Now I’m not trying to sell safaris with this blog, I’m not trying to paint a picture of how wonderful every safari is, because I can almost guarantee that I will never have another morning like this one on safari. So, a word of advice, don’t expect this on your next safari!
But first, a little recent history. This year, the Northern Serengeti, near the Mara River has been the best safari destination I have ever seen. Our mobile camp was moved up here in June to follow the wildebeest migration as it moved on its annual cycle. From June to now, I’ve come here with four safaris. The first safari was amazing and each one since then has got better and better. By the second, I was thinking of how to convince people to drop everything they are doing in the USA and get here right now to see all this.
And now, by the fourth safari, I am at a loss for words. We were discussing this morning what myriad circumstances could have coincided to make this perfect game viewing. All that I could come up with is that it is colder than usual, so the animals are active longer into the day and its drier….although quite how this affects the game viewing, I’m not sure! There’s not as much grass, so the wildebeest are crossing back and forth over the Mara River, perhaps restlessly looking for better grass?
So, today is the last day of this safari, we have been here for six days and have seen six wildebeest crossings over the Mara River, seven leopards, rhino and countless lions. Each afternoon, we have driven out to the Koppie and found the same big pride of 20 lions that have entertained us like never before.
This morning, however, was the best. Here’s how it happened:-
We were heading down off to Lamai to try find cheetah. Driving along a small river course, we spotted a leopard walking along the river bank. We stopped to look at her through the binoculars when we noticed another one, a male, walking to join her. So, we drove closer and we were entertained for an hour by them mating 5 times!
Another vehicle drove up and told us that there were 20 lions feeding on wildebeest up the road. The same highly entertaining and chilled pride. Off we went and spent another hour surrounded by the pride. Three of the females even went off to hunt some wildebeest that happened to come by. They were unsuccessful, but there was a lot of running around, gnu-ing and dust and chaos.
Finally, they all strolled off up into the rocks leaving the one male eating a wildebeest and we decided to move on. That was when we suddenly remembered that there was meant to be an eclipse of the sun. We figured that it may have happened during the time we noticed that the light wasn’t so good for our photos. How could we be disappointed though when we had just watched leopards mating several times and 20 lions eating a wildebeest and hunting.
We drove back to the leopards and arrived just as they mated again in clear sunlight and perfect view. Then they fell asleep. By that time it was too late to go to Lamai, so we abandoned our plan and decided to head down to the river and maybe see yet another wildebeest crossing. Sure enough, at the river, we saw thousands of them massing on the far bank ready to cross towards us.
This part can take hours, so we set up our breakfast table a little distance off to eat and to wait. We had just poured the tea and coffee when they started to leap off an impossibly high bank into the river. So we left our picnic table unattended under a tree, drove down to the river bank and began photographing yet another crossing as the wildebeest kicked up clouds of dust and leapt off the very high bank.
Then, Reg noticed a lioness approaching the wildebeest as they were leaving the river. She was focused only on them as we drove alongside her on top of the bank, until a young wildebeest popped over the top of the bank, straight into her claws and jaws and it was over in a couple of minutes.
Needless to say, we were a little excited by this stage and the cameras were clicking fast and furiously as she dragged her new meal under a shady tree.
In the meantime, Reg once again looked behind us and saw two more lionesses stalking a buffalo. So, off we roared yet again, arriving close by just as the buffalo chased our two new brave lionesses off. They slumped down dejected to lie staring longingly at so much delicious buffalo meat, no doubt wandering how they could get it off the hoof and into their stomachs.
After a while, we became bored of watching the stalemate and remembered that there was an eclipse in full swing, so we drove around to the other side of a large herd of wildebeest who were wandering into the lion orgy of hunting and eating. Our aim was to try to get photos of the forgotten eclipse of the sun with the herd of wildebeest in the foreground. That didn’t work though because the sun was too high in the sky and too bright, despite having a chunk taken out of it.
However, another large group of wildebeest had begun to mass on the other side of the river preparing to cross towards us again. So, we retreated back to our patient breakfast table and resumed our breakfast and the waiting game. While finishing our breakfast, we watched one of the two lionesses chase a small group of wildebeest right across our view on the other side of a little stream. She was not successful, so we went back to our sandwiches.
Then we saw the other lioness stalking a dozy group of wildebeest that had come wandering into the fray. We jumped back into the car and drove a little closer to watch it unfold. The lioness stalked to within about forty yards, then burst out into the open panicking the wildebeest. At some point, in the dusty scene, she knocked an adult wildebeest off the bank of the small stream and then she jumped off the bank onto it, sinking her teeth into its withers and down they both went in a cloud of dust. But, suddenly, the tables turned and the wildebeest was up and chasing the lioness off down the dry stream bed.
With cameras burning up, we returned to our picnic table yet again to have the last bites of those bacon and egg sandwiches, when a Colleague came driving towards us to let us know that the first lioness had just killed ANOTHER wildebeest and was dragging it up the hill, straight towards us. So, clumsily, we threw everything back into the picnic box, packed the folding table back into the car and drove down to see. Sure enough, there she was proudly dragging her second wildebeest towards a big shady tree to settle down for ‘lunch’… and we headed off as well to get back to camp for our lunch.
Now, if you can make any sense of that crazy morning, you’re smarter than I!