Wednesday, April 15, 2009



The alarm goes off at 5:30AM as we have agreed with George to be off for a morning drive at 6:00AM. By 6:10AM, we are slipping and sliding down the hill. During the night, a major rainstorm that produced torrential rain and impressive lighting and thunder visited us. The road is under water in many places and we would not be moving were it not for the Land Cruiser’s big tires, 4-wheel drive and compound low gear.

Despite the rain, mud and very wet vegetation, we soon see a dikdik, the smallest antelope. They are not much bigger than a Texas jackrabbit and look something like one. Further on, we see some giraffe. and some gazelle.
Then we check on the lions who have the cape buffalo kill and they are still there; bloated from their feed. The carrion birds are gathering in the trees and will move in on the carcass once the lions finally leave. The cats are so full that they are lying in the mud and pay little attention when some jackals coming sniffing around. We soon move out of the trees and onto the plain. We look toward a ridgeline to the West, see a long line of wildebeest snaking their way around a hill, and then down toward us.The line we can see must be at least a mile long and the leader is heading right for us as we sit on the road. This is a group with a large number of young calves. The babies are smaller than any we have seen. We notice hyenas in the grass and on the road ahead of us. Two of them, one a very pregnant female, walk right by the car with barely a glance at us. Four or five others are advancing on the herd and we quickly figure out that the hyenas are looking for breakfast.

An attack and chase quickly develop. There does not seem to be any coordination in the attacks and chases of the various hyenas and all they succeed in doing is stampeding the herd. We think they will pick out one of the newborn calves and concentrate their attacks but that does not happen. The herd is running fast, zigzagging, and splitting into groups going in different directions to help protect the young. We follow the chase through our binoculars for at least a mile until the line of wildebeest runs around a fold in the ground and disappears from view. It was exciting to watch, but we are glad there it was not a productive hunt.

We swing by and look for the leopard with the kill in the tree from yesterday and it is still there. However, farther down the road the leopard that was interested in a kill has moved on.

Breakfast is take-out from the lodge and we stop at park headquarters to eat and tour the visitor center. Let’s see; we have some dinner rolls from last night, soft cheese, apple juice, a hardboiled egg, potato chips, ketchup, hot sauce and sliced fruit. Fortunately, George also produces hot water and tea or instant coffee. It is different, but we will not starve.

The visitor center has a very well done walking trail that explains the Serengeti and much of its ecology. It is well worth the visit. We also see the hydrax, a somewhat ugly little animal that is somehow related to the elephant.

As we leave the visitor center, we spot some giraffe on the side of the road.George, our driver, says there is a leopard in a tree nearby and we go to have a look. It is hard to spot and not much to see but our photos may make a wonderful picture puzzle entitled, “FIND THE LEOPARD IN THE TREE!”

We drive back by the hippo pool and then continue along the stream spotting some more neat birds including an owl, some hartebeest, a waterbuck and an eagle watching over a grazing hippo.

Later we come upon a mother lion with two cubs. The cubs are very cute, but one has an injured, left front paw and cannot keep up with mom and the other cub. It is calling its mother with little bleating mews and you can tell she is worried and agitated by the cub’s predicament and all the attention from the game drive vehicles. If the injury is very severe, the cub is probably doomed to become one of the six in ten lion cubs that die before they are a year old. The mother is trying to find a way across the stream, flooding from last night’s rain. The mother is one of the three adults in the tree from yesterday. We tell George to move on, as we do not want to be the jeep that attracts ten more and adds to her problems.

We continue along the stream with the idea of crossing over and going back along the other side. We find a crossing place but there is no sign of anyone crossing yet today and it looks deep and slick. George says he would rather not spend the rest of the day here so we turn around and backtrack; slipping and sliding in 4-wheel drive the whole way. The Mama lion has mover farther from the road and seems to have hidden the kittens. Two jeeps had stopped, but seem to be getting ready to move on.

This is about the place where there is a dead Acacia tree branch within reach of the car window and Dick collects a supply of the wicked 3-inch plus needles for reasons known only to him! George helps him and just laughs. We guess he gets lots of strange request from clients!

We check out the area where the lion we just saw was yesterday. The other three cats have changed trees, but are still snoozing away. After that stop, we head back toward the lodge. George thinks we should just look at the “leopard trees” one more time, but no one is home.

On the road up to the lodge we spot the two mother giraffes with their babies from yesterday now almost on the road. The babies are less than three weeks old. We have a treat as one decides it is time to nurse. That is always such a tender scene. We then see some warthogs just before we cross a very poor bridge on the lodge road with monkeys playing on it. We now know where Disney got its idea for the "collasping bridge" on its safari ride!

We return to Sopa Lodge at 1:00PM with one last sighting of another baby giraffe and its mother. Georges wants us to do an late afternoon drive, so we agree to go out again at 4:30PM for a short drive. All vehicles have to be in by 6:00PM. We both catch a short nap after lunch and meet up with George for our afternoon drive. It is thundering and the first drops of rain begin to fall as we leave the lodge. It begins to rain hard and the top must come down along with the plastic windows. We are not going to see much this way so we agree to check on the lion kill and then head on back to the lodge. The male lion is still in residence but we do not see either of the females.

We return to the lodge shortly before the heavens open and the rain come. It rains hard for about 45 minutes
and then begins to clear. We take some nice photos of the sunset along with the departing storm clouds. Dinner is from a menu and is a disappointment after the very good buffet of last night. The rain has cooled things off nicely and the pillows are calling. We have agreed to an 8:00AM departure for Ngorongoro Crater tomorrow morning.

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