Day 2 in the Serengeti and I slept surprisingly well. A few of us heard noises of animals close by in the night (there is a fence around us but it's not completely enclosed). Mainly we heard hyena's raiding the bins and getting up this morning the bin area looked like bins back home that have been raided by foxes, it was a mess!
The showers here are probably the worst I've seen so we've all decided to stick to baby wipes! Oh well, if we all smell the same I guess it won't be too bad! The toilets are also very undesirable and stink but when you gotta go you gotta go! On the plus side I'm getting used to these Muslim squat toilets and I guess it's giving my thighs a good work out!
Breakfast was yet another veritable feast, I didn't mention dinner yesterday but it was practically a buffet of food supplied by our really cool chef. This morning was just as good with fresh fruit and pancakes as well as toast, sausages and beans, etc. Can't complain!
Hisako got up extra early this morning as she had booked to do a hot air balloon ride, no one else as because it costs 500 USD! You are in the air for sunrise and get a bird's eye view of the migration and any other animals that just happen to be below. It sounds amazing and I'm sure she has some fantastic photo's. Next time maybe!
Anyway this means we have to go and get her at about 10am so this morning we can only do a slow game drive towards where we meet her as if we go too far we'll be too late.
Driving around we didn't see too much initially. Our guide was hopeful that we would because the animals are generally on the move in the early mornings when it's cooler but there was no such luck. We mainly saw animals that we've seen before. We tried to get our guide to head back to the leopard tree but he said it would be a waste of time. (We later found out that the leopard had been there after all and was seen climbing into the tree!)
However, just as we were running out of time our guide got a call. He tried to play it down and make out there was nothing to see but he changed direction and suddenly started driving much faster, it was clear he was heading somewhere in particular…
After a while we got him to admit that he was aware of a particular animal up ahead but he refused to say what it was. We all came to the conclusion that it was either another leopard or a cheetah from his reaction because these are the main two animals we really want to see at this point.
After what felt like an hour (and was probably 20 minutes of furious driving) we pulled up by a group of other trucks and all stared off into the long grass trying to see what they were looking at…cheetah! There were two near a bush some way off but the grass was high and they were well camouflaged.
I took lots of photos but unfortunately there is very little to see and in some photos they have sat down and are completely covered. I wondered how on earth anyone had spotted them at all but apparently they walked right across the track in front of a couple of trucks, if only we'd gotten here earlier!!! It was still pretty amazing though as cheetah are quite hard to find!
When we arrived to pick up Hisako we were advised that we would have to wait 10-15 minutes but that there is a walk we can take that includes lots of information about the history, flora and forna of the area. We wandered around, and came across a few dassies, but it was very boring and didn't tell us anything we didn't already know so we headed back to the truck.
Back together again we headed off on a longer game drive, I forgot to mention that Chantelle has once again decided to stay behind. She didn't sleep well and is feeling a little under the weather so has chosen to spend the morning reading her book in the shade. We'll pick her up when we go back for lunch.
Another thing I have forgotten to mention so far is that our guide was talking to another group last night who apparently spent the whole day driving around looking for the migration but never found it! I personally find that impossible to believe (although I know they are not lying) because we were driving for hours and couldn't get away from it! However, I guess that shows just how big this place is, if you're not in the right place at the right time you just won't see what you're looking for.
This time our guide started taking us down some smaller and smaller tracks into some really remote areas. We barely saw another truck for miles and miles and the area was mainly waist high yellowed grass meaning there were plenty of places for smaller animals to hide. There were a few trees dotted about once every mile or so and every now and then we would come across a kopje but that was all.
At once point we were driving right past a tree when I noticed the faint markings of a track running right around it. This drew my attention and as I looked closely I saw a whole family of lionesses lazing in the shade. No one else had seen them, not even our guide! I shouted "LIONS" and he slammed on the brakes before reversing back.
The track from previous drivers meant that we could get really close to them without breaking park rules about being off the road but as we drew up one of the lions began to growl and crouch as if ready to spring…we stopped and after a minute or so she relaxed and went back to sleep.
