Day 1 –
I arrived late in the evening at Kilimanjaro airport. The moment the plane doors opened I smelt the beautiful African air, warm and perfumed with the scent of hypnotic plants and flowers. We drove through small villages and beautiful countryside to Arusha where my driver dropped me at Karama Lodge. It is set in beautiful grounds abundant with Bougainville and exotic plants. It has wonderful views across the valley and town with imposing Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. I enjoy a glass of red wine under the African stars before going to bed in my beautiful wooden rustic lodge.
Day 2 –
After a delicious breakfast at the lodge enjoying the view my guide Benson and I start our journey to Mangaro National Park. It is an hour and a half drive through Masai villages and open countryside. It is fascinating watching the Masai herd their cattle and tend the land as they have done for hundreds of years. Their clothes made of beautiful bright fabrics of check and patterns.
We arrive at the park, it is incredibly beautiful. There are towering architectural Baobab and Acacia trees set against impressive rock formations in the Rift Valley. We are amused by the antics of playful and affectionate Baboons in their hundreds. Waterbuck and Impala graze through the bushes and black faced red monkeys play up in the trees. The Elephants plough through the bushes pulling up young roots and tearing off leaves. The young Elephant is so playful and takes shade underneath its mother. The Elephants are so large but so peaceful. There is a large lake in the centre of the park. Buffalo and Zebra graze next to it whilst Wildebeest paddle in the shallow waters. Pelicans and Flamingos in their hundreds bob their heads under the water to fish or preen in the bright sunlight. Hippo splash and play in the water, mouths wide as they yawn. It is an idyllic watering hole straight from the opening scene in the Lion King. Nearby a herd of Giraffe graze on the leaves of the trees and they gallop at full speed over the volcanic terrain. The heady scent of the wild sage, jasmine, sandpaper bush and wild mint fills the air, it is impossible not to feel so peaceful and happy in this heaven on earth. We get out of our jeep and stop at hot springs that flow into the lake. You can smell the gentle minerals it is quite lovely. We dip our fingers in the hot mineral water, it is soft and quite therapeutic. We walk over the 300m walkway built across the lake. The views of the mountains, trees and animals is just breathe taking. I watch Pelicans take flight over a group of hippos, I capture the moment as I do with all my photography. We drive through hundreds of stunning Acacia trees and watch an Eagle fly above us with a mongoose freshly killed in its talons. It stops in a nearby tree pleased with its lunch. I lunch at treetops a stunning lodge. The food is beyond outstanding as well as its amazing location within the park. It has been an incredible morning. After lunch we drive back through the park enjoying the breathe taking scenery, as the sun sets over the lake is disperses red, gold and yellow dappled light over the majestic scene.
The drive back to Arusha is an adrenaline fuelled one and half hours with crazy driving through small villages and pot holed roads, when we arrive at the lodge we deserve a glass of red wine to recount the amazing day we have had at one with nature.
Day 3 –
It is an early start as I have to be at Arusha airport by 7am. The flight is two hours in a Cessna eight seater. The views from the plane are outstanding over the Serengeti. The land is quite green and luscious with rivers weaving through the landscape. You can make out larger animals, Elephant, Wildebeest, Buffalo and Zebra. It is wonderful to see such large herds. I land at Grumetti airstrip and am greeted by my guide Yona. It is a short drive to the &beyond Grumetti camp but he clearly is very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna and is fortunate for me willing to be out on safari 13 hours a day as he shares my passion for wildlife. He agrees to teach me everything I need to know about every animal we see. On our short journey we see Wildebeest, Zebra, Buffalo, Impala, Thompson gazelle and Hyena. We arrive at camp and it is stunning. It is set on the banks of the river and each lodge is very natural and organic but luxurious and romantic. I am greeted by my friend Donald, one of the managers and he makes me feel so welcome. I go out on my first game drive. We spot Hyena hunting wildebeest but they are unsuccessful. There are large herds of wildebeest as they have migrated from the Masai Mara now the rains are starting in the Serengeti. It is a wonderful oasis of African wildlife, so peaceful and untouched. I feel myself connecting to the earth as my heart and soul bursts with happiness, I am once again Nashipae, Happy One. To my absolute delight we come across a pride of 23 Lions including the dominant male. The first Lion I spot is a young male of a year old, he is playing with a turtle he has found. It is the same as watching a domestic cat playing with a mouse. He face is of pure delight as he nudges the turtle with his foot and amuses himself as it wonders off. Unfortunately it wonders off over the leg of another young male Lion which was asleep, it jumps and starts playing with it too. I watch the pride sleep, stretch, yawn and roll over, cooling their bellies as it is the hottest part of the day. Three adolescent males sleep side by side on their backs, their white bellies bloated and contented from an earlier kill. Another pair sleep head to head whilst another pair spoon. They are sleeping under croton bushes next to a watering hole in prime position for more Wildebeest to hunt as they come down to drink. This is a feast time for lions as the Serengeti is teaming with wildlife after the migration. Even when next year the Zebra and Wildebeest migrate back to the Masai Mara there is a herd of Wildebeest that stay but food is less readily available, this makes it more challenging for the pride. This is a healthy strong pride. The male is about 10 years old his nose and mane are starting to go black. He is majestic, his shoulders broad and muscular from fighting. He is the protector of this impressive pride. He is beyond beautiful, you can almost feel his strength combined with gentleness and peace. Lions have such a strong family bond and their affection for each other is wonderful to watch.
