This eagle-snake-cat showdown left onlookers in awe, and after watching the clip, it's easy to see why.

While cruising through South Africa's Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Nkorho Rangers guide Pieter Dannhauser managed to film the intense free-for-all that ensued after a leopard attempted to steal an eagle from the coils of a black mamba.

Scroll down for the full video.

The Nkorho team believes the snake eagle attacked first. Black mambas spend plenty of time up in the trees, so birds are often on their menu, but an avian enemy of this size would be too large to swallow. It's likely the snake latched on in self-defence, and stayed put for good measure. 

"I still can't believe it," recalls Dannhauser. "On safari you never really know what is going to happen or what you will come across. The poor eagle thought that the mamba would be an easy meal."

A longer video of the of the incident was also captured by nature guide Sipps Swagger:

As their name suggests, brown snake eagles (Circaetus cinereous) feed almost exclusively on snakes, and the species has evolved an impressive natural tolerance to venom. But in this case, the mamba's powerful coils proved too strong.

Astounded human onlookers aside, the rough-and-tumble also drew the attention of "Thandi", one of the park's female leopards. "It was a very unexpected sight for us," says Nkorho staffer Liz Brown. "Out of nowhere Thandi and her cub came across the scene."

After pushing her youngster safely aside, Thandi joined the fray, repeatedly swiping at the mamba. Park staff suggest she may have been hoping to nab a free meal by pushing the snake away – though things took a risky turn for the big cat when the snake eagle sprang back into action.

We're happy to report that both Thandi and her cub escaped unharmed, but the clawed "boop" you see near the one-minute mark of Dannhauser's video likely sealed the eagle's fate. "We were very lucky to have seen this incredible sighting," he says. "It shows us how unexpected nature can be. This was definitely one for the books."

Image: Nkorho Rangers/Facebook
Image: Nkorho Rangers/Facebook
Image: Nkorho Rangers/Facebook
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