Today was a chance to see the cats of the Serengeti in action, and what an experience we enjoyed. Another early start from calm at what else is new on this trip! Our first cat sighting was a male lion, poking his head up from the river bank. He seemed to be accompanied by 2 females sunning themselves in the warm morning – not too much action. These guys are solitary hunters and take the kill into a tree so no one else can steal it.
We then chances upon the final stages of hunting. Quick as a flash in the long grass we saw the cheetah chasing the young gazelle, and it almost seemed the gazelle had the edge on this fastest animal on the plants, ducking and diving every way. Didn’t matter – cheetah number 2 popped into the chase from a pinched movement and it was game over for our gazelle friend. With the lomg grass we couldn’t see the feasting, aside from the odd cheetah head sticking up. Apparently as they are not large cats they have to watch out as they eat in case someone else appears to steal the food.
After a short drive we discover our next hunt – and tested our patience. We found a leopard carefully stalking 2 young gazelle (apparently that are tasty!). Along with many other we decided to watch as the hunt unfolded, but this was a long process. For an hour we watched as he moved around, his head appearing occasionally above the grass. The wee gazelle seemed aware there was danger but we too scared to move far. So it was a standoff as the leopard needed to get close enough to leap on them as he cannot match them for speed. Then another herd of gazelle appeared walking towards the leopard, so he switched his attention. After a quick stalk we saw a rush of leopard, a sprinting of gazelles and then nothing! Seems after all the patience (from the leap are and ourselves) that these was no luck at the end.
We had a quick snack stop and then came across maybe the highlight of the day. An entire pride of lions lead by 2 lionesses and about another 12 cubs. And the mums wee teaching the youngsters to hunt and again gazelle was on the menu. Just as we pulled up we saw one lion chasing a gazelle who was just about escaping until lion number 2 appeared on her path. Perfect ambush and that was end of the second gazelle for the day. Immediately the cubs were off toward the kill and we managed to see them all fighting for a share in the grass complete with growls and arguments. The gazelle was small so it was only a mouthful each result. They walked past us after eating and we could feel who got there share by the blood around their mouths.
After lunch we came across a second lion hunt and it appears only gazelle is on the menu today. Two lionesses were stalking a small herd of gazelle and we watched as they commenced their pincher movement. But the gazelles wondered off (having seen our friends) and to all meandered to a failure. Given the time heat of the day we not sure the lions heart was into this hunt!
Our final stop was to see a recent kill near the waterhole, and drag marks from the Zebra carcass into a shady spot on the bushes. Abu assured us the lion was not far away and sure enough we found her dosing about 50 metres way, digesting and resting. She is watching over the carcass to make sure no one else approaches until she is ready for seconds!
So quite the exciting day as we headed home and never thought we see actual hunting and actual kills on our game drives. Among all the excitement were the usual sighting of giraffes, herds and gazelles and our first wildebeest in the park. We also saw large herds of elephants wondering around, one numbering over 20. But there was only one highlight for us today and that was the cats.
The only low point was near the end after the successful lion hunt and another lion sighting we had. Some drivers were too eager to provide good views and literally chased the lions down the road. This was too much and we refused join as this is harassing the animals and really disturbing them. Such a shame – we know everyone wants to see but this was just wrong. Abu also assured us it is against the park rules, but of course with such a large area the rangers cannot cover everything. The game guides and drivers really should behave themselves a little more. In this aspect we were lucky all day, managing to get great views as the action unfolded by us, mainly due to good luck! But we will take this.