Kwaheri is the Swahili word for goodbye. This is the last post describing our explorings in our latest trip around the Serengeti. After spending much of the morning close to Seronera watching lions we slowly made our way out of the Serengeti toward the Ngorongoro crater.
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
Before heading out of the Serengeti, we did one last trip along a section of the Seronera river we had not been down before. A couple of kilometres off the main road we came upon six Lionesses walking along the sand road. They all looked to be in great condition and there was a mix of ages in the group. You can see the age of a Lion in its eyes.
It was clear these Lionesses were hunting. This younger female was rubbing her face against this older female’s face and neck – reaffirming the bond before the hunt.
Joseph, our ranger, knew exactly where these Lionesses were going. There was a open patch leading down to the river about a kilometre further down the road. He guessed they would go down there and wait for the game to come down to drink. We drove on down to the river and waited. About ten minutes later we saw the first Lioness walking towards us through the grass. All six Lionesses had spread out in a sweep.
Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
All six Lionesses walked right down to within ten metres of where we were parked – Joseph’s intuition was spot on! I love this image of one of the six Lionesses in her prime. The front on image shows her power. She is a good looking Lioness and exudes strength, just look at those muscular front legs.
There was wisdom and experience in her eyes. She was relaxed but alert.
This image of one of the older of the six Lionesses. It was about 8h00 in the morning so the light was still good – not too much contrast. What I liked about this image is that it shows the the flexibility of this Lioness – alert, relaxed, lithe and powerful.
The six girls milled around before spreading out to get into an unstructured ambush formation because they still had no idea which direction their potential prey would be coming from .
Two of the older Lionesses lay some distance away from the other four. Their back to back resting position showed that they were down near the river for a reason. They were hunting and knew the game would come to them. Their combination provided 360 degree vision.
Unusually, we were the only vehicle down near the river. Once the Lionesses had settled down it must have been about fifteen minutes later when a herd of Wildebeest came from the same direction as the lionesses on their way down to drink. Three of the Lionesses were not in position when the Wildebeest appeared. They immediately flattened themselves into the low grass. It was then that we saw how well camouflaged they were.
The strength of the team is each individual member.
The strength of each member is the team.
-Philip Douglas “Phil” Jackson
I thought the Wildebeest would have seen some of the Lionesses but they continued to come down into the kill zone on their way down to the water. Everything was set. The thrill of watching nature’s drama unfold was breath-taking.
One Lioness, who must have been about 20 metres away from the lead Wildebeest broke cover too early and the Wildebeest scattered. She she did not allow enough Wildebeest to go passed her down to the water.
It was surprising to watch all the Lionesses then rush forward from their cover only to see all the Wildebeest gallop away. They all looked surprised to have missed and looked around to see if there were any animals coming from behind them – no such luck.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill
After the failed ambush, a few of the younger Lionesses started rubbing themselves against each other and licking each others’ face and neck. Bonds reaffirmed despite their failure.
We waited for quite a while with the Lionesses hoping that the Zebra and Wildebeest milling around in background might forget about the Lionesses and return to drink. No such luck, eventually the Wildebeest wandered off further down the river so we left the scene to look for other fascinating interactions. This was one occasion when I wished we had the whole day to sit and wait down next to the river because there would be a kill sometime later that day.
Once we left the six Lionesses, we got a message that a Leopard was under siege up a tree. A Lioness lay at the base of an Acacia Totalis preventing the Leopard from coming down. This looked like it could be a long siege. The light and perspective made the photography extremely difficult so the images are shown for their story-telling rather than image quality.
The male Leopard must have experienced this situation before because he had a larder of four Thompson’s Gazelle which was sufficient food to endure the siege but he would not be able to get to water. I had never seen a Leopard larder before, usually they have one kill stashed up a tree.
“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen
The Leopard had stashed five ‘Tommies’ in the tree but one must have fallen down and lay next to the Lioness. The Lioness had food for a day or so we figured the Leopard had a long wait before he could get to the river to drink.
In the grasslands, we often saw Secretary birds striding through the grass foraging. They prey on anything from snakes, baby birds and small reptiles such as lizards. Most of the time we saw these Secretary birds in pairs, which were spread widely apart.
The wonderful aspect about the grasslands is that every now and then there are these igneous intrusions forming ‘kopjies’ which become a hub for wildlife. Picturesque islands in the grass.
Further along the road down near the river we found Grey Crowned Cranes. They normally forage in pairs. Unlike the Secretary Birds which forage in spread out pairs, the Grey Crowned Cranes move closely together.
The chances of seeing Lion in these ‘kopjies’ is very good. It provides them with shade and an observation point from which to watch the grazing herds.
“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”
― Samuel Johnson
We were on our way down to the Hippo pool in the Mbalageti river. At points along the river small groves of date palms had established themselves. Each looked like a mini oasis.
This river was a lifeline for many animals who lived on these vast open grasslands. This breeding herd of Elephant had just slated their thirst. The Elephants seemed to be significantly more relaxed than those we have seen in Kruger Park.
Having left the Simba Hills region, we travelled for about an hour to get to the Naabi Hills park entrance gate. Once at the Naabi hills gate offices, we got out of the vehicle with our cameras to get images of the Superb and Hildebrandt Starlings which were hopping around the parking area.
The Hildebrandt Starling looks quite similar to the Superb Starling but does not have a white collar and its eye is orange not white. It also has striking colouration.
While trying to get decent images of Hildebrandt’s Starling, I found this little Silverbird which was just starting its moult.
Having signed out of the Serengeti National Park, we left Naabi Hills and headed south for the Ngorongoro crater. It wasn’t two kilometres along the main dirt road when we passed a lone Lioness using the cut of the road to stalk up to a group of Grant’s Gazelle. She did not look like she had a chance but was obviously not fussed about the passing traffic.
The next image was taken at last light once we had arrived at the Serena Ngorongoro crater lodge. This lodge had a spectacular view looking over the crater. It was positioned at the top of the rim of the crater looking east over the crater.
This was the view from the wooden deck walkway at the lodge. It gave a hint of what we could expect the next day. It was our intention to get into the crater at 6h00 when the park gates opened.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and then let it be.
Great story and photos Mike.
Thanks Anton – I appreciate it. Best wishes Mike
Fantastic photography as usual – keep up this excellent work!!!