It was a lazy afternoon in The South Luangwa - just past tea. We set off for what started as a routine game drive. Along a dusty road a lioness approached from our left. She brushed against the bumper of our stopped vehicle. Oblivious to our presence she had an intensiveness in her face. We could almost feel her hot breath. She hid at a vantage point overlooking a wide valley.

We followed and found a track leading to a dried stream bed in the valley. We took a position where we could see the lioness and the herd of cape buffalo she was watching.

Buffalo are not unlike other grazing animals. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence or in this case the other side of the stream bed – the side closest to the hidden lion. Several adults and calves started to cross. When there was no possibility of retreat the lioness made her run. What caught us off guard was the other four lions coming from different directions . It was like a coordinated military attack.

The encounter was brief and a yearling buffalo calf lay in the paws of the lions. As it turned out there were three adult lioness and two juveniles. The adults turned the kill over to the cubs. This was school, for soon they would be adults and responsible for themselves. To keep the herd of buffalo from interfering with the lesson the adult lions proceeded to chase them off.

What happened next was filtered through a haze of dust stirred by panicking hooves and intent paws. But life in the bush is rarely easy. One tough old bull confronted the lead lioness. He picked her up with his horns and tossed her through the air like a frisbee. She landed on her side, picked herself up and ran into the bush. A few seconds later she emerged unshaken by the near death experience.

Within a few more minutes the herd had been driven to a comfortable distance. The adults returned to the kill. The cubs were just playing with their supper. The lesson ended when the hungry females finished the task. We left them to their meal.

On the drive to our next location the guide who had grown up in the bush told us he had never seen anything like it. This was action reserved for TV documentaries – a once in a lifetime experience.

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