The most IMPORTANT question as a guide to ask your guests would have to be "What are you hoping to see?" and I can't tell you how many times the response to that question has been "Mark, all we want to see, PLEASE, is a KILL."
I've been asked, begged, bribed (well, almost), pleaded to, I'd even go as far as saying harrased, to show my guests 'THE KILL'. Most, if not all, guides will tell you that it merely comes down to being in the right place at the right time and having a lot of luck. It is a priveledge to see nature in it's most raw and natural state and a lot of bush lovers will tell you that you havent seen anything, until you've seen a kill.
Recently, at Phinda Forest Lodge, I had six guests, who believe it or not, ALL wanted to see lions and to top it off, all wanted to see lions killing something... anything. I was very confident that we would find and view the Northen Pride of lions of Phinda, but the elusive kill would escape us again.
The Northern Pride really are a phenominal pride, one of the best I have ever seen. There are three lioness, of which one particular female is enormous, six cubs aging from six months to six and a half months and then of course the two Pride Males.
We were leaving for our third afternoon drive and so far we had been lucky! We had already seen the North Pride, doing what lions do best, sleeping. However, they were noticably hungry and that familiar fat lion tummy was not evident at all. We had also seen a female cheetah and her three cubs, as well as an elephant bull, zebra, giraffe, impala, warthog and lots more. So the goal of this drive was to find the North pride, stay with them as long as possible, and hope that tonight would be the night.
We set out with our plan knowing that it was still a 30 minute drive to the marsh in the North where the pride were last seen that morning. We raced through the beautiful forest that surrounds the lodge, birds calling non-stop. Next was the the broad-leaved woodland where many Nyala seemed to know our plan and decided to create a number of roadblocks. Despite this, we finally reached the marsh and after half an hour or so of tracking the pride from their last position we finally found them. They were starting to get active, always a great sign. The three lionesses set off, closely followed by the cubs and males. The grass was long and conditions seemed perfect for hunting. Could tonight be our night?
All of a sudden, I noticed one lioness pick up her ears, her nose smelling the air. She got into the crouch position and started stalking. I whispered to my guests to watch her. One of the guests spotted a family of warthog about 50 metres away, and it was clear that they were her target. She burst towards them at a great speed, sheltered by the long grass. As she got closer, the warthogs dispersed in different directions and she set her sights on one of the piglets. It was a short chase and over quickly. I started the vehicle to reposition us in order to watch the six cubs feeding, and the sound of bones crushing filled the air. Who would have thought that six month-old cubs could be so violent! Within ten minutes there was hardly anything left and the big males did not even get a feed.
I looked back at my guests, they were silent (for the first time!), absolutely fixated on the scene that had just unfolded. In that moment I knew that their bush experience had reached another level. And that, as a guide. is the most satisfying feeling of all!