Central and Northern Serengeti
Day 5 August 28: Central Serengeti
We watched a lovely sunrise before setting off for a morning game drive at 7am. We had seen enough lions on our first day. Ali was determined to find leopards and cheetahs for us today. He succeeded and the todays’ best moments were with five cheetahs, two leopards and three lionesses on a rock.
Early morning is the best time to find animals which may come to hunt. We were on the plain with tall grass. We saw our first two cheetahs crossing the road in front of two vehicles. They are strong with beautiful and slender body and powerful and long legs.
The cheetahs were hunting in pair. They took great stride and swept past us as quickly as they appeared in front of us. We watched them disappearing into tall grass in the golden open plain in less than five minutes.
We returned to the same rocky area where Ali had been looking at the day before. Shortly after 8 am, we saw a cub (probably two months old) exploring the world on its own and trying to catch a bird. It was very cute and pretty with light coloured spots.
Half a dozen vehicles gathered around the cub. We must have disturbed it. The cub after failing to catch the bird quickly returned to its home somewhere in the rock outcrop which is covered with grass and bushes. We saw it climbing up a rock and then disappeared.
Ali moved the vehicle to the other side of the rock outcrop. We waited for some 20 minutes and finally spotted the mom leopard sitting on another rock behind dense vegetation. It is not easy to find unless you have trained eyes.
We followed her moments for a while before she disappeared. We were lucky to be able to spend over half an hour watching the mom and her cub.
We spotted and watch three more cheetahs.
Two were resting under a bush in the open grassland. But they were too far away.
A beautiful and large cheetah lay on top of a rock under a tree less than 20m from our vehicle. It had its back to us most of the time. But when it turned its head, I was bewitched by its cool and piercing eyes. It has a fascinating and majestic look with a tear mark on its face. Its spotted fur skin is most beautiful. We could not take our eyes away from this exquisite animal for some 20 minutes.
We saw more lions today. But the best photo was the one with three lionesses basking in the sun on a rock.
We returned to the camp for lunch and had an afternoon nap. At 4 pm, we set off for an afternoon game drive.
We were first greeted by a heavy hail storm. But the weather cleared up very quickly and we had sunshine afterward.
The unforgettable sight this time was the hippo pool with over a hundred hippos packed in a small pool of stagnant water. The smell was most horrible and repugnant. Apparently, they pack themselves in such a way to protect their calves from the crocodile.
It was a long drive back to the camp. On the way, our dream came true when a giraffe appeared on the plain against an orange setting sun. I enjoyed this special but brief moment. Unfortunately, I had not taken a photo that would do justice to what I have seen.
Day 6 August 29: Northern Serengeti
We got up before 6am in order to watch sunrise at the terrace. But it was cloudy. We departed at 8 am in order to arrive at Mara under Canvass in Northern Serengeti in time for lunch.
We drove for five hours and noticed how the topography and vegetation changed from dry grassland to taller green trees with green grass. We saw more and more wildebeests as we moved north.
Any drive in the park is a game drive on its own right. One never knows what one sees next. As soon as we left the camp, we saw a bateleur eagle on a tree.
We had been talking about finding a leopard on a tree. Our dream came true and we jumped with joy when we spotted one lying on a branch close to the road.
We had seen 30-40 lions so far and began to lose interest unless they were found in different settings. Today, we were lucky to find nine lions in total, four of which were resting on a tree. A group of three was spotted in one bush while another one was by herself on another tree.
Soon we spotted three more lionesses basking in the sun on a gigantic rock. A beautiful composition!
We had a late lunch at the Mara under Canvass Camp which has 11 tents. Though the tent is not as spacious and luxurious, I like this camp for its simplicity and rustic atmosphere. Breakfast and dinner are served in the dining tent. For shower, we had to ask a camp attendant to bring us a bucket of hot water (20 litre).
But the best part of the camp is to be close to nature. Wildebeest and zebra come close to the tents. We can see animals on migration grazing all over the place.
We had a pleasant but non-eventful afternoon drive. The rolling hills and plains were dotted with thousands of wildebeest. I watched sunset at the back of our tent. The setting sun looked crimson behind the think bush. At night, I heard lots of noises from the animals. Luckily, I was not disturbed and had a good sleep.
Day 7 August 30: Northern Serengeti – Migration
We left the camp at 7:30am. Ali took us to watch migration at the Mara river. On the way, we saw thousands of wildebeests and zebras running towards the river.
