Tuesday June 27, 2017

It’s safe to say, I reckon, that very few people go on safari without wanting to see a LION. I mean, no single animal is more representative of Africa than the mighty King of Beasts … followed close behind by the other cats that help make up the Big Three: LEOPARDS and CHEETAHS.

It was therefore with growing impatience and anticipation that our Kiwi Mad Midlifers completed Day #1 … Day #2 … Day #3 … and Day #4 of our safari without having seen even one of the big three cats. We saw oodles of everything else, but no lions … no leopards … and no cheetahs.

It wasn’t until Day #5, in the Masai Mara, that the drought finally broke. WOW – did it EVER! And you aren’t gonna believe what I’m about to tell you …

It started in a small way with CHEETAHS: Those of us who did the balloon safari saw one in the far-off distance. (Correction: we couldn’t really see much without a zoom-lens or binoculars.) And the five Kiwis who hadn’t come ballooning were visited by another cheetah that walked right up to them in their 4WD. Yeehaa!

Later that same afternoon, we saw our first LEOPARD: Again, we couldn’t really see it – it was too well hidden in the long grass. (I’ve already posted the only halfway decent photo, snapped by Denise when this big male cat put his head up, briefly.)

Then 10 minutes later we saw (I kid you not) some LIONS: Three of them (a male and two females) were asleep by the roadside, and we’d blindly driven right past them. It was only on our return trip down that same road that they chose to get up and go walkabout.

Two days later, in the Serengeti National Park, the LION-sightings came thick and fast:

  • We stumbled on a healthy looking female with three good-looking school-age cubs, resting out in the open after (what we assume was) a busy night.
  • An hour later we spotted a handsome, golden-maned male, lying semi-alert in the shade, not bothered in the slightest by our close proximity.
  • Sleeping not far away was his mate. She soon woke and wandered over for a friendly head-rub, then left him alone to wash his face and do his hair.
  • Next came the highlight of the morning: two affectionate adult females (probably sisters) plus, their four very young cubs, well-hidden in some bushes and cute as buttons. The grownups had killed a wildebeest during the night, and the cubs soon found the carcass, turning it into a plaything while their mums watched on, yawning hugely.
  • We saw several more lions that day, with or without cubs. Then finally, shortly before heading back to our safari lodge for another excellent buffet dinner, our driver spied something rather unusual: a young male lion sitting in the top of a bushy tree!
  • The following morning we were at it again, watching another lion-family having breakfast along a dried-up riverbed, tearing hungrily into what was left of a zebra.
  • Our lion-parade just went on and on: lions sleeping (which most of them seem to do most of the day) … lions perched on a fallen tree-trunk … lions eyeing up their next meal out there on the grasslands … lions mating (or, at least, taking a break from the act, which may occur 20-40 times a day!) … and, only yesterday, members of an 18-strong pride having a final gnaw on a wildebeest’s ribcage before wandering off across the Ngorongoro Crater to order a drink.

We couldn’t believe our luck. In fact, as of this morning (believe it or not) we have seen a grand total of 80 different lions and lion cubs! That’s right, EIGHTY!

But wait: it hasn’t just been lions. Three days ago (on Saturday) we got up-close-and-personal with a beautiful female LEOPARD. She had climbed high into a big tree to eat, sleep, read, whatever. And when we first saw her she was straddling a stout branch, facing the wrong way, her legs and tail hanging down. However, over the next 15-20 minutes, she moved several times, giving us the chance for some face-shots before she lay down and went back to sleep.

But wait: there’s still more! The day after, we spotted a CHEETAH sitting upright in the tall grass. A group of Thompson’s gazelles was grazing a long way off, and he/she (not sure which) was checking them out, trying to decide whether one of those dainty antelopes was worth a legendary, high-speed chase. This stunning, sleek, athletic cat was too busy (we assume) thinking of lunch to even notice us as we photographed him/her from every angle …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. Would you like to join us on our NEXT AFRICAN SAFARI? We’ll most likely go again in June 2020 (three years from now). Get in early, so you don’t miss out! Register your interest now by calling Dianne on 0508 323 333 or rushing an email to  [email protected].

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