The lions of Togoro Plains and much more
19.05.2016 - 19.05.2016
As we wait for Malisa to come and collect us for today’s safari, Chris catches up on some sleep.
The sun has not yet made an appearance and darkness hangs over the camp when we leave, so I still have no idea what this place looks like: the layout, or the surroundings. Usually I do a lot of research of each accommodation before we leave home, but this lodge is a complete surprise for everyone - an alien concept to me.
It's quite exciting really, like a mystery tour!
Sunrises (and sunsets) are pretty speedy affairs this close to the equator, so we haven’t travelled far before we can start making out the outlines of the kopjes around the camp.
Initially just as a silhouette, but within a few minutes we can distinguish some features on the landscape.
So these are the guys we heard chomping last night, right outside our tent, and whose eyes the escort shone the torch into while (over) dramatically telling us how dangerous they are?
The temperature this morning is a little on the cool side.
It will soon warm up when the sun comes out.
Chris isn’t the only one who is feeling tired this morning it seems.
On a meadow of fluffy grasses, a lion pride made up of nine members, gathers around a kill. A wildebeest. Or rather an ex-wildebeest. It could even be the mother of the orphaned calf we saw yesterday.
The pecking order is very evident here as a couple of the youngsters try to join dad for breakfast. He tells them what he thinks of that in no uncertain terms, while mum looks on with resignation: “They’ll learn”.
The cubs are soon distracted. “We’ll have a play instead”
All around us, literally hundreds of thousands of wildebeest greet the rising sun. Individually their grunt sounds a little like a human groan, but in these numbers the noise they make becomes a hum, like an enormous swarm of bees!
Speaking of sounds – we can clearly hear the lion crunching the bones as he devours his prey.
Dad licks his plate, then moves his breakfast a few feet along the open plains. Erm… why?
In the crater we had a Rasta Lion and at Ndutu there was a Punk Lion. Here we have a Hippy Lion – just look at that hair… I mean mane. It is like a 70s rock star!
Well, kiss my ass!
“Do you think a fringe suits me? I’ve heard it is all the rage this year.”
The youngsters wait in the wings for dad to finish his meal.
On every bush and in every tree is a vulture hanging around until it is their turn too.
A long line of wildebeest is heading straight for the lions. Their poor eyesight is leading them into trouble again.
The young lionesses realise that there is a potentially earlier - maybe even easier - breakfast than having to wait for dad to finish eating.
The wildebeest have also spotted the lions and are running for their lives. Literally.
She’s closing in, aiming for that baby at the back. An easy prey…
She has to be quicker than that, it’s no good just sitting there looking at them; they’re not going to come to you.
The last of the wildebeest makes it alive past the lions. Phew! I can breathe again now.
Meanwhile dad continues to eat his breakfast.
While the rest of the family lie around licking their chops impatiently for when they will be allowed to have some.
“Let’s go and harass dad”
Dad, however, is totally unperturbed by the whole thing.
Has he finished?
It certainly looks that way, as with a full tummy he wanders off to find water.
Typical male: once he’s had his meal he goes off to the pub for a drink, leaving his wife to do the clearing up!
The rest of the family descend on the dining table like hungry… well, lions.
I notice dad hasn’t left much to be divided between the remaining eight. You could say he's had the lion's share. I can certainly see where that expression comes from.
This guy has managed to secure himself a tasty little morsel, however.
The vultures move in a little closer, and noisy plovers circle above screeching out distressed warning signals. “Yes, we know there are lions. Thanks anyway guys".
As we wonder how many lions you can fit around a scrawny wildebeest carcass, we leave them – and the constant wildebeest hum - to it and move on to our next wilderness experience.
Jackal versus Vultures
We come across another kill where the predators have moved on, leaving what little is left in the hands of the scavengers, in this case some White Backed Vultures and a couple of Marabou Storks.
All is reasonably calm until a couple of Black Backed Jackals arrive.
