Thursday, May 22, 2014

Big Cats of Central Serengeti

The first views of the plains appeared as we approached Serengeti from the heights of Ngorongoro. After close to an hour of jarring yet thoroughly enjoyable driving, we passed the Southern areas where Wilderbeest are born every year, a part of their somewhat circular journey as they traverse the area following the rain clouds. Nabi Hill has a nice look out point up a steep section of the kopje. Amos then opened the top of the 4x4.  As we looked over the plains, we were reminded of scenes like in the Mara. The big cats could be anywhere!

Amos constantly scanned the landscape. Our game drives were punctuated by: "Do you see Lion out there?". A Lion, or sometimes a bunch of then would magically appear. We often saw solitary Lions, some were senior citizens. We wondered whether they had been driven out from the pride by younger males. If so, do they find it hard to hunt and eat? 

Some solitary Lions and Lionesses would be busy crunching bones and finishing off the meat before the scavengers started to trouble them. 

We sighted Lions, Lionesses and Cubs at regular intervals. One Lioness had a radio collar around the neck.

Some were part of large groups. Six, eight, sometimes more. 

The picture below is also called 'Spot the Lion' contest. 

Whether early morning or sunset, we spotted many Lions. After a while we stopped counting, and just enjoyed the spectacle.

Evenings were a good time to catch the big cats in a hunting mood. 

A couple of Lionesses from a pride decided to stalk Zebras one evening. 

They were a study in concentration.

Walking, pausing, lying down, walking again...

It looked like they had many mouths to feed. We tried to count, perhaps 7 in that pride. 

The target was a huge group of Zebras.

There was a watering hole about half kilometer away where a large herd of Zebras had gathered. 

The sun was going down.

While the Lionesses were calm and focused, the scene in the watering hole was the opposite. The Zebras were in a state of utter panic. 

One of the Lionesses had approached within about 100 metres, and was crouching in the grass. The Zebras must have got wind of the big cat, but may not have been able to locate her position accurately. They desperately wanted to drink water. A few brave ones approached the water. The rest followed, hesitating. 

The 'leader' would suddenly decide that the situation is getting dangerous, and would rush out of the water. The rest of the herd would follow in panic! This went on for about 15 minutes. 

After a number of back and forth group dashes, the entire herd left the the watering hole, leaving a huge trail of dust behind them. The Lioness we had noticed stalking the Zebras missed them. Maybe another Lioness from the pride was waiting on the other side?

Junior was having a hectic time that evening. Besides, he had work to do at the Campsite once we got back. The tripod had to be set up to catch the stars.

The Serengeti is full of photo opportunities. There is always scope to add a few more to the Plains and Tree collection.

And sometimes to the Plains, Tree and Solitary Bird collection. 

A break at a Picnic area feels good, weaver bird nests in the trees, plains stretching away in the distance.

"Do you see the Lions out there?".

"Do you see the Lion out there?". "Here, right next to the tree." Sometimes we would expect the Lion to be far away, while it would be only 20 feet away, lying well camouflaged.

We were happy with our Lion sightings across three parks: over 20 sightings, and maybe 70 to 80 cats, including prides of up to 10 cats. We had stopped counting long ago!

A typical scene from late afternoon game drives, with the sun lighting up the grass and tracks a warm, golden colour.

Occasionally, Amos would cry out: "Do you see the Leopard out there?". This one was comfortably perched within rocks in a kopje, hard to spot until you really determine that it is indeed a Leopard out there.

A Leopard resting on a branch high up. There perhaps was reason to rest. 

The Leopard was resting, maybe in anticipation of the meal ahead. The prey, a Thomson Gazelle, had been dragged up and deposited for safe keeping on another branch of the same tree, high above the ground.

Another Leopard jumps from branch to branch. Ok, "jumps" is a highly inaccurate work. "Gracefully walks" would be more like it. 

We came across a Leopard busy eating a Gazelle one morning, high up a tree. 

Uncomfortable with the position, he moved around on the branch.

A Leopard snoozing, body draped around a branch high up.

To take a break from Leopards, here is one from the Plains, Cloud and Sun collection. 

"Do you see the Cheetah out there?". As if by magic, a Cheetah suddenly appeared out of nowhere. 

With impending sunset, she seemed to be scanning the horizon, for the time remaining to hunt was ticking away.

The play of light and shadow on the plains is a constantly engrossing sight. 

Moses fixed cups of coffee as we reach Nabi Hill on our way out of Serengeti. It's time to check out, keeping in mind the 24-hour time duration allowed between entry and exit. 

As we wait a while at Nabi Hill for the optimal moment to register our exit, Junior reassures Mamma back home that "all is well". While the Giraffe did welcome him into the Mens' loo, we did not have any other encounters in the Campsite. 

The Serengeti had too many visuals that stuck in our minds, from sunrise to sunset (12-hour game drives, remember?), birds, big cats, ellies, giraffes, wildebeest, crocodiles, hippos, antelopes, zebras, hartebeest, elands, dik diks, the plains, trees, clouds and sunlight playing games on the grass, and sunsets that painted the sky a unique shade of red. 


Please click below for posts in this series:

Namanga Border Crossing

The Gentle Giants of Tarangire

Tarangire revisited

Endless Serengeti Plains

Migrating herds, Crocodiles and Vultures at Kirawira

Big Cats of Central Serengeti

Camping under African skies

Flamingos at Empakai Crater Lake

Ngorongoro Crater - Wildlife, Maasais and Flowers

Campsite food and Nyama Choma in Mto Wa Mbu

From green to gray, the stark beauty of Lake Natron

Videos - Tarangire, Central Serengeti

Videos - Central Serengeti, Western Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Natron

Two nights in Arusha


1 comment:

  1. Wow Jyotinath! Nice pictures and great travelogue. I look forward to reading more!


Your comments...