Last night our Maasai warriors, spears and all, escorted us back to the “tents” after dinner and cigars by the pool. This morning we woke up early, had a quick breakfast and got back in the 4x4s with Phillip and Joshua for a full day of game viewing in central Serengeti.
Less than 30 minutes out of camp, Philip cautiously pulled off the main dirt road towards a river crossing. In the mostly dry river bed was a herd of elephants. On the other side was a large family of baboons. And right in front of us was a pride of a dozen lionesses and cubs. Here’s a closeup on the main Mama. Even Vivian and Evan sat up and noticed.
A few more miles down the road we almost ran into a huge elephant. He was a bit away from his herd and stepped out on the dirt road at about the same time we came around a bend. Philip quickly swerved right while the elephant crashed into the brush on the left. Then he recovered his balance and seem to take a few belligerent steps towards us before backing up into the brush again, but he kept his face towards us and flapped his ears. He was clearly ready to take this argument to the next level. We left him in the brush, passed his herd a few minutes later, and headed down the road, keeping the river bed to our left. A bit later we were rewarded with a rare sight.
A leopard mother and her young cub were hanging out at the foot of a tall acacia tree. While we watched, the mother made her way gracefully up the tree and proceeded to plonk herself down on a big branch like it was the most comfortable bed in the world. The cub wandered off into the brush. We waited for an hour and watched, during which the mother occasionally changed positions and then eventually walked down the branch towards the trunk. We drove around to the other side of the tree and saw that she was feeding on a gazelle carcass that she must have killed and dragged up the tree earlier. The cub was nowhere to be seen.
Still later we drove off to see a cheetah that had been spotted a few miles away. Upon arriving we saw a beautiful cheetah sitting under a tree. Nearby, there were three large vultures in the tall grass. Philip conjectured that the carcass from her kill must have attracted the vultures. Then we noticed a herd of elephants come over the horizon. They were moving roughly in the direction of the cheetah resting under the tree. Game watching is like fishing. It’s mostly waiting. We waited.
Eventually the elephants arrived. They either smelled the carcass or the cheetah or both and raised their tusks to sniff the air. Then they ambled at their leisurely pace straight towards the tree and the cheetah hiding in the tall grass. We held our breaths and waited. At the tree the herd split up around it, and the bigger elephants walked right up to the cheetah. The cheetah at that point decided that hiding wouldn’t do, and in the photo below, you can see it getting up and walking away from the elephants.
And that’s how we spent most of our morning. Later we waited for a lioness who was crouched down on a grassy bank to attack gazelles that approached the water hole but that didn’t materialize during our wait. So we went back to the mother leopard in the tree. Her cub had reappeared. He scrambled up the tree and ate on the gazelle carcass while the mama continued to sleep on a branch. The mothers in our safari truck joked about how it must be the mama leopard’s time off and that she had left the kid a snack and didn’t want to be disturbed.
We ended that afternoon driving up to another lion – in this case an old dude resting under a tree. And then back to the large pride of lionesses and cubs from the morning, a passing herd of zebras and wildebeest, and then back to our safari lodge. Vivian and Evan swam, we drank excellent wine by the pool, and had a lovely dinner. Another day in paradise.