Tuesday 10/10/17: “Wildebeest do not know they are wildebeest for there are no mirrors in the Serengeti plains”. Billy Connelly’s daft punchline about a wildebeest not worrying while watching another wildebeest being eaten by a lion has bounced around my head all day. It’s surprising how different the Serengeti is to the Maasai Marra. It’s a lot drier and the short yellow grass offers less obvious opportunities for predators to hunt. It does feel a lot “wilder” though and the drive was so bumpy that everyone was concerned that we were going to blow a tyre and be stranded. The sun’s heat was ferocious but we were captivated by the many mirages sparkling in the distance and the long drive was worth it for some amazing animal activity.
It started with two delightful little gazelles headbutting in the middle of the road, with their sweet tails perpetually wagging and diminishing (at least, to our eyes) the ferocity of their horns. There was a pack of hyena on a mound whooping and squabbling over something unseen behind the bushes; an emotional viewing of a large lion pride snoozing and playing; a close encounter with a brazen cheetah who posed by our cars as though, if we were not actually invisible, we certainly played no part in his morning routine; an ostrich pair dancing an elegant ballet; a pair of lions having (very brief – maybe 6 seconds?!) sex; a leopard that slunk past the 4×4 before leaping up a rock face; but the crowd pleaser was a massive elephant standing trunk to bark with a tree as though sent to the naughty corner for his truly elephantine erection that almost touched the ground between his legs!
My favourite moment from the day though was watching the massive dust tornadoes restlessly dancing across the wide open spaces. We had seen smaller ones already but these in the Serengeti were so defined and so fast that I obsessed over them for a few hours. I don’t know how the local Maasai people cope if (but surely, when) they get caught in one’s path.We move camp the next day to the Ngorongoro crater and it’s like someone has plucked a Disney safari scene from a movie. Everything’s crayola “safari green”, there are watering holes filled with hippos where zebra and all sorts of gazelle and antelope sup cautiously at the edge and I keep expecting them to burst into a well choreographed song and dance. We see a lioness, surely Simba’s mom, creeping towards a lone wildebeest, her shoulders and chest muscles tense and ready for action. She’s mesmerising. Unfortunately for her, but luckily for the wildebeest, he’s too far away and she eventually slumps to the ground to watch and hope that he comes nearer. A lioness will normally wait until her prey is around 10 metres away so that she can use all her strength and energy in ambushing her unsuspecting dinner. As we leave the park and head back to our tents, our 4×4 breaks hard. There’s a lioness and a lion seeking shade by the side of the road, hiding inches from our car amongst the bushes! One more reason that I’m thankful I decided against packing my running stuff to explore.