We start early this morning as we have been invited to a Canadian friend we had met a few years ago in Tonga for pancakes. He is working on a project in collaboration with the local parks and is based in the Seronera. How fortuitous:) we get to catch up with Ryan and get a deliscious serving of Canadian pancakes some with banana, chocolate or plain with real Canadian maple syrup.
As it is a brunch meeting we squeeze in some viewing on the way. We are rewarded almost immediately with Andrew spotting a leopard in a tree with his left overs hung on a branch next to him. He checks us out before he slips down the tree to disappear in the tall grass.
We continue on and decide to check out some of the beautiful kopji’s in the area.In the morning sun they look impressive with lots of nooks and crannies to hide in. Andrew thinks it is perfect for a cub raising and hiding place but we do not spot any this morning.
It’s time to start heading out to Rhyan’s place. On the way we spot a cheetah casing out a herd of wildebeest who are not too far away from her. We stop and see what will happen, after a little bit there is movement around her and two cub heads about a year old pop up. What a bonus. She decides it is not time to hunt and gradually makes her way with the cubs towards a tree for shade not too far from us. Ok best keep going, we are already late for pancakes, but “cheetah on the way ” seems like a good excuse:)
As we keep going we come across a herd of elephants just about to go for a mud bath. We have to stop for this. One by one they either just roll in the mud or suck up a good showers worth of mud in their trunks and then give themselves a bath. This continues right down to the teeny, weeny baby probably a couple of months old, he or she already knows how to mud bath with a Vichy trunk application:)
We follow the last instructions: ” don’t take the campground turnoff! Follow the road until a sharp turn and just after that I’m there”. There is only one other house in sight, otherwise just Serengeti plains.
In the end we are about half an hour late to Rhyan but he understands. The pancakes are deliscious, we meet Lacey who is sharing the house with him working on her PhD in migrating wildlife and patterns governing their decisions of travel. She collects data from camera recordings launched in a helium balloon. It has been a life long dream to be here and she is living it.
The house has metal bars in the windows to keep the baboons out. Occasionally a youngster will get through and you will come home to a major trashing.
After a great catch up we decide to head out to the kopji’s again. Sure enough there are four vehicles there watching something. We pull up and it’s a Mum with five cubs getting up and moving away to our left. To our right we hear frantic calling of a cub that has been separated from Mum. The grass is too high for him to see where they are and to our great sadness he heads in the direction away from Mum. I am really distressed, as this situation has arisen because the vehicles have boxed the lions in. Shortly another six more vehicles arrive and there is a frenzy of them surrounding the lions to see the cubs. It is so wrong! Andrew is incredibly upset as they are not following basic guiding principals, there is dust everywhere as vehicles jostle to get a better spot, we stay a good 20m away as Andrew thinks the lioness will come our way. She starts doing just that but all the vehicles surround her again in dust and she changes trajectory into the grass. Thank goodness you cannot go off road here!
We leave the scene feeling very frustrated and sad . Only one in six cubs make it to adulthood, and what has just happened can well cause this cubs life. Although at the top of the food chain it is a dangerous business being a lion. Many get injured seriously during the hunts, cubs have very high loss rate through other predators including eagles attacking them and the males have to battle it out for the leaders role which can result in serious injury.
We move away to some further kopji’s and stay long after all the vehicles have gone. It is very late afternoon and so time to head back. Andrew takes one last look and about a km away in the grass he spots movement. He blows us away, as it turns out to be a lone lioness. The way we see her move through the binoculars!!! (How does Andrew do it with his bare eyes), she is crouched down and stalking. We just stop and watch this very graceful animal and to our amazement she comes through the bush straight at us.
We drive a safe distance to the wildebeest not to spook them, searching the grass for where we know she is. Of course nothing to see and next thing we know there is a burst of stampeding as she strikes , the dust settles and the hunt has not been successful. A bit of mixed feelings for us all.
Now we are late again to be back at camp . The sun is in its last afternoon rays and Andrew spots a male lion. He is likely part of the pride we have been seeing today. He looks magnificent.
It is dark when we get back, but we managed not to strike a ranger on the way. All good today:)