I have learnt a new expression this morning, ALT (Animal Looking Thing). This is where you see a golden termite mound and think it is a Lion or a grey rock and you think it is a Rhino. It is a relief to know the guides get caught out to!
This afternoon after a wonderful lunch on the river within ten minutes we find a Cheetah sleeping under a tree, it is a male about 5 years. It is watching two Impala males nearby fighting over who will take over the herd of females. They ruck for over twenty minutes until one is victorious. The Cheetah stretches and yawns and turns its attention to the female Impalas which it may hunt later. The Cheetah is such an impressive cat it sleeps very little as it is at threat from Lions and Hyenas who would kill it. It has such grace and beauty.
We find the Lions again but they are now awake. We watch them play in the beautiful gold and red light of the sunset. Their fur lit up, so captivating. They greet each other with so much affection and warmth, nuzzling each other. I watch two adolescent males vying for their mother’s attention, they love her licking and grooming them. It is so beautiful. The moment takes a lighter note when one of the cheeky boys tries to hump its mother, copying the male, so inappropriate but so cat like. We hear a female roaring in the distance it is so powerful, she walks through a herd of Wildebeest, they part as only they can for the queen of the plains. She joins the others and tries to persuade the dominant male to mate but he has a leg injury from fighting so refuses. The sun sets sending a golden red glow over the majestic scene, there is nothing more beautiful than the African sunset. I sit with a glass of red wine, my heart bursting with happiness, peace and love. Life is a safari and this is my Africa.
Day 4 –
We leave camp just before Sunrise, gold and red light bathe the plains of the Serengeti. The sun rises over the Acacia trees and herds of buffalo silhouetting them. It is still cool from the night and you can’t help feeling so at peace and at one with nature. I love the peace, beauty and stillness of the sunrise, it is the hope of a new day.
We drive out into the open plains watching Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo warm up in the morning light after the cool of the night. Up on one of the hills we see a Lioness (missing the end of her tail, she is called Lightness because of her colour) with three cubs about eight weeks old watching over the plains looking for breakfast. The young cubs are playful in the morning light. Even at such a young age they practice pouncing, hunting and biting each other, it is a joyful sight. We spend time watching them they are so beautiful, three cubs are male and one female. One day those lion males will form a strong coalition.
We do not drive far when we see a Servile cat running with a rabbit kill in its mouth. It is extremely rare to see one of these nocturnal cats, it is such a heart stopping moment. It is a beautiful cat with leopard markings but long legs for running fast and long distances. I am just feel so happy and privileged to have seen it.
Large herds of Wildebeest and Buffalo graze nearby. It is interesting as Zebra eat the tall dry grass which does not have much nourishment then the Wildebeest come along and each the more nutritious shorter grass then the Thompson gazelle each the very short grass. That is why you will see them grazing together, not just for safety in numbers against predictors but because they do not compete for food.
We come across the Grumetti Lion pride with a buffalo kill. They have eaten most of it so we see then slowly walking away their faces smeared with blood and bellies bloated from their kill. We observe side striped Jackel near their den, a mother and puppies about 4 weeks old. They are so gorgeous, fluffy and playful.
We drive by candy striped kraniam, a beautiful low growing Lilly with a sweet perfume. It grows in a clump surrounded by dry short grass, its beauty is a sharp contrast to the barrenness of its surroundings and the rains still need to fully fall. We come across a Wildebeest kill, the Lappet-faced Vulture starts to open the carcass followed by Ruppel Griffin Vulture then African Whited backed Vulture. Vultures have no feathers on their head and neck because their heads are inside the carcass much of the time or up the nose or anus of the carcass where the meat is soft. The pick out the soft tissue such as the eyes, penis and testicals. It is not a pleasant sight but nonetheless very interesting, this is nature at its rawest. The vultures hop and bounce along the ground squabbling over meat. Then extend their wings and bathe in the sunlight.
We breakfast on the open plains underneath an Acacia tree surrounded by Wildebeest. It is so peaceful and idyllic.
We drive across the open plains seeing Hyena, Wildebeest and Zebra until we reach Grumetti River, it is awaiting the rains as the water is low. Crocodile sunbathe on the banks whilst Monitor lizards dig nearby looking for crocodile eggs. They are natural enemies as the Monitor lizards steal the Crocodile eggs. A large Crocodile slides down the white sand bank into the brown shallow waters. Hippos wallow in the waters, grunting and laughing.
We Lunch under the Acacia tree with Leopard tortoise roaming slowly around us. Nearby Baboons are eating fruits from the Baboon berry tree. Small orange berries that get stuck to the Baboons fur and bottom. It is amusing to watch them.
By the river Grey headed kingfisher sit on the trees hoping to spy fish in the shallow waters to catch.
The Sycamore fig trees next to the river are home to the Colobus monkeys. They sit up in the trees eating the fruit. They are beautiful, they have long black and white fur. I enjoy observing them swinging effortlessly through the trees.
We come across a herd of twenty six Giraffes by camp including fouls a few months old. They graze on the tops of the trees, elegant and graceful. Dwarf mongoose dart across the plains to their burrows, they are tiny red mongoose, they are the smallest carnivore.
