Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Serengeti Christmas - Day 3 A day of spotted cats

Watching us carefully

Since we had gone west the previous day, we decided to head in the opposite direction in the morning.  We were looking for the big pride that we’d seen the first day, so decided to head for Maasai Koppies.  The early morning drive didn’t find them, although we did come across a nice big male lion sitting on the side of the road.  We decided to spend our coffee break with him, and he soon got up and joined his brother, whom we hadn’t even seen hidden in the scrub sleeping. 

Cheetah walking past
Having no success in finding the pride, we were driving around when we came across a couple of cheetahs.  Always a prize sighting in the bush, even though they were quite far away, we decided to hang around.  They were pretty alert so we settled down to keep an eye on them from a distance, while the rest of the safari vehicles tried to get as close as possible to get a shot before heading off for more sightings.   

Cheetah relaxing on the mound
But eventually our patience paid off, and one of the cheetah started moving directly towards us, before lying down on a little mound right next to us.  Finally he moved off, and his brother – a little more skittish – ran right past us before meeting up with his brother before they headed into the plains… a really nice sighting.   

Double-banded courser
Soon after that we spotted a clump of cars at a distance.  Deciding to investigate, we soon found the source of the clump – lions.  A pride was heading to the shade of trees, but to do that they had to cross the road, so we got some nice head on shots of the lions passing the car. 

Young lion chilling out
It was just before lunch when we came across another clump of cars – this time the clump was bigger than normal.  This could only mean one thing – leopard!  Sure enough, a leopard was sleeping in a tree, very close to the road.  He seemed completely unaffected by the cars around him, fast asleep on the branch of the tree shaded by the leaves.   

Young leopard in tree
From a tourist’s point of view, the young leopard had chosen the best possible tree, since there was a road on three sides of the tree – access for ALL the tourists that paraded through to catch a glimpse of him!  And that included us, though we chase the side where there weren’t any cars – it was too much of a traffic jam on the other side which was closer to the leopard. 
Leopard resting in a tree
But the good news didn’t stop there… about 100 meters on, there was ANOTHER leopard in a tree!  What a productive road for leopards ;) After a while we decided to leave the first one, and check the second – what we assumed was the young leopard’s mother.  She was in a nice position on the tree, but unfortunately a bit further away and we were shooting into the sun.   

Martial eagle with kill
 But she was still awake, and we were hopeful that she would get down the tree and walk towards her son.  But after about half an hour, she still didn’t seem to be keen, so we headed back to the first leopard.  This time we braved the throng of cars and were rewarded with nice close-ups of the leopard – and we were just in time for him to wake up and stare directly at us, before turning around and falling asleep again.

Coke's hartebeest
The afternoon drive found us some hartebeest, where we were entertained by one running around showing off – can only imagine that he was trying to impress the females, who were watching him like he was mad… But soon enough we were heading back to the leopards ;) Neither had moved yet, so we decided to settle down and wait a while with the young leopard.   

Agama sunning himself
We decided to be on the opposite side of all the cars, and it paid off.  About 5 minutes after we arrived, the leopard got up and jumped down the tree. He started walking and we were able to drive quickly to get parallel to him, before he stopped right next to us.  He posed for a few photos before slinking off in the opposite direction to where all the cars were jammed – he really didn’t have a problem with the cars…

Leopard portrait
Finally he crossed between the cars and headed off into the bush where we couldn’t see him anymore.  Happy with our sighting, we headed to his mother, but she wasn’t moving, and eventually we left her as well to get to campsite by sunset.  And we had a nice surprise – the Russians had left and no tour groups were camped at the campsite, so we had the whole place to ourselves – pretty special way to spend Christmas eve!

A Serengeti endemic - grey-breasted spurfowl
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