an incident with a snare but has fully recovered with the help of Wildlife ACT and reserve management. Snares are one of the biggest threats to dogs in Africa. Although not normally intended to catch painted wolves, the dog often fall victim to snares.

Bossy
Bossy

Female 2 is the pack’s wild child. Named after the ‘Notch’ in her ear, she is most likely to be reported missing as she wanders off alone following her nose.

© Fiona Leverone
Notch © Fiona Leverone

Female 3-Indie is the alpha female and her name was mapped out for her by her coat that forms a map of the Indonesian Islands. She is incredibly brave.

Indie
Indie, the alpha female

Female 4-Eggs is named after the two fried-egg markings on her back and she offers some comic relief for the group. She is bullied a bit but generally just tends to keep her nose out of trouble and blends in.

Eggs
Eggs

The dogs eventually settled down in the shade to sleep off their full bellies and in the midday heat we headed back to camp. Having spent the entire morning in hot pursuit of the African wild dog, we arrived at Rhino River Lodge exhausted and dusty and were more than happy to tuck into a delicious brunch and to work on our tans by the pool.

© Rhino River Lodge
© Rhino River Lodge

Originally published on Africa Geographic

Lions Learning to Hunt

By Lions, Sightings

Written by Shannon Airton and Heidi Watson

For a lion, learning to hunt is one of the most important skills that it will ever acquire. In the early days hunting is a combination of instinct, observation, and practice for young lions. Wildlife photographer Heidi Watson was on a game drive at Rhino River Lodge when guests were privileged to witness a hunting lesson with a lioness and her two sub-adult cubs. She shared her photos and story with us.
lions-zululand-rhino-reserve
Early one morning the Rhino River Lodge game drive happened upon one of the Zululand Rhino Reserve’s resident lionesses and her sub-adult male and female cubs. The guests watched as the lions began their morning by rubbing against each other, licking one another, and playing a bit together. These social behaviours are important in helping lions reinforce the bonds that are so important to their survival.
rhino-river-lodge-lions
lion-pride-rhino-river-lodgeSuddenly the lioness became very focused on something in the distance. As we looked to see what had caught her attention, we noticed two mature nyala bulls browsing, completely unaware of the lion’s presence. As the lioness, with her cubs close behind, approached the nyala, they caught wind of her and fled.
nyala-bullThe mother, a little despondent, immediately turned her attention to a large warthog.

The old adage, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’, certainly rings true in the lives of predators, especially when a young animal is learning the skills involved in successfully taking down prey. With the warthog in sight, the female cub took the lead and began to stalk her chosen prey.

The warthog had now turned to face the road and the moment he did so, the lion sprang into action and began the chase. The warthog tried to evade the lioness by ducking under a fallen tree, which forced the young lioness to jump over it while still in pursuit. The warthog certainly didn’t waste any time, and at full speed ran down the dirt road leaving the young lioness in his dust.
lion-hunting-warthog
lion-chasing-warthog
At the end of an unsuccessful chase, the young female turned around and trotted back to her family. Though she appeared quite pleased with herself, her mother and brother seemed decidedly less impressed.
lions-zululand-rhino-reserve-kwazulu-natal
As a last-ditch effort the young female began chasing a group of nyala bulls, but with no clear strategy involved, she charged after the antelope with yet another disappointing result and for the third time had to go back empty-handed to her awaiting brother and mother. Not every sighting on a safari ends in a spectacular fashion and not every hunt by a predator ends in a kill. For the tourist, sometimes watching the story unfold is its own reward. For the predator, sometimes having a pride that supports you is the most important thing. They say practice makes perfect, and we heard that later in the day this small pride did indeed make a successful kill.
lioness

Originally published on Africa Geographic.

 

The beauty of birds

By Sightings

 

Written by Shannon Airton

On an African safari most people are focused on the wildlife. And rightfully so, as Africa boasts some of the most impressive animals in the world. But, if you pause for a minute and look beyond the beasts, you will find another layer of beauty in the African bush.

The dazzling variety of birds that can be seen on safari adds a whole new level of appreciation for Africa’s wildlife. At Rhino River Lodge we are lucky to have some of the most beautiful and rare species of birds in southern Africa. The colours of some species alone are enough to take your breath away.

Little bee-eaters © Heidi Watson
Little Bee-eaters
The teeny tiny pygmy kingfisher © Heidi Watson
The teeny tiny pygmy kingfisher
A birder’s dream: the pink-throated twinspot, a seasonal visitor that spends lots of time in the lodge grounds. Photo by Em Gatland
A birder’s dream: the pink-throated twinspot, a seasonal visitor that spends lots of time at the lodge grounds. Photo credit Em Gatland
Scarlet-chested sunbird by Malcolm Sutton
Scarlet-chested sunbird. Photo credit Malcolm Sutton.

Then there are birds that capture the imagination with their flamboyant plumage or features:

Crested guinea-fowl by Heidi Watson
Crested guinea fowl.

