We heard them long before we saw them. At about 1:30 am the low growling roar of the lions began. Sounded like it was right outside our window; and it probably was, too. There must have been a few, as it sounded like they were calling to each other- maybe announcing a kill? As the sound subsided, a disturbed sleep returned, but it was punctuated by other noises- and a sense of discomfort and unease.
After breakfast we set off with Robert, eager for a day of traveling the southeastern section of the Serengeti, known as the ‘cat’ area. It didn’t take long before we saw why the name is appropriate. We soon joined others in awe of a rare sight- a leopard, high in an acacia tree, sleeping peacefully draped over the branches. It is rare to see them, explained Robert- happy to have started off so well.
Leopards are the strongest of the big cats and have only one natural predator, the lion (or lioness, as it is the female who hunts for the male and cubs). Moments later, we see several species of antelope- Harbeast, Eland, Ridgeback. It is hard to tell some apart from the others we have seen (like the Thompson and Grant gazelle, and the Impala). They are all amazingly graceful, each in its own way, and so completely uninterested in us! I am surprised that all of the 4-wheel drive vehicles don’t bother them, but it is obvious from the way they race across the road one minute, and stand in the middle if the next- us humans are of no consequence in this park.
The most incredible, though, is the lion- and we see more and more of them. Some hunting- stalking prey or standing alert- as if they could spring at any moment. We pull up in front of resting lions and they don’t flinch! Now we come across a herd of buffalo. It is a breeding herd, Robert explains. They amble slowly through the long grass- ugly yet entrancing. Throughout our day, Robert patiently explains a bit about the animals’ behavior. He tells us about the giraffe, as we see them eating the tops of the acacias- and the flowers of the sausage trees. (I’m not sure they’re really called that, but there are these incredible, white foot long sausage shaped seed pods that hang from some trees). The baboons eat the ‘sausage’. Then we see crocodiles, immersed in the small river that all the animals drink from. The lions wait in the grass for the zebra to drink- we (thankfully) will not see a kill. In the trees we see tawny eagle, ibis, vultures, stork, crested eagle and many more species- one more beautiful than the other. Almost every tree has a nest of some type.
Before this day ends we also see a cheetah and her cub; both lying in the grass with huge full bellies- a vulture nearby picks at what must be ‘leftovers’. And more herds of elephant with cubs. There is so much it’s hard to take it all in. At the end of the afternoon, Robert drops us off at the lodge and we say ‘assante sa’, which means ‘thank you very much’. He responds with ‘karibu’, which means ‘you’re welcome’. What a day!