a view to
After a long morning of trundling about the
Northern Serengeti, we were on our way back to Migration Camp
for lunch. We had woken up extra early (6:30) and hadn’t
seen much the whole morning. Tired and slightly dejected, we were
considering taking the afternoon off to rest for a while.
As Thomas took the Land Cruiser through a
long, lazy curve headed back to camp, he suddenly perked up. We
have learned to recognize when Thomas spots something exciting.
He doesn’t like to tell us right away in case he’s
mistaken, but he’s rarely mistaken. “Lions,”
he whispered, a moment later. He coaxed the 4x4 slowly closer,
getting as near as possible without going off the road. He pointed,
and we saw them: three lionesses about 100 meters away. Usually
lions are sleeping (or at least very lazy) during this time of
day (it was about 11:30 in the morning), but these three seemed
unusually alert. And why not – there was a big ol’
pile of food nearby. With the wildebeest migration getting into
full swing, there was plenty of good eatin’ to be had and
the lionesses were attentively watching the nearby grazing group
We had seen quite a few lions by this point,
so at first we didn’t realize that this was going to be
something special. Thomas turned off the engine and we assumed
our usual positions, heads popped out of the top of the Land Cruiser,
me struggling with the zoom lens waiting for a good shot (and
also using it as magnification), Susan checking things out through
binoculars. Meanwhile, Thomas is whispering our own personal version
of Animal Planet while scanning for other nearby wildlife (Thomas
is crammed full of interesting facts and knowledge and he’s
always excellent about teaching us about the animals and environment).
the take down
Luckily, we had arrived not a moment too soon;
one of the lionesses changed from a slow walk to a much more slinky
stalk. Thomas sat upright in his seat and said, “She’s
hunting!” Susan desperately fumbled with the camcorder and
I kept an eye on the lioness through the camera. She looked just
like our cat Chloe back home when she’s about to ambush
a piece of string behind the couch. The lioness started to trot
with the other two following more slowly behind. Thomas started
the engine as we realized that she was going to move out of sight
soon. Very fortunately for us, however, her trajectory was basically
parallel to the road. Just as Thomas got the truck moving, she
broke into a full sprint. Thomas gunned the engine and we bounced
around like rag dolls, trying to keep an eye on the star of the
show. (quick side note: I have no idea how the Discovery Channel
guys get this stuff on film. It’s like trying to sip hot
coffee while you’re going 40 miles an hour over potholes
and speed bumps, all without looking down – see our lion
kill in the Serengeti video for a hoot).
At this point, the wildebeest had figured
out that something was wrong. They bolted in several directions,
causing a giant dust cloud, making it even harder to see what
was going on. But Thomas had somehow managed to keep us basically
even with the lioness. She descended out of sight momentarily
down a hill but then emerged again on the other side, bearing
down on her chosen prey.
It was all over in an instant. She tackled
one of the smaller wildebeest, and got her teeth into its neck
in a strangle hold. Soon, the wildebeest was down, with the lioness
calmly holding on. Over the next few minutes, the wildebeest would
jerk a few times, even trying to regain a standing position, but
the lioness’s jaw held firm. The wildebeest finally stopped
moving completely, and the lioness let go.
coming to lunch
As if this all wasn’t interesting enough,
we continued to watch in awe as the pride was summoned. The two
accompanying lionesses didn’t help with the kill at all
(it obviously wasn’t necessary), but they did assist in
summoning the family. After they trotted up and examined the kill,
they slinked off behind the hill, to return a few minutes later.
To our great delight, we spotted a little cub struggling up and
down the small hills, making his way to the dinner table. Then
another, and another. All in all, there were ten cubs! The smallest
of which took quite a while to arrive, but eventually made it.
Thomas theorized that they had all eaten fairly
recently since they weren’t diving into the meal. They casually
gnawed here and there and slowly loosened up some good pieces
to chew on. We even spotted poppa observing from afar; he obviously
wasn’t hungry at the moment.
the whole family
having a feast
We watched in amazement for about two hours
as 4 lionesses (another younger one had arrived) and 10 cubs jockeyed
for position around the wildebeest and had a nice, relaxed lunch.
A relatively uneventful morning had transformed completely. Thomas
said that in his 7 years as a guide, he has only seen 5 such kills,
so we felt very fortunate indeed. We headed back to Migration
Camp for a very late lunch, totally energized and excited.