Leopard Ripping Waterbuck’s Face Off in Kruger Park, S.A

Good day,

I’m writing this from one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling “home” even if only for a few nights. I’m also writing to you about one of the RAWEST things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. While on our game drive at Singita Game Reserve in  Kruger National Park, we saw something people only dream of… We saw a leopard (one of the big 5) devouring a waterbuck in a tree. In fact it wasn’t so much devouring the waterbuck as it was ripping it’s face off, literally.

The guide told us that people can come to Kruger for 40 years and maybe never even see a leopard, they are that rare and elusive. Seeing one feed like this is incredibly rare and he mentioned countless times just thinking out loud “we’re privileged to be able to witness this”. To make matters more egregious if they weren’t already, we were no more than 6-9 feet at some point. The leopard mauled this waterbuck’s face while looking at us / ignoring us as though it was no big deal and for it, it wasn’t.

What an experience, this is one of those stories you pick up on a trip around the world that will be told in many other countries for many years. This is one of those “wow” moments of something you’d normally only ever see on National Geographic. Witnessing something like this is a feeling that is hard to describe. Going on a safari game drive is similar to rolling the dice, anything can happen.

Singita is located on 15,000 hectares of land inside the Kruger National Park, South Africa. All I can say is that we saw 4 out of the big 5, it’s very late and yours truly has to wake very early aka 5am so we’ll leave it at that. There are countless other photos that will be shared at a later date but will note that we saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, zebras, warthogs, jackals, impala and more. Our next mission is to find that elusive cheetah and finish off the big 5 with a pride of lions.

Our guides are Brian and Exon, they are both legends.

Photos were taken by modern renaissance man “Dave” aka @Darodi.

Tips hat,

P.S: You’ll never know unless you go…

30 Comments

  1. The Welsh Wizard

    February 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    A true slice of life. What a once in a lifetime experience to have

    • Rob

      February 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      agreed

  2. Jill

    February 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Thank God for Zoom!! These pics are amazing!

    • Rob

      February 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      All hail masters of the universe Exon and Brian and Dave did a killer job, sorry couldn’t help myself.

  3. Thomas

    February 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Geeez I could have done without the whole ‘ripping of the face off’ pic, but hey, I guess such is life out there huh? So you do 2 drives per day? Is that the deal? How far/long is the typical drive to get to where the ‘action’ is at?

    • Rob

      February 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      Yesterday we went from 4PM until about 8 or so. Had we found the pride it maybe would have lasted longer. Now it’s 5:23 am and it starts at 6AM until about 10 or so. Waking up here as the sun is rising aka as I write this is a pretty cool experience.

  4. Adam

    February 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Well, you certainly didn’t mislead us with your title!

    • Rob

      February 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      lol.

      No, most certainly did not.

  5. What a great sighting.Amazing!!!!

    February 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Wow!

    • Rob

      February 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Wow indeed!

  6. Heather

    February 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Great article and photos! What an amazing experience!!

    • Rob

      February 21, 2012 at 2:32 am

      Thanks and feel lucky to have had the honor to witness it.

  7. SJH

    February 21, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Similar story from my trip in the Serengeti. Had reserved the hot air balloon ride at dawn. Only time you are allowed in the park during darkness hours is if you are on the balloon trip. Driver picks us up at safari lodge in pitch black darkness. On way to balloon launch site, he says we’re taking a detour because there’s something he noticed on his drive to pick us up that he thinks we’d like to see. Well, he stops the truck and turns on a spotlight. Not 20 feet from side of the road are a couple of hyenas that are disemboweling a zebra. Trust me, the sounds were as memorable as the sight. Unreal experience indeed.

    Standing by for more dispatched from South Africa to get my fix of safari from afar.

    • Rob

      February 21, 2012 at 5:41 am

      Funny you mention the hyenas as we discussed them today. Someone asked about their laugh and the guide told us they usually only really get going when they are excited / feasting on a kill.

      Can imagine it was pretty epic. Love how they don’t give it away so you’re like “wow” when you see it.

      Also appreciate having a guide and tracker. When I did the camping in Tanzania we had neither and what a difference a good guide makes. Our trackers were Brian and Exon, both legends. Exon tracked a pride of lion today, finally got my big 5 fix.

  8. phill

    February 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Hi!!
    Amazing photos!
    Great sighting too!

    Just one thing, it’s not a waterbuck! it’s an Nyala.

    But what a great sighting, thanks for sharing!

    • Rob

      February 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks Phil, was told it’s a waterbuck, will verify tomorrow but whatever, it was what it was – right?

      Tips hat,

      • phill

        February 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm

        Of course!! Still an incredible sighting!