We again see the side striped jackel pair, they mate for life. They are out of the den with five pups. The pups are playful in the late afternoon sun. We spot a stunning Verox Eagle Owl sitting in a tree, it is quite large, it is hunting for field mice or other small rodents.
As the afternoon comes to a close the sun sets once again over the plains casting its gold and red glow. We find the Grumetti Lion pride laying out on the plain. The male, several females and cubs warm their bellies in the sunlight. Further away we find a lone female lion from the pride with four cubs of eight weeks old they are very playful. The practice pouncing and hunting on each other and their very patient mother. They jump on her back and pounce of her tail. Lionesses are such good and successful mothers. She washes them and encourages them to learn the important skills they will need later on in life. We reluctantly leave them and drive back to camp.
My tent is beyond luxurious and a masseuse is waiting for me to massage me after 13 hours in the Landover, it is absolute heaven. I shower after outside under the beautiful African stars before enjoying a wonderful dinner. The rain, thunder and lightning finally arrive and the air is heavy but fresh. I will sleep well tonight in my Africa.
Day 5 –
At sunrise the sky is blue, purple, red and gold, one of the most stunning sunrises I have ever seen. The storm last night has left a clear sky this morning. Large herds of Wildebeest graze on the moist grass silhouetted in front of the beautiful sky. It is a heart stopping scene, this is what makes an African sunrise so very dramatic and very special.
We find the Lioness with four cubs she has a few hours ago made a Wildebeest kill. Her face is covered in blood and her belly full from the kill. The cubs are too small to eat the meat but they will eat the soft tissue such as the heart and liver. They have blood on their faces and full bellies, they are now playing on the carcass. They frolic and play in the rising sun. The cubs head for a thicket and the Lioness calls them back as Hyena or Leopard could be hiding in it and they would be killed. The Lioness has a dilemma she wants to guard the kill but she needs to protect the cubs. She walks over to the cubs and checks they are safe. She goes over to a pool of water, she walks around it as the mud around it is slippery and finds the safest access. She crouches down to drink, lapping with her rasping tongue. The four cubs join her copying her actions. It is so beautiful watching them drink together. Once sated they walk across the plain chasing and playing hunt with each other. The Lioness joins in batting their bottoms. She will now take them to a safe place to sleep as the morning warms up to sleep.
We drive to the rest of the pride and watch Topi run across our path. The can run up to 70kmph whereby Lions can only run up to 60kmph over a very short distance, they are muscular so built for power rather than speed, they ambush their prey more than chase using the element of surprise and strategic formations rather than chase. The Leopard is the same they can run up to 60kmph and rely on ambush whereas Cheetah can run up to 120kmph and chase their prey down. These impressive cats have very different hunting styles.
We see a Lioness and two year old cubs next to a Wildebeest kill out on the open plains they are relaxing after the feed.
Long crested eagle with its impressive black Mohawk sits in the tree looking to hunt. Verox eagle owls perch in the next tree, large round eyes keenly looking for rodents to catch in its sharp talons.
We find the other Lioness with the three eight week old Cubs sitting by some bushes. The Cubs fur is much darker when they are young and they have spots to provide better camouflage. They fur gets lighter as they get older.
In the long grasses we come across the male lion, two lionesses and four of the one year old cubs from the pride. They have killed a young Buffalo. The cubs are eating the carcass, you can hear the tearing of the skin and the crunching of the bones. The Lions favour the internal organs, soft issue and steak rump. Their faces are covered in blood. The male Lion sleeps nearby while the cubs eat but as soon as he gets up to eat again (the male always eats first when a kill is made by the Lionesses) they back off as he growls and stakes his claim. His powerful jaws and sharp teeth cut through the flesh and bones. He uses his sharp claws to turn the carcass over to access the rest of the flesh. The rest of the pride come back to eat too, they crouch low in subservience to him and he allows them to eat but lets out a low growl as a warning not to encroach on his food. Two cubs start playing with the back legs of the kill as they are full but playful. One of the cubs notice a troop of Baboons walk nearby, he stalks the Baboon, just to chase them. He stalks and then runs after them, they panic and head to the trees, climbing up for safety. Lions can climb trees but the cub stops and watches in amusement from a distance. The rest of the pride stop eating and watches the commotion. The Baboons make alarm calls from the trees to warn other animals of the Lions presence. The male Lion has finished eating, one of the females want to mate but he still has a limp so does not mate with her. They lie down in the grass to wash the blood off of their paws and faces. A cub scraps at the grass trying to cover the blood on the ground so vultures cannot see the blood from the air and hyena cannot smell it. This is a natural instinct for the lions. All this action we viewed from our open Landover just 15-20 foot away.
Just a short drive away we see a Lioness sitting under a tree with a Wildebeest kill and another lioness lays under a tree nearby.
We have a Bush breakfast with the rest of the guests from camp. The staff are amazing they cook a full breakfast on a camp fire. We swop stories of what we have seen, it is a wonderful time.
We drive out into the plain and find a Thompson gazelle giving birth, a gory sight but part of nature. Once birthed the mother licks the baby clean and within 20 minutes the baby is standing and suckling. She will hide the baby in the long grass until it is strong enough to follow her safely. Nearby Pumba (Warthog) graze, they are always skittish hence the Swahili word for stupid, they are ugly/interesting animals and also affectionately called lion sausages.