Shortly after 8:15am, the first wildebeest which might be the leader, jumped into the river followed by others in a fairly orderly manner. As soon as the first wildebeest moved, dozens of vehicles rushed to the edge of the river to get a good position to enable their guests to take good photos and video of the crossing.
Ali was a bit slow and the best locations with direct viewing of the jumping were already taken. Furthermore, as I am not tall, it is not easy to find a good spot to have full view of the jumping and crossing. But I could watch them running up at the end of the crossing.
The section of the river where we watched is not deep. It might be 15-20m wide. Though the number of wildebeests crossing at each time was not great, the narrow river and vertical bank provide the setting for an impressive and dramatic jump. The show lasted for some ten minutes. Suddenly, the wildebeests stopped and turned back: they must have sensed the presence of predators in the river.
After the spectacular migration show, we moved on without knowing what we would encounter next. Well, we were not disappointed.
First, we saw a group of 20 elephants walking through a forest. The majestic and oldest one which is the leader must be over 50 years old. There were several babies as well.
Then we found a group of five lions lying under a bush. The lion’s golden brownish red mane looks different and attractive. He was surrounded by three lionesses and a cub. We hoped to catch a glimpse and take a photo of the lion. After waiting for 20 minutes, it still did not make a move. At 10:30am, we decided to move when it showed no sign of movement.
Around 11:30am, we arrived at the international boundary between Tanzania and Kenya where we took a photo. The boundary is irrelevant to the animals which migrate without a passport.
At 11:45am, we spotted two cheetahs lying under a tree. One was on watch while the other one lay down to rest. We spent half an hour waiting for the other one to raise its head. We did not leave for lunch till we got a good shot. By now Ali, our driver knew we were more interested in sightseeing and photography than eating.
After lunch, our friends who had not seen both cheetahs having their heads up returned to the same spot to watch. We had no problem and gladly spent more time watching the beautiful pair.
The best viewing of the day apart from the river crossing was a leopard and its prey. When Ali saw a group of vehicles in a distance, he sped towards the spot. We arrived just in time to see a leopard moving in the grass. When it crept up a rock, we began to see it had a head/neck in its mouth: it had a prey!
The leopard moved swiftly and climbed up a steep rock in the far end. We feared we had lost sight of it. Suddenly it crossed over to another rock and came into full view again. It left the prey on one rock before jumping over to anther rock directly in front of us for a rest! What an excellent show!
After an exceptionally day with migration and a leopard in action, we happily returned to our camp at 4pm. Around 2-3 am, we had a zebra running across our tent. Ellen called me and I woke up just in time to catch the silhouette of the zebra. It was a magical moment.
Day 8 August 31: Northern Serengeti- Migration
There are ten locations for viewing river crossing near our camp. Ali planned to take us to a different spot to watch migration today. When we arrived at the location which was on the opposite bank of river where we watched the crossing the day before, my friends considered it too far from the scene of action. They asked Ali to drive to the other side of the river (i.e. the same side we watched the first crossing).
Ali hesitated but eventually followed their instructions. Later he revealed that it was his first time to cross the river at that point for viewing. (This means this particular location might already be on Kenyan soil).
We took over 10 minutes to get to the other side. Luckily the show was still on: we managed to have good viewing for some 15 minutes.
The animals suddenly stopped crossing and turned back. We were surprised to find a few that had just crossed the river running back to the river. Apparently, they had lost their parents or children during the crossing. We watched a juvenile wildebeest rushing around madly while its parent was standing on the opposite shore. Eventually, it crossed the river safely and was reunited with its parent. What a moving scene and happy ending!
We were very happy with the third viewing. About 9:45am, we returned to the other side of the river. We noticed many wildebeests were still moving towards the river.
We were lucky to watch crossing for the fourth time from 11:20 am for ten minutes. But this time, something different happened: while a group crossed to the other side, another group were heading back to our side of the river.
Apparently during migration period, wildebeests sometimes cross from one side to the other side of the river. We stayed till the last wildebeest landed on our side of the river at 11:45am.
In the afternoon, we drove around leisurely and had a picnic lunch. We saw large groups of wildebeests and zebras on the rolling plains. We also found a couple of elands and some Topi.
I am very happy with what I have seen and treasure all the wonderful moments I have had. I do not need to see more wildlife: nature filled with life is enough for me!
We were back in the camp before 4 pm. Ellen and I sat at the lounge tent enjoying the expansive views of open woodland and hills dotted with wildebeests and zebras. We were all very content with our memorable stay in Serengeti and all we have seen.