        The only reason is why it’s not a waterbuck is because they are way to big leopard. Leopards have never been recorded to have brought a waterbuck up a tree. The reason it’s a Nyala and not a Kudu or Impala as the colour of the face isn’t right for an Impala and Kudus have the same colour as the buck shown above but again it’s too big.

        I really don’t want to be rude, if I have irratated you with this info :)

        Good luck for tomorrow and I hope you see lot’s again!

        • Rob

          February 22, 2012 at 1:04 am

          Hello Phill,

          Spoke with the guide who has been working in Kruger National Park for the last 12 years and he said it’s a baby waterbuck.

          Thanks for the input though, looks like we have a 1st!!

  9. Allison

    February 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hello Rob, delighted you’re having a great time in Kruger. It’s my favourite place in the world. I try to get there as often as I can (from Johannesburg) and go in the region of four or five times a year. These are fantastic pics. Only (and people who know and love the African bush can be annoyingly pedantic, so sorry)… it’s not a waterbuck. It’s an Impala. Thanks for sharing the pics, though. They are great x a

    • Rob

      February 22, 2012 at 1:08 am

      Thanks for the comments Allison and I can see why you love the place, it’s breath taking. Just as Phill was incorrect believing it was a Nyala (good guess though), it’s also not an impala. As I told Phill, spoke with my guide and it’s in fact a baby waterbuck.

      Glad you like the photography.

  10. David Kruger

    February 22, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Really an incredible story! You must be having the time of your life. I wonder how the experience in South Africa compares to your past travels in Tanzania.

    As for what animal fell prey to the leopard – its definitely not an impala and definitely not a nyala. I can say this with 100% certainty even though I wasn’t there for the kill and only have these few photos to go by. I would guess by enlarged and demented ear region though it was probably a baby waterbuck. Maybe 2-3 days old. Hopefully that will settle this disagreement.

    • Rob

      February 22, 2012 at 1:11 am

      Correct you are sir, I take you love safari as well based on your knowledge of game animals?

      The safari here was considerably better but we also had an expert tracker and ranger with us as opposed to my stay in Tanzania. In Tanzania I went to Lake Manyara and it was just myself and some friends on a camping trip. We saw lots but nothing compared to the experience here.

      http://stophavingaboringlife.com/camping-safari-in-lake-manyara/

      Thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

  11. Brian

    February 22, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Hi Phil, that is in fact a waterbuck, it just happens to be a baby waterbuck! Look at the colour of the coat and the shaggyness!

    • Rob

      February 22, 2012 at 1:14 am

      Just told Phill basically the same thing. What you said is incredibly similar to what our most knowledgeable and gregarious ranger reported. What a sight, feel privileged to have witnessed it.

      Also according to Phill, it has never been recorded before so it’s like we got to witness a bit of history. Sure beats Animal Planet on TV!

  12. Vanessa

    February 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Who took the photographs…? Was it you? They look like they’re stills from the Animal Planet channel!

    • Rob

      February 24, 2012 at 12:04 am

      I can’t take any credit. The master mind behind the lens was Dave aka @Darodi on twitter.

      Still can’t believe I witnessed it.

  13. Brian

    February 24, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Hey guys, just a last word on the whole question on what prey item is in this photo. In the many years I have been going to wild places all over Africa I have been utterly amazed by the variety of prey items they feed on and yes I too thought that they would only prey on items they could hoist into a tree but I was wrong. I have seen 2 baby giraffe kills (which the leopard eventually treed after disembowling it to reduce the weight) 4 different waterbuck kills of varying ages and a buffalo calf, so as you can see these cats are truly versatile and can and do kill prey items well beyond their own weight class. If Africa has taught me anything is that animals do not read text books and the moment we pigeon hole them they will do something to totally surprise you. Thanks Rob for a very entertaining read!

    • Rob

      February 24, 2012 at 2:50 am

      Thanks for this addition Brian. I am new to this whole world so appreciate some input from someone who knows what they are talking about.

      This comment sums up why safari never gets old as anything can happen, literally.

  14. Sam Freedom

    September 18, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Wow, i can relate big time. Not trying to “one up” but rather share. I was just in Denali in Alaska, and, amongst other cool things, had a wolf step onto the road and trot in front of us for about 8 minutes. I got it all on video if’n ya want an exclusive. Plan to start my own blog but what do you think about guest blogging? You’re inspiring people to hit the road, how cool it would be to have some sit in for a set. ;)

    Anyways, invited to hunt in Africa next year. Looking forward to setting my first leopard ripping somethings face off, thanks to you!

    Cheers!

    • Rob

      September 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

      I’ve been wanting to get more guest blogs in the future just need people who can write and on a topic that is good and positive. I like to leave the shady side to the news stations who seem to thrive on it. Let me know!

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