We come across the Sodom Apple bush it has small yellow Apple shaped fruits. The locals cut open the fruit and use the seeds inside to heal open wounds. It is poisonous but Giraffe and Elephant can eat it.
Down by the river Colobus monkeys eat fruit from the Albizia tree. Four climb through the branches, they are black and white with beautiful long fur and long tails. They eat the fruit straight from the branches as they have no thumbs. When they have finished they jump with their limbs outstretched to the next tree, it is thrilling to watch.
We eat lunch on the open plain under a tree surrounded by herds of prey. It is wonderful discussing with Yona the history of the plains and the careful balance of people and animals.
Ground hornbill, large black birds with impressive red beaks peck at a Wildebeest carcass on our drive.
We drive back out to the river twenty five Hippo wallow in the shallow waters. Nearby large Crocodile bask on the bank and swim in the water. Baboons play on the bank nearby, they find a large fallen branch u shaped and use it like a seesaw, both amusing and frightening them. Colobus monkeys are up in the trees eating, they stay in small troops of only four or five, a small baby jumps through the branches. We see a Monitor lizard eating a very old wildebeest carcass.
On the plains we come across the Lioness with the three cubs they are on the move, the cubs are playing and pounce and bite each other. She comes to her earlier wildebeest kill and starts eating it, pulling at its tough sun baked flesh. The cubs join her and start using the carcass as a climbing frame as they are too young to properly eat. They jump on it and play with the horns and tail and frolic. The Lioness gets irritated with them as she is trying to eat so uses her large paw to bat them on the head and growl a warning to them. They are so enraptured by the kill they take no notice and carry on with their playful antics. It is so delightful watching them tumble over the kill trying to eat it, they can only really lick the blood. Nearby the male Lion is sitting in the setting sun his majestic mane lit up golden and red. He is just so powerful, muscular, broad and breathtakingly magnificent we are just in awe. The sunsets over the stunning Serengeti planes, it is so beautiful peaceful and serene. There really is nowhere closer to heaven than here. Born free living free.
Day 6 –
I woke up to heavy rain this morning which is good news of course for the dry Serengeti and the animals who depend on the rain for the grasses to grow. Of course then good for the big cats who will hunt these herbivores. As the song goes it is the Circle of life, all flora and fauna are co-dependent. Today we are going to Lake Victoria but to get there we will cross the opposite side of the Grumetti River. On route we see Hippo out of water, walking cumbersome across the plains grazing of the now moist grass. They come out at night to graze before heading back into the water to cool off as the day warms up. Elephant use their long trunks to tear off branches and leaves from trees munching them as they walk slowly. Herds of Giraffe and Zebra graze in the bushes, happy the rains have finally come. A lone male Lion from the other half of the Grumetti pride sits in the grass land, he is quite young as his mane is not fully grown, probably 6-8 as his nose is not fully black but a little bit pink. The backs of his golden legs are stained dark as other males from scent marking its territory. A larger male Lion, Lioness and three Cubs are sat together, he has a nasty cut under his eye from fighting with another male. They sit peacefully after their nocturnal activities.
Six Lions are walking through the herd of Wildebeest, two females with year old cubs. They are very playful, the mothers chase their cubs in a game of tag. They are not looking to hunt as they have full bellies and blood on their faces from eating a kill earlier. They stop on the road and drink from pools of water. They crouch down, the muscles of their shoulders wide and tort, you can see the power in their bodies. Their long rasping tongues lap at the water as they hydrate their bodies after eating the salty meat of their kill. We leave the Serengeti national park to drive to Lake Victoria.
Our first stop is breakfast by the gate then we proceed to a local school that is partly funded by &beyond, the camp I am staying at. The children range from 4-11 and our happy to see us. The school is basic but ensures all children in the local villages get a good education and basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.
We arrive at Mwaburugu Village next to Lake Victoria. We are greeted by Samson who explains to me the history of the lake. It was named by English explorers after Queen Victoria. The lake is in the centre of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, the largest part is in Tanzania. We take a relaxing boat ride in a large canoe on the lake, three men row and the fresh water is very still. The boat ride finishes at the fishing village, the men in my the boat start a traditional song that indicates they have had a successful catch, if there is no catch they do not sing. The men fish and the women sell the fish at the market. As we arrive on shore we see women and children sorting fish on the bank. Samson shows me around the village, it is incredibly poor, life is quite harsh here. A little girl takes my hand and a little boy takes my other hand, they are keen to walk with me around the village. They are very sweet as they shyly look up at me as I try to speak Swahili to them. I see how the people live and work. As I reach the end of the village the rest of the children are keen to greet me to, they love tourists as they know that their education and amenities are funded by tourism so are happy. I give them sweets as a thank you for allowing me to spend time with them. We head back down to the shoreline of the lake where some ladies from the village dressed in traditional colourful African clothes sing and dance for me. They have very beautiful harmonious voices as they sing traditional songs. They invite me to get up and join in the dancing with them which I do and love. We dance around in a circle shaking our bottoms and shoulders. The whole village were most hospitable and friendly, I really loved my time there.
