Lions prowl our campsite while we sleep

Trip Start Jul 01, 2009
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Trip End Dec 22, 2009


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We ate breakfast in our cage and then we were off again. A beautiful male giraffe was eating just outside our camp and we stopped for a few photos before heading on. Then, not 10 minutes outside our camp we came upon a scene I'll never forget: a whole pride of lions eating a buffalo right beside the road! They were feasting on what looked to be a recent kill.   Of course Gabe was skeptical thinking perhaps the park rangers had put the buffalo there, he wondered what the chances were that a kill would be made right next to the road. I on the other hand believed our guide when he said that animals were never killed for any reason in the park, not for culling, not for anything. And, that if an animal were killed and left for the lions the lions would cease learning how to hunt and the balance would be lost.

The "King of the pride" was incredible, with big golden eyes and a mane that radiated out, his powerful body backing it up. All around the buffalo the lions lay shoulder to shoulder in a circle, blood dripping from their whole face when they looked up to take a breath or a break. The noises were also intense, bone breaking and flesh being gnawed upon. The cubs came and went as they pleased, burying their heads in the meat and then scampering off to play. We noticed young male lions waiting in the peripheral; they would get what was left when the pride moved on and the dominant male left the scene.

Suddenly a little cub jumped on top of the buffalo as if playing king of the mountain! He balanced precariously looking down on the lions who scarcely took notice of his antics as they munched away. He turned in circles surveying things below, looking for some kind of acknowledgement it seemed, standing splay legged and almost losing his balance before laying down in a genteel way, as if it were his intentions the whole while. Then he was up again and no sooner had he looked to his left then he was slipping off the side, his glory and pride going with him.

By this point our truck had edged forward and we had an even better view. We watched as the male got up and lay down nearby, a cub brazenly coming over and trying to get him to play. The “King” lay there tolerantly while the cub attempted to climb on his back, biting and scratching the king so that he bared his teeth and made wild grimaces. I drew my breath at his fangs, they were huge and I couldn’t imagine those sinking in. Suddenly a truck started up and he jumped up and roared. This took us all by surprise. We had just decided to move on as well and let someone else get a good view. So we passed the trucks on the inside, closest to the lions, our driver going slowly so that we could catch some great photographs. In fact, we almost caught more then that. The male lion had moved towards us and as we passed by he made a lunge at us and roared, baring his teeth as he leapt forward. The top of our truck is completely open and we had all been eagerly leaning forward to take photos and get an even better view. When he lunged towards us we all fell backwards in shock. He easily could have jumped into the truck and we couldn’t believe he actually went for us, even if it was only to scare us.

We spent the rest of the morning in the Serengeti seeing beautiful elephants with their long trunks and monkeys who seem to always be up to mischief,   warthogs, whom we all refer to as Pumba and crocodiles . We also saw a huge group of hippos and one of my favorites, the elegant zebra. I didn’t think the day could get any better but it was still early and we still had to visit the Ngorongoro crater.

So, we began heading back to our campsite for lunch. It was then that we saw a group of trucks, usually a good indication that there’s a cat nearby. At our pleadings the driver moved closer, but we couldn’t figure out what they were looking for and then Gabe spotted it, a leopard! We urged the driver forward pointing urgently at the leopard, who was not far away. But the driver didn’t see her and so he moved in slow motion. Everyone was ready to scream as they patiently urged him to go faster telling him we could see the leopard! As we made our way forward slowly the leopard began walking away from the road. Finally our driver saw her but then couldn’t decide whether he should go forward or stay put. We urged him on as the leopard walked straight towards the other trucks that had sped ahead and were waiting on a perpendicular road, exactly what we had wanted to do. The leopard passed them then and headed toward a big herd of springbok, stalking them slowly as they looked up in alarm and began loping off. She never broke her stride just kept up a sure and steady pace.

As she headed over a bluff our driver explained that there were no roads that went that direction and we knew we had lost her. We headed back to camp then for lunch, packing up our tent and bags and loading them in the truck once more.

Before going to the Ngorongoro crater we were heading to the cradle of civilization; or at least where they had uncovered some of the oldest tracks and where pre-cave men were believed to have lived over thousands of years ago. Apparently a volcano had erupted leaving a thick layer of ash in the ground, three tracks were uncovered in the 80s by archeologists who determined that after the eruption lava had covered the tracks and preserved them until little by little erosion had worked it away, exposing the tracks.

We walked through the little museum and then we were given a presentation about the valley, our guide explaining that each change in color in the valley walls represented a different climate condition and accordingly different types of mammals were able to live. It was all really interesting, I actually found it quite powerful although a month later I struggle to remember all the impressive facts.

An our and a half later we were back in the truck and ready to head to the Ngorongoro crater. Apparently its area is 37km and most of the animals never leave. A few are able to make the climb and migrate out on the less steep side. The drive had been long and we arrived to the crater just as dusk began her nightly dance. The campsite was high up on a ridge and we were told not to stray away from the site. We didn’t need to worry about Cats, but apparently there are very dangerous wild pigs and sometimes elephants. Our guides set to preparing dinner for us as we set up our tents. We had been warned it was going to be chilly and already a brisk wind had set in, making us all shiver and add extra layers of warmth. I decided to go for it all the way and layered in my hot chillies and tank top and tshirt and long sleeve shirt, my ski hat and my fleece.

I definitely started off a bit warm, but as night fell it got colder and colder and I was relieved not to have to undress to put all the stuff on. Our guides had made a big fire and most people chose to eat dinner around it. Gabe, who is rarely cold, and me, in my layers sat near the food instead and used the table. After dinner we joined the rest of the group and I thought nostalgically about how our trip was almost over and we’d have to say goodbye to more good friends. People left one by one until it was just me, Gabe, and Mel around the fire; Mel getting the great idea to push chairs together and make a bed to look at the stars and me following suit. The night was gorgeous again and we laid our heads together as we looked up and talked into the night, our words taking flight.

That night was a cold one but Gabe and I slept pretty well in our toasty sleeping bags, thank goodness we have warm ones!
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Comments

Elmarie on

Love your Safari experience! You are very good in writing a very interesting story. You should wright books. Great talent. We are planning to go in July 2010. I cannot wait..still busy with the planning.
Elmarie

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