Monday, 23 December 2013

Serengeti Christmas - Day 2 Lions & trees

Lion cub in tree

We decided to head straight to Moru Koppies in the morning, because we’d heard that there was a massive herd of wildebeest that were moving through the area chasing the rain.  Because it wasn’t on the plains, we may have better luck photographing them as they’d all be close together.  

Hyena cub
Unfortunately it turned out that we were a couple of days late, and the wildebeest had already moved out of the area, with only traces of hoofprints left.  But the morning drive was really nice, including catching a clan of spotted hyenas near the road, and we identified a few new birds on the way.  We’d challenged ourselves to identify at least 1 new bird every day, and by mid-morning we already had 3, the Rufous-crowned roller, Cliff chat and Little swift. 
Brightly coloured chameleon
After doing a bit of exploration without much luck except for a big herd of buffalo, we headed back a different way from what we had come, and were soon rewarded with a sighting of a big pride of lions.  They were far away, but at least we had seen predators for the day.  And after having a chat with one of the tour guides, were soon heading down the road to find a lioness in a tree.  

Buffalo not happy to see us
Quite close to the road, we stayed with her for a while before heading to another sighting we knew to be there – a leopard in a tree… a pretty good predator filled road!  Unfortunately the leopard was too far away for anything more than a record shot, so we headed back to the lioness in the tree and then to the big pride.  A couple of the cubs were still awake and sitting up but the rest of the pride was fast asleep and showing no signs of moving. 
Lioness in a tree
Eventually, we left them sleeping and headed back to Seronera for lunch.  We had just arrived when we spotted a herd of elephants that seemed to be heading to drink, so we positioned the car to photograph them drinking.  The herd scared a poor hippo to a deeper part of the waterhole while they drank their fill before heading off into the veld.

Hippo, before he was scared into deeper water
We found ourselves a nice shady tree to have lunch, while being entertained by a band of banded mongooses who were foraging for lunch themselves, before starting our afternoon game drive.  

Elephant herd drinking
Soon enough, we’d come across a few lions – most of which were lying in the shade of a tree, but one of the younger sub adults was lying in the tree.  After watching them for a while, we decided that they weren’t going anywhere soon (most of them were fast asleep), so we drove off to see if there was anything else to photograph.  

Montagu's harrier
But it wasn’t long before we were back and found that the youngster up the tree had been replaced by another lioness.  The lions seemed to be more awake, with the young cubs trying to figure out how mom had gotten up the tree.  

Lioness in tree
We decided to stick with them for the early evening, and were eventually rewarded with 3 of the lionesses and some of the cubs crossing the road and lying about 2 meters away from our car – not a bad way to spend the evening!

How'd you get up there mom?
Of course, it was a mad dash to get back to the camp before it got dark again… and again it was quiet with only the Russian couple still there.  So another relaxing evening after we’d finally figured out where to park our car (a lot of bad directions from me and lots of driving back and forth from Dru!), checking out the stars and cooking dinner.  

Chilling out next to the car
 We had just settled into the tent and were having a glass of liqueur watching the stars, when we heard rustling in the trees nearby… we knew what it was – elephants!  

And sure enough they had been waiting for us to go quiet, before heading out into the open – a herd of about 12 walked right past our car in the dark, where we could just make them out in the moonlight – quick a thrilling experience last thing at night!

Set up for the night
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