On out drive back to the Serengeti we stop in a small town, the shops are tin huts. I find one selling traditional fabrics and to my delight they also hand make dresses. Yona my guide who has become an excellent friend over the last few years kindly helps me translate so I can get some dresses made. It is a vibrant village with much activity, this is the real Africa for me, immersing myself into the culture.
We stop for a relaxing lunch at a local hotel. We talk about our morning and how tourism does help the local villages as well as conserving the wild life. It is good to know tourism is making a positive impact.
We arrive back at the Serengeti and find the male Lions from earlier, they are now sat together. They are warming up in the sun after the earlier rain. Nearby the females relax with the adolescent cubs. We drive back nearer the Grumetti River to see the other part of the pride which is nearer my camp. The large male Lion is sitting with one of the females, we think they may mate but he has a limp still from fighting so just lays next to her. The rest of the Lionesses and adolescent cubs are sitting in the grass nearby, warming up in the sun. The thunder roars in the distance and the sky flashes with lightning, we could see another storm. Up on the hill we find the Lioness with the half tail with the three small cubs. It is now sunset so they are very active after a day of sleeping. They chase, pounce, bite and ambush each other. They see a group of birds and try and chase them, everything is a toy, including sticks, rocks and the grass. The lioness tries to relax in the grass before she goes off to hunt but she is a climbing frame and a constant source of fun for the cubs. The pounce of her, chewing her ears and tail. They use a nearby rock to launch themselves onto her head and back, so her body becomes a slide. She is just so patient as she plays with them, batting them with her large paws. She pulls them in for a wash, the cub sits between her two large front paws as she licks them clean. The three cubs sit up on a small rock, their fur, fluffy and still spotted is lit up red and gold in the setting sun, it is such a beautiful scene.
On our way back to camp we see Hyena loping across the plain in their distinctive style. By camp we see two Dickdick, named after the sound they make. They are the smallest antelope and have big beautiful eyes, I always think they look more like a large hare. Dickdick mate for life and live in the thick thickets away from predictors, they are quite shy. We arrive back at camp for a wonderful dinner.
Day 7 –
We have a long day today as we are driving to the central part of the Serengeti. On route Hippo are walking around out of the water, big, clumsy and pink and grey in the morning light. Herds of Elephants graze on the plains. The migration has arrived on the Serengeti, we pass large herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo. The heavy rains that have fallen provide an abundance of water and encouraged fresh grass and flowers to grow.
We drive to Seronera park in the central Serengeti. It is a three hour drive across the plains but it is so peaceful and I feel at one with nature. We find one male Lion sat alone in the grass. He is observing his territory. He is very handsome with a full gold and black mane, he is probably about 8 years old. Nearby three Lionesses with three 5 month year old cubs play on twisted dried dead branches in the grass land. They are very playful and happy.
There is very unusually a Leopard very close by up an umbrella tree. Leopard and Lions are enemies as they compete from food and the Lions would kill the Leopard. The tree is very large and as the name suggests has a sprawling canopy. The branches of the tree are a metre wide, very twisted and architectural. The tree is probably at least 20-30 metres wide and the Leopard is draped almost to the far end of one of the wide branches. He is probably one of the most beautiful Leopards I have seen. He is regal as his commands such a spectacular position. He initially has a front and back leg either side of the branch then he moves so both back legs are on one side. He looks relaxed and content, it is the perfect pose. We drive round to the other side of the tree to view him from the other side. In the meantime he moves to that side giving us another perfect view of his magnificent coat and frame. Leopards are built for strength, so have a very muscular frame. They ambush their prey. Leopards are solitary elusive cats so I feel privileged to see him.
A short drive away there is a male Lion sat by a beautiful rock formation and the Lioness above him sat under a tree. They are sleeping in the sunlight, their fur golden and bodies relaxed and happy.
We come across Cheetah with her 6 month year old cub eating a Thompson Gazelle kill. The cub still has the fluff at the back of its neck, the colour of a honey badger. The theory is as the Cheetah cubs are the most vulnerable to predators out of all the cats the cubs are born fluffy for camouflage but the colour of a honey badger as they are most feared animal as they are very aggressive. Cheetahs give birth to up to six cubs but depending on how good the mother is only a few will survive to adulthood. After they have eaten their fill of the kill we watch them walk across the plain their bellies full. They stop by a small pool of water and crotch down side by side to lap the water. The day is hot so they are thirty after the exertions and salty meat. It is so beautiful watching a cat drink. They walk through the grasses to rest but always watching for prey and predator.
We go back to the male and female Lion, the male is sat up majestic and strong but looking serenely and peacefully up at the sky at noisy birds circling overhead. The female is still laying under the tree. She sits up and starts licking herself they walks slowly down the small bank to the male. She nuzzles him to indicate it is time to mate. He gets up and follows her from behind a very short distance away. She crouches down in front of him and his mounts her from behind. They both snarl and growl and he bites her neck. The copulation is over in under a minute. She swipes at him aggressively then rolls over. They both then walk away to sit back in the grass. They mate in the first day every fifteen minutes and this slows to every hour or so over the next four days. In this time they will not feed so both are quite weak by the end of the mating period.
There is a stunning rock formation in the middle of the park and we see a Lioness laid out on it, it is like an idyllic scene from the Lion king, this could be Pride Rock.
