Day 5 – Serengeti National Park
Day five takes us deeper into the Serengeti on the hunt for the more elusive wildlife
As we drove through the grassy plains towards a particularly interesting copi formation we spied two male lions heading our way. Yuda explained that male lions can not tolerate other male lions because they are a threat, unless they are a brother. Bachelor lions are often seen out alone or in company of a brother lion as only one grown male lion can head a pride. Although on occasion a large pride can be headed by two brother lions. If a head lion of a pride is challenged and beaten by a bachelor lion the new head will kill all of the cubs of the previous male. Male lions also need to cast out any of their sons from the pride just as they are coming of age. For if the son challenges and beats his father he will kill all the cubs and begin his own gene pool.
One of the most elusive animals in Africa is the Leopard. They are shy and solitary as well as camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings. Luckily we have an Emmily on our safari who just happens to be a cat spotting expert. As we drove past one of the many sausage trees of the Serengeti Emmily spotted a beautiful leopard in the tree, lounging amongst the sausages and gathering strength for the night.
One thing we have noticed about monkeys is their tendency to seem wistful. We often see them staring off into the distance as if contemplating the universe or the meaning of existence.
While driving along a particularly dusty and cracked road beside a small river we came across an odd and defensive bird sitting on the road. On closer inspection we saw that it was sitting on a nest complete with a set of eggs. Later in the day we saw another bird in a similarly precarious position and wondered why such a nervous looking bird would choose such a dangerous place for its brood.
As afternoon deepened on the fifth day of safari we spotted a cheetah perched on a grassy hill overlooking the plains.
Our first close encounter with the hyena was with a small family beside the road lazing in the grass. A raggedy bunch, they smelt a lot like their food…. horrendous.
That evening back at camp after another massive dinner feast and discussions of what we saw that day Christian taught us a Tanzanian card game that closely resembled Uno called Last Card or Kadi Iliyopita. The suits have different names here, clubs are leaves, diamonds are knives, spades are djembe and hearts are still hearts. Chris totally kicked our butts numerously, although Emm did get a few wins in. Tahn however is a last card loser.
Day 5 sightings:
Wildebeest, Zebra, Grant gazelle, White headed vulture, Buffalo weaver bird, Spotted ear hyena, lion, Dik Dik, Ostrich, Hartebeest, Warthog, Thompsons gazelle, Elephant, Blacksmith lapwing bird, Saddlebilled stork, Giraffe, Leopard, Baboon, Dwarf mongoose, Topi antelope, Cheetah, Impala, Hippopotamus, Marabou stork, Vervet monkey, Egyptian geese, Martial eagle, Hyena.
Day 6 Serengeti National Park
Up earlier than usual to see the sunrise we saw the cheetah from the previous afternoon hunting in the long grass. It was moving slowly, its small head searching the air for prey.
Driving in the golden light of dawn we came across the desiccated remains of a leopards meal clearly depicting their eating habits. Just the skin and spine remained of what looked to be a wildebeest, hanging from the branches of a tree.
Deeper into the Serengeti we came to a relatively large water hole, a part of the major river system running through the park. Here we were lucky enough to get close to a huge herd of hippos playing, sleeping, fighting and wallowing in the water.
Time and time again we were reminded of the fact that lions rule over the Serengeti. They fear no other animals and sit atop their copi thrones eyeing their domain. Near our campsite was a large copi inhabited by a large pride. It was amazing to see them patrolling the area and generally lording over the other animals.
On our way out of Serengeti we had the unusual fortune to see the allusive serval cat a second time. Yuda commented on our luck saying that usually guides don’t even bother to tell tourists about the serval cat as they are so small and shy with very few numbers they live mostly unseen.
We left the Serengeti in the middle of the day to take the long, dusty and undulating road to Ngorongoro. With dusty, sore eyes we wove our way to the high edge of the crater and settled into a beautiful campsite featuring a huge tree in the center. The tree was the home of a huge murder of crows which would occasionally wheel into the sky as one.
Day 6 sightings:
Giraffe, Buffalo, Widebeest, Impala, Vulcher, Warthogs, Guinea fowl, Egyptian geese, Hippopotamus, Afghan fish eagle, Tawny eagle,Topi, Hartebeest, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Dik dik, Hyena, Bandit mongoose, Elephant, Lions, Serval cat, Thompsons gazelle, Secretary bird.
Day 7 Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Our last day of safari met us in darkness for one of Emmily’s favourite activities… Getting up early.
The steep ride down into the crater afforded us a sweeping view of the sun rising over the rim. The Ngorongoro crater is an immensely important site where a number of fossils have been found of the first of mankind. We stood in the car with the cold air whipping past and the golden rays sweeping over the crater with Dotahn cracking bad jokes about the dawn of man, much to Emmily’s disdain.
The crater is home to the last rhinos in Tanzania which are protected fervently by men with guns in watch towers and in jeeps within the crater. They are still rare to see, but we were very lucky on many accounts on the safari and our first sighting for the day was a magnificent black rhino.
Passing through the small forested area of the crater were large families of baboons, warthogs, buffalo and many interesting birds. As we once again entered the plains we came across a huge male lion who was hunting a small male lion, probably chasing him away from the pride.
Ostriches have a strange way of moving and their mating rituals are like an amusing dance, moving in lines with wings fluttering in the breeze.
One of the most intriguing and grisly sights of our safari was coming across a pride of lions with a fresh kill. The whole family was eating together, heads and manes red and slick with blood. More and more hyenas and jackals began to converge on the spot as the lions continued their feast. Eventually most of the pride had eaten their fill and only one lion remained. She stubbornly continued to eat for a long time as jackals tried to steal pieces only to be chased away. The hyenas came closer and closer and tried to jump in before the lion was finished, but she was ferociously determined to continue eating and lunged and swiped at the hyenas. After some time she sauntered off and a huge pile of hyenas pounced on the carcass. Piling on top of each other and scrambling to get at the flesh, it would not be long until nothing was left, even the bones being ground and crunched to powder by the powerful jaws of the hyena.
Once again lucky we saw another rhino! Lazing in the grass, surrounded by a herd of wildebeest and gazelle.
We said our goodbyes to the wild as we made our way out of the crater. Eyes sore from searching and minds full.
Day 7 sightings:
Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Thompsons gazelle, Black rhino, Hyenas, Baboons, Guinea fowl, Warthogs, Buffalo, Lions, Golden jackal, Correy buzzard, Hippopotamus, Gray crown crane, Elephant, Ostrich, Flamingos, Black backed jackal, Great white pelicans, Ibis, Serval cat.
A big thanks to Yuda and Christian for there super awesome service. Yuda answered every question we had without pause and had eagle eyes. Christian’s food was always amazing and his friendly banter made us feel at home. For anyone going on a safari, go with Basecamp.