End of Round One: Vultures 1 Jackals 0
Round Two: the jackal seems to have managed to somehow get hold of a slither of meat, and the vultures go all out for the tackle. The ensuing squabble is reminiscent of the scenes I once witnessed in Tesco when the reduced items came out on a Saturday afternoon.
The vultures bring in the reserves.
Despite this somewhat unfair advantage, the score at the end of Round Two is Vultures 1 Jackals 1
The opposition team regroup to work out their next move.
It seems they don’t quite agree on tactics.
With all the internal politics, and no real action, the audience looks bored.
While not exactly bored, we leave the jackals and vultures to fight it out between them and drive a little further north.
Lion and Jackal Prints
More Lions + Another Kill = More Vultures
Further along we see seven lions on a kill (that’s the fourth kill we’ve seen this morning, and it's only 08:15) and another ‘Vulture Tree’ full of birds waiting to swoop on the carcass.
As soon as the lions move off, the vultures descend en masse.
The lions and a jackal look on with bemusement.
Does my bum look big in this?
Wildebeest Rutting Season
This time of the year is when the males compete for the attention of the females – they have been known to fight until death!
This morning, however, hunger wins and they go back to grazing. So do we.
When we made our choices last night for the breakfast box, Chris crossed everything out on the menu except the muffin. That was all he wanted for breakfast – a muffin. Fair enough. Imagine his disappointment when he opens his box this morning, and finds everything in there, EXCEPT the muffin!
All around us is the hum of the wildebeest.
It is very much cooler this morning than any previous days.
Although Malisa doesn’t seem to feel it as he wears his Rasta Lion T shirt and motorcycle-tyre sandals.
Grey Crowned Cranes
We go back to see our lions, who have their eye on another wildebeest.
They do some more half-hearted stalking, but they are obviously not that hungry.
The vultures hover expectantly above, but this time they are out of luck.
As we're driving along, David shouts out "Oh, look: wildebeest". We all fall for it, sitting bolt upright and looking for... wildebeest? Even Malisa stops. Doh... for the last hour or so, we have been surrounded by several thousand wildebeest - they are not exactly a novelty!
My tummy is not at all happy today, and when I let Malisa know, he suggests going back to the camp to use their facilities, as we are very near anyway. That sounds good to me – not just because there is a proper toilet, but it will also be nice to see the camp in daylight.
Today we can see just how close to our room the buffalo do graze. Gulp.
The camp is totally devoid of human life, but we do see a few four legged critters.
Emergency over, we continue our game drive, this time we head south.
One male can have a harem of up to 60 females.
Black Faced Vervet Monkeys
A couple of hippos wallow in the shallow Orangi River.
We hit the main road through Serengeti; and while there is not much traffic compared with the main dry season, the huge trucks still throw up masses of dust!
You can only just see the top of their backs in the long grass; which is exactly why they run with their tails straight up - so that their youngsters can see them!
African Fish Eagle
Bare Faced Go Away Bird
These noise birds get their name from the sound they make when disturbed: “kweh” “kweh”, which does sound a bit like “go way”.
Until this trip, we had never seen a snake in Tanzania, and it is one of the items on my wish list. Not only did we see a cobra in Tarangire, and a grass snake crossing the road earlier this morning; a couple of cars stopped with people staring at a tree alerts us to an enormous python.
At around two metres in length, this brute can swallow an antelope!
Black Chested Snake Eagle
Little Bee Eater
Black Headed Heron
This wild African cat is about half way in size between a domestic cat and a cheetah and it’s a fairly rare sighting. Lyn and Chris have been so incredibly lucky with their animal spotting on this safari, although we still haven’t seen a leopard to complete the BIG FIVE.
End of Part I
As today features quite a few more sightings, I have decided to publish it in two parts; so all that remains now is to say thank you to Calabash Adventures and Malisa for an exciting morning’s game drive.