 

here are birds that capture the imagination with their flamboyant plumage or features: – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/the-beauty-of-birds/#sthash.Doq5Rjen.dpuf
Paradise fly-catcher by Malcolm Sutton
Paradise fly-catcher. Photo by Malcolm Sutton.
Yellow-billed hornbill © Heidi Watson
Yellow-billed hornbill

The sky isn’t the only place on looks for birds on safari. Many species spend much of their time on the ground foraging and nesting.

Black-bellied bustard by Malcolm Sutton
Black-bellied bustard. Photo by Malcolm Sutton

 

Crowned plover and chicks
Crowned plover and chicks. Photo by Malcolm Sutton.
The ostrich, an African Icon. © Heidi Watson
The ostrich, an African icon.

Finally, there are those birds that everyone wants to see-the birds of prey.

White-backed vultures by Malcolm Sutton
White-backed vultures. Photo by Malcolm Sutton.

 

Martial eagle by Malcolm Sutton
Martial eagle. Photo by Malcolm Sutton.

 

Wahlberg eagle By Malcolm Sutton
Wahlberg’s Eagle. Photo by Malcolm Sutton.
Scops owl by Kyle Naude
Scops owl. Photo by Kyle Naude.

So next time you are on safari, get out those binoculars, sharpen those ears and try taking a look at all the wild and wonderful birds that call this beautiful continent home! You’ll be amazed by what you see.

Originally published online at Africa Geographic.

 

Vultures pull rank in the Zululand Bush

By Manyoni Private Game Reserve, Sightings

The trees were heavily laden with vultures, like balloons at a party. Everywhere we looked they stared down at us, eager eyes, menacing grins, perched ready and waiting. White-backed vultures crowded the low branches of the acacia tree, anticipating the feast that was soon to come. 
vulture
 “There must be a kill around here somewhere guys, keep your eyes peeled,” I said as I glanced over my shoulder at a cruiser full of our wide eyed Rhino River Lodge guests. The ‘bush telegraph’ had spread far and wide and these large feathered scavengers were flocking in by the hordes. At a time like this, under cloudy skies you can’t help but hum the Jungle Books’ “we are friends till the bitter end” song which puts vultures in a sullen, grim reaper-type of stance.

white-backed-vultures-roosting
vultures-zululand
vultures
“There it is!” a guest shouted, waking me from my Disney daydream. I swung around to see cheetahs on a large impala carcass under a thick thorny bush. The cats were making good progress on their meal, but the tension between the vultures and the spotted cats was evident. One cheetah would tuck into the meal whilst the others kept a watchful eye on the sharp beaked intruders, spitting and snarling at the enclosing beady-eyed vultures.
white-backed-vulture
cheetah-family
cheetah-and-cubs
With a pregnant belly full of food, one of the cheetahs staggered away from the feeding frenzy and located a shady spot to let his meal settle. The vultures noted the security force was down one and they started to make their move. One by one they dropped from branches like a SWAT team onto the ground. They scuttled over the grassy plains like crabs, their wings stretched out in a theatrical display. The remaining cheetahs panicked as a sea of feathers came crashing towards them. With a mouthful of meat the remaining cheetah leapt over the impala carcass and retreated to the safety of the shade.

With a pregnant belly full of food, one of the cheetahs staggered away from the feeding frenzy and located a shady spot to let his meal settle. The vultures noted the security force was down one and they started to make their move. One by one they dropped from branches like a SWAT team onto the ground. They scuttled over the grassy plains like crabs, their wings stretched out in a theatrical display. The remaining cheetahs panicked as a sea of feathers came crashing towards them. With a mouthful of meat the remaining cheetah leapt over the impala carcass and retreated to the safety of the shade. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/vultures-pull-rank-zululand-bush/#sthash.D8R1JyFc.dpuf

cheetah-impala-kill
cheetah-impala-carcass

Within seconds the carcass was lost from sight as a pile of hungry scavengers battled for scraps. The cheetahs watched on from a distance as their hard earned meal was polished off  right down to the bone. The vultures’ shouts and screams disturbed the peace and the area was no longer a place of rest for the cheetahs. The cats admitted defeat and slowly lumbered their bulging bellies to a more tranquil setting and left the birds to squabble over the remains. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/vultures-pull-rank-zululand-bush/#sthash.D8R1JyFc.dpuf

Within seconds the carcass was lost from sight as a pile of hungry scavengers battled for scraps. The cheetahs watched on from a distance as their hard earned meal was polished off  right down to the bone. The vultures’ shouts and screams disturbed the peace and the area was no longer a place of rest for the cheetahs. The cats admitted defeat and slowly lumbered their bulging bellies to a more tranquil setting and left the birds to squabble over the remains.

Written by Frances Hannah
Photos by Kyle Naude
Previously published on Africa Geographic.

Within seconds the carcass was lost from sight as a pile of hungry scavengers battled for scraps. The cheetahs watched on from a distance as their hard earned meal was polished off  right down to the bone. The vultures’ shouts and screams disturbed the peace and the area was no longer a place of rest for the cheetahs. The cats admitted defeat and slowly lumbered their bulging bellies to a more tranquil setting and left the birds to squabble over the remains. – See more at: http://africageographic.com/blog/vultures-pull-rank-zululand-bush/#sthash.D8R1JyFc.dpuf