A short drive away we see another female Cheetah sat on a termite mound observing her territory looking for both prey and other predators. The female Cheetah is a solitary cat like the leopard. It is only the male Cheetah that will form a coalition. She is so sleek and graceful in the hot sun.
We drive through the plains to a safe picnic spot and sit and eat our very late lunch. Habituated Rock Hyrax and Banded mongoose scurry around us they are delightful to watch. Both are very intelligent animals.
It is time to head back to Grumetti, it is a long drive. On route we observe a large herd of Elephants grazing on branches of trees their ears flapping as they discourage flies and try and cool themselves in the heat. We see many Hyena lopping around the plains, there distinctive gait gives them away even from a long distance. We see Colobus monkeys picking fruits from the trees, Hippos wallowing and Crocodiles sunbathing along the Grumetti River. This really is paradise.
As we near camp just after sunset a storm of biblical proportions starts. The sky darkens, grey, black and midnight blue. White lightning streaks across the sky and the whole atmosphere is electric. The thunder crashes loudly around us and the rain starts to fall in heavy drops. It is the perfect accompaniment to our delicious dinner.
This has been another wonderful day on the Serengeti. Who knows what nature will provide tomorrow.
TIA – this is my Africa.
Day 8 –
This morning the Sunrise glows vibrant orange, red and yellow. An Acacia tree is silhouetted against the sky. The Sun rises, a golden sphere casting its rays over the peaceful Savannah. It is a perfect African sunrise.
After the storm last night the air is fresh and there is the aromatic scent of herbs in the air from the bushes and trees. It is quite heady and captures the essence of the beautiful Serengeti plains. Nature provides such natural calmness and peace, I breathe deeply and my whole being feels connected.
The Grumetti River was very dry a few days ago but it is now coming back to life after the rains. This is a life giving river to the earth, plants and animals which rely on it.
We reach Serenora and have Breakfast with the Rock Hyrax, large hamster looking mammals. They are friendly, funny and cute. They are also not shy they mate right next to us having breakfast.
A Cheetah mother and fully grown cub walk through the plains, they are looking to hunt. The mother starts chasing Zebra but gives up as her timing is out. They walk across the plains through herds of Wildebeest and Zebra but they do not hunt again.
We see a large herd of Elephants including several calves, one is less than a year old it can still walk under his mother. They pull leaves off the bushes to eat. One adolescent male rather amusingly walks five legged.
A Leopard relaxes on a thick branch up an umbrella tree it has earlier killed a Thompson gazelle and dragged it up the thick trunk of the tree and draped it over a branch. It will eat it later when the day us cooler. He is so beautiful sprawled across the branch.
A Lioness lays under a tree with a nursery of cubs ranging from 4 months to a year, they are sleeping in the shade as the sun is still hot. Under a nearby tree another Lioness tends cubs from 6 weeks old up to 6 months. The very young Cubs are spotty for camouflage, they are tiny and adorably cute. Cats sleep up to 20 hours a day the same as domestic cats. They are so relaxing to watch.
We find the mating Lions by the rock formation again. They are lying next to each other in the grass. We wait for them to mate. Yona says to the lions “just do it do it do it”, clearly African men are as romantic as Lions, lol. I have told Yona his quote will feature in my blog. Poor Yona after a week of being in the Land rover 13 hours a day with me he will miss my quick wit. After a few minutes the female sits up and nuzzles her head against the males indicating it is time to mate, it is always the female decision. They get up and walk a few yards away. She crouches in front of her and he mounts her from behind, biting her neck. They both growl and roar and the mating is over in seconds. She rolls onto her back and then away from him, he lays next to her.
We have a very late lunch with the hyrax again, I think they have become my second favourite animal after the cats.
On route back to the Grumetti area and camp which is several hours drive we see beautiful herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe and Elephant, it is breathe taking seeing them in such large numbers. We also see a male and female Waterbuck, for me they are the most beautiful of the gazelles. They are very large with stunning horns and thick reddish fur. They are extremely shy but magnificent.
Nature provides us with all we need. I love the simplicity of life here. It is tough but that’s what makes you appreciate what you have. I have extensively travelled the world and it is those who have materially the least that open up their hearts, homes and arms to me. For me it is about finding peace, happiness, friendship and joy wherever I go. Embracing life and saying yes to new experiences is what it is all about. To grow we need to go beyond our comfort zone, be positive and know each day will be even better than the last as we move forward and embrace this wonderful life. We are all capable of being more, giving more and experiencing more. Life is a safari we just have to embrace it, say yes to it, live it and accept the only thing that it certain in life is uncertainty and how great that is. I love life and my heart and soul is excited about the journey ahead.
Here I am Nashipae. I am a white Masai, my soul is free. I am connected to the earth, sky, animals and plants. This is my spiritual home, my Africa.
Day 9 –
Last night when I arrived back in camp the weather was still clear and calm. Within half an hour the sky darkens and the first crack of lightening tears across the sky. The storm starts to rumble and the air becomes thick and heavy. The pressure changes and you can feel the storm about to come in. I head to my tent and get ready for dinner. Showering outside under hot water whilst humid torrential rain hits my body was incredible. Lightening majestically streaks above me whilst the thunder just makes the air hot electric and alive. I just stood there gazing at the stars in awe of the biblical storm going on above me. It was a slightly risky thing to do but when else would l be able to experience such wonder, I took myself out of my comfort zone, I felt the fear and did it anyway.
