Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Serengeti Christmas - Day 4 Christmas on the plains

It's rare to see something good on your own, but we were lucky

It was an early start on Christmas day, but we were soon rewarded near the campsite by 4 male lions chilling on a rock watching the sun come up.  We decided to head to where the leopards had been sighted the previous day and were amazed to find the young leopard still there!  He was on a different tree, but only about 30 meters from where we’d seen him in the evening.

Lions checking out the sunrise
We soon found ourselves almost alone with the leopard – it seemed that everyone had seen him the previous day and now were looking for other animals.  But he seemed awake so we decided to stick with him, and had our coffee with him – no often you can say you had coffee while watching a leopard!  And eventually our patience paid off; with only one other car around, he decided to get down.  He wasn’t the most graceful in the climb down, sort shimming down backwards and looking a bit awkward, but gave us some nice shots in good light.

Spidercat :)
After he disappeared into the bush, we headed towards Maasai Koppies.  A few kilometers later, we came across a kill in a tree – how a leopard got this massive Reedbuck up the rather dodgy tree, I have no idea, but there was no sign of the leopard.  We waited for ages to see if he would come back, but we didn’t have any luck, so spent our time photographing the Little bee-eaters that were flying around.  But eventually we gave up, and headed deeper into Maasai Koppies area. 
Grey-crowned crane
 We’d been asking the guides about lions, but no one had spotted any in the morning.  After driving for quite a while, we finally spotted a nice big buffalo herd in the distance.  Heading towards them, we almost missed it, but out of the corner of our eye we spotted a lion sleeping in the shade of a tree.  Wait, not one… about 10!  How we almost missed them, I have no idea ;)

Brown parrot
We decided to get some shots of the buffalo first, since they were right next to the road, but soon enough we headed back to the lions.  They were already in sleep mode, so there wasn’t much activity, but it was nice to phone the family to wish them for Christmas while sitting near a pride of 10 lions… Unfortunately, they weren’t giving us much of show, since most of them were fast asleep, so we left them with the plan to head back there in the afternoon.

An odd looking pom-pom flower
 Meanwhile, we’d contacted Humphrey, our tour guide from our previous guided trip.  He was just heading into the Serengeti and was nice enough to tell us of some sightings… lion, leopard and cheetah!  We followed the directions, and worked out the leopard was the one that we’d seen in the morning – only he was back up the tree again.  The lions were probably the ones we’d seen a couple of days before, just near the leopard, but it was great because they were up the tree – it always amuses me to see them sleeping in trees.  

We saw so many lions in trees this trip
But the cheetah was the one we were most interested in, and found them easily (well, there were plenty of cars there by the time we arrived).  There were 3 of them, but unfortunately a bit hard to see – they were in the grass and they can be unbelievably camouflaged when they’re lying down, so we could only really see them when they got up and moved around.  Eventually the 2 sub-adults got up and moved off over a hill, and soon mom followed.  They were pretty chilled, but showed no signs of doing anything but sleep, so after a couple of record shots (they weren’t close enough to get anything good) we left them to continue our drive.

The afternoon was basically shunting between lions, leopards and cheetahs… not a bad way for us to spend an afternoon drive… beats not finding anything! We even did a drive past an active hyena den that we knew from previous trips, but unfortunately the hyena cubs weren’t out so no interactive shots for us.   

Always gotta get a shot of a Lilac-breasted roller!

The early evening was spent with the lions that we’d found in the morning.  They were still in the same spot, but a little bit more active, so they kept us entertained until it was time to head back to camp.  We stopped briefly again at the hyena den, but they were not too active, but we made a mental note to check it out again in the morning.

Secretary bird
For the first time we arrived back in camp when there was still a bit of light, and found a herd of elephants grazing about 200m away, quite enjoyable to watch while we were setting up camp.  A quiet night under the stars before we headed to bed, wondering if the elephants would be back around our tent in the night…
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