The days are very busy. Up at 5.30, out at 6.10, back for lunch by 12, out at 4, and back at 7pm. The tracks are rutted by driving in the wet, so one is constantly bouncing along. But the drivers are great, safe and knowledgeable, sharing info with others by radio to find the animals. Their understanding of animal behaviour means we are always in a good position to shoot from the left of the vehicle, resting the lens on the bean bags. Sometimes we stand above the roof for a better view.
The morning was eventful, seeing a civet cat, a large pride of lions, a mating pair of lion, a cheetah surveying the plain from a small anthill, a leopard hiding in the bush lining a gulley, herds of various antelope, giraffe, zebra, elephant, hyena, warthogs, dik-dik, and hippo. The variety here is astounding compared to Moremi and Kruger in 1998. The open grass land and the drivers knowledge of where to look probably account for this.
We stopped for breakfast under the shade of a lone tree – tables set up, deck chairs ready. Now THIS is safari at its best. Never thought I would ever do it, but here I am.
The mating lions were interesting to say the least! They were lying in the shade of a small bush on our arrival; several other cars were there but soon left. We waited till the female arose, rubbed the old male’s face, and the act happened in seconds, whereupon she walked off. He sat watching as if to say ‘And now what? We walk AGAIN?’ This happened three times in about an hour, each time she walked away and he followed. This goes on at that rate for a week! At one point she changed direction so that a car was between them. He looked so anxious. We kept moving ahead anticipating their route, so they passed us so close I could have touched them. The many cars clearly don’t deter the animals. At the leopard sighting, there were about 20 cars, juggling for the best position.
We spent several hours following the small leopard as it moved through the bush. At one point a dik-dik ran into a clearing followed by the leopard; don’t think there was a kill.
The hyena we found cooling off in a series of pools in a vlei; one lay staring at us a meter away.
The antelope herds would all stare intently toward the lions approaching, ears flicking, dashing off occasionally, turning back to stare again. The topi are often lone, standing on a raised ant hill, motionless, surveying the land.
The afternoon was not as full as the morning, We rushed to a crossing point several kms away to only see 40 other cars and no action. Apparently there were only crocs and a few hippos in the Mara river, so we left. Besides the usual Thompsons Gazelle, impala, topi, zebra, ostrich, baboons, an elephant at a distance, the best was again lions till close on sunset.
The clouds built up all afternoon, so the setting sun was beautiful on the lions. We did the usual dodging and moving to get ahead as they strolled along, unconcerned about us. A large zebra herd seemed their objective, but they ran off honking. We left rather late with a long drive back; heavy rain drops fell briefly to damp the grey dust leaving that typical pungent earthy African smell, as the orange sun sank behind a range of hills.
We arrived in the dark at 7; a quick shower and download of the photos, followed by a drink in the lounge rather than at the bonfire, due to the rain again, and then dinner, where I tried to restrict the food on the plate. We spent several hours sharing tales before allowing the guards to guide us back to the tents.
Tomorrow we do it all again. I noticed I felt a little dizzy last night and again tonight, and realise its due to the driving. We are continuously thrown around, rather like being at sea. And smoke is in the air due to burning-off grass to encourage new growth.
Good to know the guards are up all night to scare away the animals. I can hear lion and hippo as I write this in bed.