This meant of course the day dawned clear and bright this morning. We drove out again before dawn, the sunrise sending streaks of orange, yellow and red across the morning sky. Animals are silhouetted against the stunning landscape. We drive towards Masira hill as we are looking for the Lionesses with young Cubs. We instead found a Lioness with three adolescent Cubs. I feel almost speechless to describe what unfolded next, nature at its rawest. We observe the interaction of the cubs with the Lioness which is affectionate and warm. They sit on the side of the hill looking at the valley below which it teaming with game, Wildebeest, Gazelle, Zebra and Buffalo. We spot a group of Buffalo a few hundred yards away, one of their calves is sitting on the ground. It soon becomes clear to us and the Lions that the calf is sick and it cannot get up. The mother stands with the calf trying to encourage it to stand but it is too weak. The Lions’ interest increases and we stay and watch for half an hour as the Lions assess the situation. The Lioness starts descending the hill followed closely by the adolescent cubs, they walk slowly as the rest of the herd of Wildebeest is nearby and they are very dangerous. As the Lions approach the mother Buffalo starts grunting and snorting at the Lions trying to protect her calf. The Lions close in, interestingly it is the cubs who move towards the calf as it is small easy prey. The Buffalo chases the cubs and they retreat. She nuzzles the calf and tries to encourage it to stand and follow her, she turns her back and walks off which gives one of the cubs the opportunity to run up to the calf and bite its spine, the Buffalo turns around and chases the calf. The calf cries for its mother but the mother is powerless to help because it is too weak to walk. Usually Buffalo calves walk in the middle of the Buffalo herd to protect them from Lion attacks but the herd cannot protect a calf that cannot walk. The Lioness and rest of the cubs start descending on the calf trying to keep it down and strangle it but the mother chases them back, she is angry and dangerous. The rest of the Buffalo herd hearing the distressed call of the mother and calf come to their defence. What ensues is a battle between deadly enemies, Buffalo and Lion. The Lions try and attack the calf but are chased by the herd of Buffalo, they in turn counter attack. It is almost half an hour of a deadly battle. The buffalo tire first and realise the calf is too sick to save and they must protect the herd so they move off. The cubs start descending on the calf biting at it but the mother just cannot give up, she is left alone to defend her calf but she is no match by herself against the Lions. In the end she is exhausted and defeated and is in danger of being killed herself. She reluctantly retreats, my heart goes out to her because she must now walk away whilst hearing her calf die and call for her, tears sting my eyes. The cubs descend on the calf biting at it, they do not have strong enough jaws yet to strangle the calf before they eat it which Lionesses would do, so the calf is started to be eaten alive. The Lioness sits nearby giving the cubs practice at killing but it is quite harrowing for me. The cubs are inexperienced and the calf really suffers at their paws and jaws. It is a long, slow, painful death for the calf. This really is survival of the fitness and nature at its most harrowing and rawest. The three cubs are joined by the Lioness’ who then strangles the calf towards the end, it is hard to believe how the calf could have remained alive for so long after being eaten so much. The fight between the Buffalo and Lions is a thrilling exciting experience but the casualty and cost is high. We leave the cubs and Lioness’ to eat the rest of the dead calf. We have been with them for well over an hour.
What is really apparent in the Serengeti is because it is migration season and the rains have started, food is in abundance for the Masira pride of which there are 31 in the pride. Cats whether wild or domestic kill for fun as well as food. We see dead Wildebeest, Buffalo and Gazelles everywhere, most uneaten but killed because the prey is in abundance. The scavengers such as the Hyena, Vulture and Marabou stalk cannot keep up with clearing the carcasses.
We find the Lioness who has half a tail and three cubs, she is calling for them with her distinctive grunt which can carry for miles. She would have hidden them in the undergrowth when she hunted. From behind we see the cubs come out of some bushes they call back to her in their high pitch squeak, it is a joyful sound. She greets them affectionately by licking and nuzzling them. They follow her a short distance to where she has dragged her young Wildebeest kill by some bushes. She is exhausted from the chase and kill so sits nearby to regain her energy. The cubs gleefully see the kill and even though they are too young to eat much meat they start to climb the kill, playfully chewing the ears and tail and trying to tug at the flesh, it is most amusing to watch. After a few interesting attempts they join their mother so they can suckle, at 8 weeks old they still rely on their mother’s milk. She is a loving attentive mother and lies on her side to let them feed.
We stop for breakfast on the plain and talk about our incredible morning. It really was a unique experience.
On the drive across the Grumetti River we see a baby Hippo in the shallow river. It has its back to us. It is most unusual for a baby Hippo to be alone it is always with its mother but there are no other Hippos around. It then turns round and the full horror unfolds. The baby has deep scratches across its back and its ears are chewed off and one of its eyes. It is a grotesque harrowing sight. We can only assume it has been attacked by a crocodile and miraculously escaped but then found itself alone. It is heart-breaking, a tear rolls down my face it is too painful to look at. It gets worse when on hearing our voices it seems to come towards us for help and protection. We are quite shocked and shook up and have to drive away as we are unable to intervene.
