Friday, September 12, 2014 – Lions, Leopards, Cheetah, Serval and more…

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Our last full day in the Serengeti. We had decided to go on an early morning game drive before sunrise and brought both breakfast and lunch boxes with us so we could stay out all day. It was another completely gorgeous day with not a cloud in the sky and very brisk. As we headed out along the Seven Hills Road (named obviously for the seven hills in a line) and reached the first hill we decided to have breakfast with some of the local inhabitants so had a family of rock hyrax sunning on some rocks nearby in the early morning rays and I’m sure thoroughly enjoying our company or perhaps somehow imaging we might throw them a morsel of the delicious egg sandwich the camp packed for us.

A family of rock hyrax

A family of rock hyrax

We had some amazing sightings today and the first was a cheetah hunting who we were able to follow along for some time and looked multiple times like it was going to take off after some gazelle nearby but the grasses were much too short (well planned by the gazelle) for too long a distance for the cheetah to make the surprise run necessary to get the jump on them so the game was finally over.

A lovely cheetah

A lovely cheetah

After leaving the cheetah and looking for game Abuu heard about a leopard on the short wave and we were off to the races. We arrived at the site with at least 30 other safari vehicles which was a real sight. The guest of honor was in the tall grasses and after a short jaunt climbed a nearby tree with ease and made himself comfortable. Abuu explained he was a male because his back legs were not straddling a branch, but both on the same side so as not to sing soprano. At  this point we celebrated as Danielle had ” bagged” her big five – that being the elephant, lion, rhino , Cape buffalo, and last but not least, the leopard. These were named by the original big game hunters in Africa (Hemingway included) as the five game animals that you needed to kill or they would kill you. We are now bagging them with cameras thankfully and they will hopefully continue to thrive that way.

A lounging leopard

A lounging leopard

We next drove to the Lake Magadi region of the Serengeti near the Moru Kopjes and found the largest herd of Zebra that Abuu had ever seen. They were making a river crossing near some elephant and Cape buffalo and all were a bit on the nervous side it seemed. The herd essentially split into several lines to cross the river and went around the car on both sides. They were so noisy it was incredible as each stallion maintained command of his family and there were so many of them. We decided to have lunch and continue to watch the herd for some time. There were flamingos (both greater and lesser) on Lake Magadi and close by to the road was a lone lion cub sitting on tree branch looking very afraid and very alone. It was probably left by it’s mother while she was hunting, but lions are not the best of parents in this regard and it was unclear when or whether this little cubs mother would come back before it was lost to some predator. Very sad, but that’s daily life in the Serengeti.

An enormous herd of zebra

An enormous herd of zebra

And many more....

And many more….

On our way back to the Seronera area we found another serval cat, this one deciding to cross the road right in front of us for photos. They are such an interesting cat with very long legs and a bright orange coat.

A not so shy Serval Cat

A not so shy Serval Cat

The finale of the day, though, was when Abuu heard something on the radio and raced to find another leopard walking across the high grass in full sight. It walked for some time with lots of safari cars following and looking like it was planning to hunt some of the antelope in the distance. We watched it in this mode for perhaps 45 minutes when it finally decided to give up and climb a tall tree nearby. We continued to watch it in the tree and were about to leave when Danielle said we should stay another two minutes. The sun had mostly set, but shortly thereafter the leopard climbed out of the tree and began to walk through the grasses again. It finally seemed to settle sitting on a downed tree nearby and as it was getting quite late it was time for us to head back to camp. Driving in the Serengeti is permitted during daylight hours only and they are pretty strict on monitoring this.

A rare leopard on the move

A rare leopard on the move

An amazing close-up of the elusive leopard

An amazing close-up of the elusive leopard

Coming down from its perch

Coming down from its perch

Back to camp for dinner and our last night on the Serengeti. Tomorrow we head out through Naabi gate in the Southern Serengeti and then back to Karatu to work at FAME. We’ll pass by Oldupai Gorge where Louis and Mary Leaky did all of their monumental work on early man.

Best,

Mike

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