Morning on the Endless Plain. We crept along in the sharply slanting light and windy, slightly chirpy quiet five fleshy periscopes extended through the roof panels, and not another vehicle or human in sight (which was something that would have been visible for miles). As for non-humans, though, our dance card was mighty full. Suitors included:
- Wildebeast hundreds, and thousands, of them. Not for nothing do they call it the Great Migration.
Action Footage of Wildebeasts Greatly Migrating (realmedia, 182kb)
- Where the meat is, the meat-eater is sure to be found. These are another pair of brothers but older, heftier, and rather more serious of mien, and main, than the previous goofball duo.
- We get to look close into the heart-attack serious faces of some buffalo the bad attitude kings of the plain.
- We would also see quite a lot of a couple of varieties of hyena. (special hyena addendum)
- We're lucky enough to run into a whole family of lions, mom and cubs. Though, it's not clear that mom considers this a lucky meeting.
showImg(i20021216_14line, 1, 1)showImg(i20021216_14lineC, 1, 1)She rounds up the crew and heads for the horizon, bidding us a firm farewell.
- Mark: Those hyenas are just waiting to get a lion cub.
Susan: Can they do that?
Mark: Oh, sure. It's a doubly good deal for them: they get food, and simultaneously eliminate competition.
Probably aware of this, though, mom was keeping the kids close. Hyenas, of course, will take what they can get (that's what they're good at): Some vultures nearby have staked out an abandoned carcass. Our spotted friend cast his eye on this prize. Then, like a flash, he darted in and made away with a lunch of leftovers.
- As this show ended, our driver decided to head off after the lion cubs again (almost certainly under the prodding of Susan who never met a lion she wasn't willing to spend an entire roll of film on). Soon we'd overtaken and pulled alongside, where we got a good look at some cub tussling, a terrifically cute show.
In fact, high cuteness turned out to be a major theme of the day. Cutesiness highlights included:
- Giving the tusslers a run were the hardcore nappers. (We and other trucks encountered this same group there all afternoon. They never got up.)
- We learned why you always see zebra and wildebeast hanging out together (migrating together, in fact): the wildebeast are very good at finding water; and the zebra are great at detecting predators. It's a really very sweet interspecies love affair: Zebra & Wildebeast 2gether 4ever.
- Later, we came across another such mixed group startling back and forth out of some water (rightly or wrongly sensing a threat nearby). I didn't notice until I looked later but I managed to catch one of the zebra mightily kicking another one right in the noggin. "Boot to the head!" "Sorry about your head!"
- Giving the lie to the idea that the king of the jungle must maintain a royal bearing all the time: this guy drooling on himself.
- A splayed-legged giraffe is pretty much always cute (particularly when trying to reach the ground).
- You have to admit that baby warthogs pretty much peg the cutesiness meter.
So what's not cute? A leopard. A leopard is emphatically not cute. As noted earlier, the leopard is 150 pounds of super-strong, silent-as-the-tomb, patient, meticulous, stealth killing machine. They're also pretty reticent about coming out and posing for tourists' photos; so when a call came in on Ismail's mobile that one might be about, we took off for the spot like men with our asses on fire.
And we were (finally!) rewarded. True to form, our girl melted slowly out of the bush, in no hurry to give us loud, clumsy bipeds a show. But eventually she emerged fully and crossed the road, giving us a stellar, if brief, look at her singular, speckled self. (Okay, I take it back that face is actually pretty darned cute.) She sat in the open for just a bit longer before evaporating back into the landscape, gone (for us) for good.
I suggested in Serengeti I that I only managed a few of the type of shots I really wanted: exciting, animal-filled foregrounds on breathtaking backgrounds. As it turned out, almost all of the Kodak Award Winners I shot were on the last day in the last hour or two, in fact. (I guess it took me awhile for me to get all the required stars aligned.) But there were two contenders from our Serengeti Morning, and I'll leave you with them:
The remainder will have to wait for tomorrow as we had to wait, driving through the dusk to our camp site on the Crater rim, just in time to catch sunset.
Next: Ngorogoro Crater.