Zebra Down on the Mwagusi
Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
18Trip End Nov 02, 2012
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The large herd of Cape buffalo never came to drink last night. Instead, they moved deeper into the heavy brush. Instead, this morning we see a different and smaller herd has arrived on the Mwagusi from the far side of the river. We see an extraordinary number of eagles and buzzards on both sides of the river, and, a small herd of elephant digging for water in the river bed.
We drive down the Mwagusi and find Grumpy and two young females lounging on the dry river bed
We’ve been in this area before but have seen little other than the occasional female kudu. This time Marc spots Grumpy’s pride. The two dominant females have killed a warthog and their three cubs are still working on the remains. One little fellow is carrying the warthog’s lower jaw and tusks with him everywhere he goes.
Marc’s cell phone rings. A cheetah has been sighted in the Serengeti Ndogo (Little Serengeti) some 20 miles away. We drive there and find nothing. But, we do learn why the area is called Little Serengeti. The woodlands open up into a grassy plain that stretches as far as the eye can see. We see our first Grant’s gazelles in Ruaha. Ruaha is at the very southern limit of their range.
After seven hours in the bush, we return to Kwihala. There is precious little time for rest despite the intense heat. Just before we leave Kwihala for our final Ruaha game drive, a report is received that a pride of lion has downed a zebra near the Mwagusi
We have seen lion kills before but never this close. The lions are totally oblivious to our presence. We are so close Marc could climb out on the hood of the Land Rover and pat several on their head. The lions have disemboweled the zebra. One lion actually has half her body inside the abdominal cavity eating the organs. A second is tearing at the cheek filets in the head. A third is eating through the zebra’s rear haunches and into the abdominal cavity. There is nothing polite or delicate about this predation. This is raw survival.
We are told Grumpy participated in the kill but he is gone when we arrive. The females are finishing their first turn at the carcass and are seeking whatever shade they can find. Much of the shade available is behind our two Kwihala Land Rovers. The cubs continue eating even after the females move away from the kill.
One of the most interesting sights is a 5 month old cub mimicking his mother behavior by entering the abdominal cavity of the zebra. At one point, all we could see is his tail.
Every lion is bloody
As the sun dips toward the horizon, it is time to return to camp. We clean up quickly and join the group at the ubiquitous campfire. Another dinner at the dark open air table and we are ready for bed.
Beth, Johannes and I walk through the main tent toward our tent # 5. Suddenly, the silence is shattered by a trumpeting male elephant. The "elephant in camp" alert is quickly passed from group to group. One couple already on their way down to their tent is hustled back to the main tent. Immediately, Marc takes charge. He disappears into the pitch dark and locates the elephant which is passing through the camp half way between the main tent and our tent at the bottom of the hill. Apparently, we surprised him and he sent us a warning that he was near. It worked….we all froze!
Marc kept himself between the elephant and us. We were told to go quietly down the hill to our tents without using the flashlights. If the elephant reversed course, Marc would warn us
Grumpy would have the last word. His roaring grunts began around 3 AM. My ears are now so attuned to him that I follow his semi circle around the camp without ever fully waking up. Our stay in Ruaha is the first chapter of “Remote Tanzania”. Kwihala’s highlight for me is the expertise displayed by Marc Weiner and Johannes.
Marc was absolutely unselfish in sharing his vast bush experience with us and with Johannes. Johannes could not have been a better, more attentive or more grateful student. The support staff at Kwihala is outstanding. They seemed to anticipate our every need. Sarah, the camp director, was unfailingly gracious.