There are many reasons people opt to go on safari in Africa; but, it’s safe to say, the primary reason is to see the native animals in their natural habitat, untamed and free to be wild animals. Not every person comes to see the same animal, either. Avid bird watchers may not even care to see the big five; others may be drawn towards the herbivores. Now, what is it you want to see these animals DO is another story altogether. Some are after that photo of a cute, cuddly baby lion cub, playfully frolicking in the tall grass. Others want to get a good close-up of that bull elephant. I was just keen to get as many close-up shots as possible, with my ideal shot being one of leopard, its eyes piercing my camera lens. I didn’t care what they were doing as long as I was able to grab a good shot of them.
For my first safari, there really wasn’t an option as to what I wanted to see. The group I was with was extremely keen to see a hunt and, more importantly, a kill. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about this. I have a soft spot for most of the guys who get hunted, particularly the nimble antelope and the curiously gorgeous zebra. I didn’t fancy seeing one of these guys lose their life. Oh, and don’t forget the warthog. Not the cutest of animals, but it suddenly becomes 10 times cuter when it’s running from danger, tail sproinged in the air, so that its young can follow it into hiding. No, not sure at all about this at all.
Our first few days of game drives were extremely productive. I’d seen the big five, oodles of birds, a lioness as she was just introducing her four, adorable new cubs to the rest of the pride and even a lone leopard lazing in sausage tree. I had not, however, seen a chase or even a kill. The third day would change that. We were in eastern Serengeti, and had been out most of the day in search of a hunt and a kill. Our guide was just radioed that a pride of lions had been spotted. We set off to see if there would be any action. As we drew closer, I could tell the lions were close by the number of vehicles already dotted around. This is probably the one downside to safaris, as you really wonder if all of these vehicles parked around the animals impacts them. Surely it’s not normal. We parked up next to a van that was chock-full of safari-goers, all clutch cameras with long lenses. I got in position and saw a pride of three female lions. They were lean, so they had not eaten. They looked restless. They were hungry. We waited and watched. One of the lionesses was in a playful mood and would lie down from time to time and tease the others. One was not having it. She was hungry and she was annoyed. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and was not cognizant of time until our guide said ‘It’s 6:15 and the park closes at 7.” We had to be back at our camp at 7, not head out at 7. Apparently, they are quite strict and will impose penalties on those caught out past curfew. I also noticed that only one other vehicle was there.
“Let’s stay a bit longer,” I replied. Our guide was a bit surprised that we didn’t want to fly around like the other vehicles, ticking off each of the animals on our must-see list. The other vehicle that had been waiting with us took off. We were alone. It was great. I kicked back, got my long lens out and watched these beautiful beasts. The head lioness was agitated. She was hungry. She meant business. There were some wildebeests nearby, but I didn’t think anything of it. She did. She had a plan. She called to her sisters and they singled one out of the herd. It was swift and it was amazing. They were able to take down a wildebeest and it was mainly due to the orchestrated teamwork that was simply awesome to witness. It was a good night, as they also got a small gazelle. Incredible! I sat, riveted, clicking away, salivating at all of this ‘real’ life happening before me. They tore into the gazelle, but not before a pair of male lions got their share. They sauntered out of the bushes not 100 meters away! They’d been there all this time! Not only did I get to witness a hunt and a kill, but I then got to witness the food chain process. Once the lionesses got their turn, they were serenaded by the annoying jackal, which yipped to his fellow jackals to let them know the next meal was around the corner. What a day!
Unfortunately, we had to head back then, as we were already going to be in breach of curfew. As we started to head back, I saw the most amazing site of the day. The lionesses had dragged the wildebeest into the mud to preserve it for later. Nature is truly amazing and I felt pretty pampered and soft thinking of how out-of-touch with life we’ve become in our digital world. We came back the next day, alone, to see if they were going to dig the wildebeest up. But, I’ll save that story for another time!
I am now a convert and witnessing that hunt and kill made me appreciate the natural cycle, a cycle that needs to occur and that is not mean. I also got some great shots. I’m so glad we decided to stay.