Thank goodness our next sighting is a joyful happy one of Vervet monkeys with babies happily clinging to their bellies.
We find the Rangers Pride of 14 lions. The male is sat under a bush and the cut under his eye we saw a few days ago is thankfully almost healed. He is contented, well fed and healthy. He has a very golden large mane of which purpose is to protect him when he is fighting and indicate his virility to females. His role within the pride is that of protector against other males looking to take over the pride and mate for the Lionesses. The Lionesses with adolescent cubs sit under a nearby tree sleeping after a successful nights hunting from the size of their bellies. They too are healthy and happy. This pride used to be part of the Masira pride but they split off last year as the pride became too large. We do not see the other male Lion that is with this pride.
We drive to Lamadi to pick up the dresses I arranged to have made. The small town is poor but colourful, vibrant and a joy to see again. The children are so delightful and welcoming and love to wave at me. I really love this place.
After lunch we head back into the Serengeti reserve.
We find the Ranger Post Pride of Lions with a fresh Wildebeest kill. A lioness and cubs are tearing it apart and eating it. The large male and another Lioness sits nearby. They have not eaten, they are clearly still full from an earlier kill. They both stand up and he smells the ground where she was sat and opens his mouth and bares his teeth as he uses his glands to process her sent, all cats do this it is an interesting facial expression. The rest of the pride are still eating the Wildebeest their faces smeared in blood. They pull out the intestines and chew as the internal organs slither out. The Lions lap up the blood. When they have finished they walk a short distance away and sit and wash the blood off of their paws and face.
We drive through the plains and find the male Lion with the skin condition around his mane. He is with a female so we wait to see if they will mate. The light is fading as the sunsets. The breeze gets stronger as another storm is brewing. We see the lightening flash across the darkened sky and it is time to drive back to camp.
This is my last evening and it has been the most amazing experience. My heart will forever be in East Africa.
Day 10 –
The sun rises a golden fireball over the plains. The light sends a beautiful glow over everything it touches. The prey stretch their cold bodies and start to warm themselves in the heat. This will be a beautiful day.
We find the Lioness with the three cubs, they are contentedly suckling and kneading her belly. When they finish they sit on her back and tumble over her. She nuzzles them and pulls them into her with her large gentle paws to wash them, her raspy tongue cleaning their soft coats. The cubs are vocal and complain that want to get away to play. They start chasing each other, jumping on each other’s backs, biting and play fighting. They run over to a tree and start sharpening their claws on the bark, they try and climb it but they are not yet strong enough. They are just so playful and beautiful.
We find 9 Lionesses and adolescent cubs watching a herd of Buffalo. The Buffalo are very aware of them and keep their calves in the middle of the herd to protect them. Around the Lions three Wildebeest carcases lay, hunted, killed but not eaten. It can be feast or famine on the plains. It is feast now because of the migration but as they move the Lions will have to follow the herds.
The Serengeti is a marsh land after the rain, we almost get stuck, the water is deep on the tracks. I love the thrilling driving over the plains in our 4×4, it is fast, exhilarating and we get thrown about. It adds to the excitement.
We drive back to the Lionesses and adolescent cubs, we watch them playing games of chase and hunt with each other. A Lioness drags a fresh Wildebeest kill into the bushes away from the scavenging Marabou stalks, this will be dinner later.
We breakfast with the hyenas, they move closer as they can smell the bacon and sausages. They are shy but curious animals. To my delight they come quite close but they are nervous so run off laughing. We sit and observe them, just the warm African breezes between us and them.
Back in our vehicle side striped jackel cross the plains with their puppies. They are incredibly beautiful dogs with a happy family structure. They take care of one another and they are very friendly. I always think they would make great pets, but born free living free is more important.
Beautiful black ground hornbill with their bright red large beaks peck at the ground for insects. They are usually seen in threes, male, female and baby. They are large graceful birds and quite stunning.
Down by the river Colobus monkeys eat in the trees and howl their distinctive call to each other.
We find the Ranger post pride, one female with three year old cubs. They have just finished eating a Wildebeest and have full bellies sitting under a tree. Vultures sit in a nearby tree wanting to pick the bones and flesh of the carcass.
Driving along we see eight Elephants in the gorge drinking water and munching on vegetation. They are gentle giants except when crossed.
The migration still in full flow on the Grumetti. We drive through large herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo. It is such an amazing time to be here as it is an awe inspiring sight.
Towers of Giraffes find a small watering hole and widen their front legs so they can dip their long neck down to drink. Giraffes are very graceful noiseless animals, they seem to exist in a state of tranquillity at one with their surrounding with no real threats from predators. They amble long curious at what they observe. They watch us drive past, their long lashes framing their beautiful big eyes.
We drive back to camp for lunch. Yona and I enjoy a delicious array of food in camp and we chat about our amazing experiences together. It has been an incredibly trip and I will be very sad to leave. Yona has been such an intelligent, knowledgeable guide, I have just learnt so much from him. He has also been a good friend and I have really appreciated his enthusiasm and passion for the wildlife.
After lunch I pack and say good bye to my friend Donald and wonderful staff that have taken care of me in camp.
This is my Africa, my home and it is here I leave my soul.