Leopards & cheetah

Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
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Trip End Dec 13, 2002


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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Monday, November 25, 2002

Hello everybody.

Lobo was interesting with all the lions.  Millinga and Dowdi thought the real migration was located further West, however, so we headed to Seronera.

On the way, I saw two interesting bucks sitting on a cluster of rocks.  I told Millinga to stop.  There are so many types of pray animals here - reed bucks, water buck, antelope and more.  So I got out of the Land Rover to get a better picture.  Millinga and Dowdi yelled at me to get back in!  Apparently you don't know where predatory animals could be hiding.  I was a bit surprised.  Looking around, the grass was only ankle-high.

A couple hours later, we stopped amidst a cluster of tall bushes.  Millinga and Dowdi get out.  They tell me to follow.  Nope.  After they're about 200 yards away, I figure I might be safer with them.  So I catch up.  It's a hippo pool.  About 100 of them.  Off in one corner of the pool was a mother with a baby.  There were also a few crocodiles.  Dowdi pointed to some small bumps next to the rocks.  I laughed.  It didn't look like a croc.  So he threw a rock nearby and the bumps disappeared.  Apparently hippos and crocs co-exist together pretty easily.  Most of the larger bodies of water we ran across were hippo pools.

We arrived at Seronera before dusk.  There were about a dozen tents pitched here.  Just outside of camp were some giraffe and elephant.  I got another picture with them about 40 yards away.  Again that night I continually heard noises just a few feet outside my tent.  The next morning I talked to a guy from India who had a plastic 'window' in his tent.  He saw elephants wandering through camp.  The animals see this as their land and we're just visitors.

We drove and drove in search of the wildebeest migration.  No luck.  The Serengeti is incredibly vast.  I found myself getting really tired early that afternoon.  No wonder - I haven't been sleeping.  We stopped at one point to take a break.  Millinga, Dowdi and I got out of the Land Rover to stretch our legs.  I looked all around - just wilderness and plains as far as you could see in every direction.  No other vehicles.  No other people.  Very surreal.  A strange thought ran through my mind.  What if they drove off without me?  What would I do?  I trusted them.  And I made sure to book through a reputable company.  But it's a different feeling to be that far removed in nature.

That afternoon we passed several ostriches.  Kind of funny to see them run away.  The males are black while the females are brown.  And they travel in harems like antelope.  We also passed by some hyaena.  My LEAST favorite animal.  Even more repulsive in person than what I've seen in pictures.  And not shy either.  We came only a few feet away and they just looked at us.  It's the same rush as the first time I fired a handgun...being that close to something so lethal.  If I open the door and put my foot on the ground - I'm dead.  The only thing separating us is the door.

Late in the afternoon, Millinga spotted a leopard in a tree.  I saw nothing.  But as we got closer, there it was.  He really knows what to look for.  Leopards like to hang out in trees.  They're solitary and secretive animals.  Each one has over 2,000 spots.  Trees protect them from stronger predators and provide them a great view of prey.

As we started driving back to camp, Millinga suddenly swerved off the road.  It was nothing but a field of low grass.  But he kept looking all around.  He turned the Land Rover again.  Suddenly, about 20 feet away, a cheetah jumped up and ran away.  I was pretty surprised.  They can collapse into nothing because of their flexible spine.  There were actually two cheetah.  One stayed in the small brush.  We practically drove on top of them.  In the same way, they surprise oncoming prey.  Cheetah are the fastest animals.  But they don't have much endurance.  So they rely on close proximity to catch prey.  Only a really trained eye can spot them.

Eric
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