A couple of minutes later some cubs arrive from the other side of the truck and walked right past us before nuzzling up to their mothers and settling down for a wash and a nap. I got some fantastic photographs and several people were practising with my camera as well. We were no more than about 5ft from these animals and they are so beautiful and graceful, not to mention big!
As we moved on our driver began to head back in the direction he had previously come from before veering off on a different track. After a couple of miles we came across a big watering hole that was full of zebra. There must have been several hundred of them and they were clearly very skittish and making a lot of noise. Every now and then something would set them off and hoards of them would start running flat out, trampling anything in their way. Then, almost as soon as they had started, they stopped like someone had given the all clear and would make their way cautiously back to the water. As we sat there more and more zebra arrived. In fact they just kept coming. I'm not sure how many herds had come together at this point but there were many stallions amongst them. They must have been relying on sheer numbers to stay safe.
There was a ford in the middle of the watering hole and we drove through the middle of them to get to the other side, which was fun watching them scatter!
Several miles later and we came across another vehicle. Both drivers stopped to find out what the other one had seen and we found out the other tourists really wanted to see lions but hadn't been lucky. We told them where to go but they had no information for us, it turns out they have had a really uneventful morning.
As we were driving along we suddenly saw lots of other trucks in two separate locations either side of us. It's amazing how you can drive for miles and see no one and then suddenly they're all in one place.
We headed to our left to the closest grouping of vehicles and found more lions. They were nowhere near as photogenic as the ones we had already seen though as we couldn't get close enough due to all the other vehicles so we moved on to see what the other trucks had seen. Although one of them had been male so I did try for a couple of photo's first!
The other trucks were all parked around a kopje and on top, lying in the sun, were more lions spread out like oversized cats on rocks. We didn't linger, we've seen lions, lots of lions, but we really want to see another leopard or cheetah. Unless you're Adam, he wants to see hyena!
Heading back for lunch we came across a family of elephants with a really tiny baby that was very cute. Our guide said it was probably no more than 9 months old. There were a couple of other babies with their mothers but these were up to 10 years old! Elephants stay with their mothers for a long time! We also learnt that the gestation period for an elephant is 24 months!!!
At lunch we caught up with Chantelle and told her about all the amazing things she's missed this morning. Luckily she has seen lots of lion's so isn't too bothered. I have to say she kept pretty quiet when we mentioned the cheetah though. She is also feeling much better now and ready for the afternoon's game drive, after we've eaten that is.
As it turned out, our afternoon game drive is almost an evening game drive. Our guide told us that we would be spending a few hours resting before heading back out at 3pm. This is a little disappointing because I feel that the longer we sit around the more chance there is of missing something good. Still, I was exhausted and fell asleep on the concrete floor in the hut where we eat (it's too hot in the tents).
Back out and we head straight for what is known locally as the Hippo Pool. It's literally just that, a big pool that is popular with lots of hippos. It was quite fun to get so close them and see them fighting over their little bit of space every now and again. We could get out of the truck, along with many other tourists, but it was quite safe as there is a big natural boundary between us and them.
The pool is down a dead end track so after getting annoyed with all the other tourists we headed back the way we had come and it wasn't long before our guide spotted a little gazelle. I can't remember its name but it's about the size of a large hare, so pretty small. It's a really beautiful little thing and was sitting in the shade of a nearby bush. We were told these gazelle mate for life and if they lose their mate, or it dies, they will search constantly for 3 months solid without stopping to eat or sleep. Eventually, if they do not find them, they will die. It always amazes me when animals display such human traits.
As we were driving along a bit further I just happened to glance off to the left and spot a lion, again! I shouted and once again we reversed and there she was, cooling off in the shade of a tree all alone. Our guide by now is starting to call me the lion finder because it seems I can spot them when no one else does. She was quite a way off the track and surrounded by trees and bushes so not easy to spot. We really stopped for Chantelle's sake. We've seen a lot of lions and this one isn't exactly the closest, but she wasn't too bothered so, after trying to take a picture of it yawning, we moved on once again.
We saw a few other animals including some rutting gazelle and just before we headed back I got one of my favourite sunset shots ever!!!