We stood in our Safari van and started snapping every animal that sauntered into sight. Zebras. Wildebeests. Pea-hens. Thomson Gazelles. Grant gazelles. Buffaloes. Elephants. Any animal. 2 hours later, our enthusiasm was on the wane. Too much of something could be such an overkill. And it was not even mid-morning yet. We wondered how we’re gonna last till 5pm?
Very soon however, we spotted a long convoy of vans lined up in front. John, our guide was very excited. He said there’s a cheetah getting ready to make a kill. We roused ourselves, eager for the live documentary.The cheetah was about 100m away from us. Everyone was waiting with bated breath and muffling the clicking sounds our cameras made (except for one group of tourists who talked like they were visiting the zoo). I asked John if the cheetah knew it had an audience. John said no. The cheetah was crouching behind the tall grasses. When it thought the gazelle wouldn’t notice, it slowly raised itself, crept stealthily a few steps forward and went back to a crouch. It was so careful that even the grasses weren’t ruffled much.We were hoping that the cheetah could just pounce on its prey – then we would be able to witness its legendary speed. But no, the cheetah was very cautious. Apparently, cheetahs attacked their prey only when they were sure of getting the kill (hunting consumed too much energy). The grazing gazelle was probably too far away for it. I asked John if the gazelle knew it was being eyed by the cheetah. John said no.
Half an hour on, we were still (im)patiently waiting for some action to take place. But the gazelle spotted the cheetah; it sped off in a jiffy before the cheetah even stood up. Its chance lost, the cheetah slackened its tensed-up muscles and slowly strolled away. We did the same – relaxed our tensed up muscles, started breathing again and rolled away (in the van). I think we were more disappointed than the cheetah.
Simba, Simba Where are You?
We were roaming all over the plains haphazardly, looking at more zebras and wildebeests (yawn) when John said – lions! We strained our necks at a clump of bushes/trees. Where? Couldn’t see much except clumps of brown and a freshly killed wildebeest (fatally bitten on the neck). We were to learn that a fresh kill was the surest indication of the immediate presence of a predator. The fresher the kill, the higher the chance of seeing the predator nearby. Stale kills on the contrary attract only scavenger types like vultures. Bones, well, would only attract curious stares from tourists in safari vans. Most of the victims were zebras and wildebeests – they were less nimble, more clumsy, and slower to react. Lonely zebras and wildebeests that strayed from their herds were especially vulnerable to attacks.
John drove us right next to the clump of trees/bushes. And then we saw them! 3-4 lionesses lounging lazily under the shade. So comfortable were they that they did not bother to take notice of us. Apparently they were taking a break from the hot afternoon sun before their feast. John pointed to (3-5) more lions sheltering under another bush further up. We took a while to discern the shapes from the shade.
Along the way, we saw more zebras(yawn), wildebeests (and a wildebeest migration), gazelles (hmm), giraffes, ostriches, a lone hyena, a group of jackals, warthog, the back of a small alligator (it was swimming), groups of flabby hippopotamus, vultures devouring zebra, impeda, a secretary hen (because it had a headdress-like crown and stockinged legs).
We also saw swirls of devil’s winds (mini-twister like funnels of sand and dust whipped up by wind), a huge rainbow that arced across the masai plains, sausage trees, plants and foliages that took on shapes of the animals. But still no sign of the lion king.
Scar or Mufasa?
We were heading back to our campsite late evening when John met 2 other safari vans enroute. Somebody had spotted a king! We quickly followed. Then we stopped. 2 lionesses and 3 cubs were striding nonchalantly towards our van. Probably the King’s consorts and offsprings. The queens looked haughty; but the cubs were quite cute; like big kittens, they were a little unsure and mightily distracted (but trying their best to look grown-up). We moved off to where the king was comfortably reclined. Oh, quite disappointed. It was an old king (20 years old at least according to John). And kinda scrawny. Simba’s grandpa probably.
John asked if we’d like to do a short safari tomorrow before heading back to Nairobi since we might have some time. For that, we had to wake up at 530am. We asked what animals could we see? Same same like today. Arugh. Not more zebras and wildebeests again? No thanks, we’d stick to our beauty sleep. Not even the lion king could tear us away from our beds.