We finally 'bag' the BIG FIVE
05.11.2018 - 05.11.2018
Mawe Meupe Picnic Site
As we are getting the food out of the car and start setting the table, I ask Malisa what all those cars are gathered around at the bottom of the hill.
“Oh it's a lion” he says nonchalantly. Really? And we are getting out of the car and sitting at a picnic table? And even worse, actually walking down to the toilets, which are even nearer to the lions? Yeah, right.
And he's coming this way....
We also see more lions in the distance, under a tree. Malisa assures us it is perfectly safe, to have our picnic here, so we've got to trust him. We are not alone by any stretch of the imagination, so maybe it is safety in numbers.
Mawe Meupe is one of the more commercialised picnic sites in Serengeti, with a decent toilet block and a food truck selling snacks and drinks. As we are running low on Diet Coke to go with the Duty Free rum, we saunter over to take a look at what they are selling.
Expecting there to be full-fat Coke and Fanta only, imagine our surprise when we discover they not only have cold Diet Coke; but there is also Savanna Cider for sale, much to David's delight. Result!
This is just too surreal at a picnic site in the wilds of Africa.
The birdlife on this site is usually very good, although there are fewer birds here today than we've seen on previous visits.
Speckled Fronted Weaver
White Headed Buffalo Weaver
As a bit of an afterthought at the last minute (encouraged by David), I packed my Infrared Camera for this trip, not really expecting to use it very much. I was wrong. I have been having a lot of fun, although it has also been a very steep learning curve, both in the field when photographing, and during the post processing afterwards. Here is a small selection of the images I have taken so far:
Moving on, we go and see the lions we spotted from the picnic site. One female is resting in the shade of a tree, her belly replete from a recent feast.
This is where we were a few minutes ago, as seen from the lions' perspective.
Under another tree lies the male with the leftovers of breakfast. Most likely the females did the kill and the male came along and just took it from them. Charming.
Two more females can be seen under another tree.
If you look very closely, you can see a large male lion hiding inside this bush. OK, so this is perhaps not our best lion sighting...
I am not even sure this Coqui Francolin has spotted the lion hiding in the thicket right behind him.
Yellow Throated Longclaw
This, however, is an excellent sighting: a lifer and a colourful one at that.
A herd of Tommies are heading directly for the lions.
A few tense moments for the safari-goers before some tense moments for the antelopes as they discover the predators and make a run for it.
In the distance we see fresh, green grass, which is unusual for this time of year. We are now right at the end of the dry season, which means after months of no rain, the vegetation mostly consists of dead, brown straws, made even more dull by a covering of dust. This bit of fresh pasture is the result of deliberate burning to encourage new growth.
Topi with a bad leg
Walking with a limp renders this antelope an easy prey for any of the cats or even a hyena. He's just waiting to be lunch.
White Bellied Bustard
We spook a cackle of hyenas resting in a bush close to the road.
After the initial alarm, they hang around for a bit.
Hyenas are born black, and develop their tell-tale spots at around two weeks old. The darker the spots, the younger the pups.
Lazing under a tree in the midday sun. Only mad dogs and Englishmen and all that...
Although not part of the Great Migration as such, these Tommy do follow the rain in a similar manner.
A substantial collection of vehicles ahead indicates there must be something of some great importance around. Everyone is looking at a tree, and Malisa assures me there is a leopard in there. Really? I point Big Bertha at the place where the leopard is said to be, but it is challenging to make it out, even with my 600mm lens.
Oh, wait, I think I can spot some rosettes in amongst the foliage when I zoom in.
Malisa moves the car a bit to get a better view.
So does the leopard, apparently spooked higher and higher into the tree by the vehicles below. This is the ugly face of safari tourism in Africa.
Wishing some of the other tourists would show some consideration for the wildlife by at least keeping noise to a minimum; we let the leopard be and move on to have our lunch picnic.
I am very grateful that Calabash Adventures's excellent ethics are shown through all the veneers of the company, from the owner to the drivers: RESPECT NATURE. This is one of the many reasons we choose Calabash again and again for our safaris in Tanzania.