'There's no such thing as a free lunch' is not a saying that applies to the formidable lions of South Africa's Kruger National Park. These big cats can scare up a free meal with not much more than a look...

This showdown was caught on camera by senior guide Simon Vegter, who shared the clip with Latest Sightings. The leopard had caught an impala and was busy enjoying the spoils when a pair of lions snuck up for their chance at an easy meal. 

"Seeing a kill is a very rare occurrence as one's timing has to be absolutely perfect," says Vegter. "I have been lucky enough to have seen several kills by different predators, but I’ve only had a handful of leopard kills."

Vegter and his group were nearing the end of their morning drive when they spotted the leopard at a nearby watering hole. As a herd of impalas approached, the large female cat slinked into the bushes, waiting for her chance to strike. 

"The tension was there and the anticipation of a kill was tangible," recalls Vegter. "The impalas came and went without the leopard making a move. However, the anticipation kept us there for almost an hour before the action happened."

The group of tourists watched on as the leopard bolted from her hiding place, sending one of the impalas fleeing into the nearby waterhole, where the hungry leopard made quick work its target. 

"By this time we were not yet aware of the nearby lions, but while the leopard was still suffocating the impala, they started to emerge from the riverbed. They must have been alerted to the kill by the noise of the hunt in the water."

Because lions are so much larger than their spotted cousins, Vegter feared the scavenging duo might attack the leopard – or her cubs, which were hiding behind some rocks nearby. "The chances of a leopard surviving a full-blown lion attack are very slim," he says.

But there is only so far a mother leopard will go for food, and in the end, flight quickly trumped fight. 

"This [encounter] was by far the most exciting in terms of tactic and style that the female used. Having the interaction between the leopard and lions just made the sighting so much more dramatic and special," Vegter added.

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Top header image: Jessica Shippee/Flickr