Making our way across the savannah, I am surprised to see how dry the grass is already considering we are still in the wet season, albeit towards the end.
Parched from the hot sun, the surface of the earth has cracked, forming a thin crust easily disturbed by passing animals.
With the gentle movement of the car, the warm sun and the number of tablets I am taking for my chest infection; I go into a deep sleep. Only when the car slows to a standstill nearly an hour later, do I wake up.
Our reason for stopping soon becomes obvious.
On a nearby rock, another lioness is sunning herself.
While we are busy photographing the cats, my Facebook friend Jim and his family / friends turn up. Serengeti is a large place, so the chances of seeing him here today is very small. We have already seen them once in Ndutu. It really is a small world.
Bored with sunbathing, the lioness jumps down and takes a stroll in morning heat.
The Red Headed Rock Agama doesn't seem the least bit bothered about a lioness walking past his rock.
Nor does the Black Backed Jackal.
Resting peacefully in the shade of a tree, two 'Rasta Lions' momentarily sit up, barely opening their eyes to check us out, then lie down to sleep again. Oh, it is such a hard life to be a lion here.
This picture shows the difference between the Superb and the Hildebrand Starlings.
The Superb in the foreground has a white band on his chest and a white eye; whereas the Hildebrand (singing his little heart out) has no marking between the orange and blue, and the eye is black.
This guy has obviously lost a horn while fighting for a female. I hope she was worth it!
A very similar antelope to the topi, but as you can see, the colouring is not the same (the topi has very dark markings on the head and legs), and the horns are different shapes.
The name 'Serengeti' comes from a local Maa word 'sirenget' (the language spoken by the Maasai tribe) meaning 'endless plains'. Driving for what seems like an eternity (in reality probably no more than around half an hour) across the flat, parched landscape, seemingly devoid of all life, I can certainly see that the name is very fitting.
Arriving at a series of waterholes known as Research Ponds, we stay for a while to watch the goings on at the water's edge. Although initially appearing somewhat uninspiring, with just a couple of buffalo and some Grant's gazelle grazing in the background, this place proves to be rather fruitful in terms of animal sightings and interactions.
A dazzle of zebra (other collective nouns for zebra include zeal and cohort) make their way to the ponds.
More and more animals arrive as we sit by the ponds in the oppressive midday heat.
It's like Happy Hour at our local bar!
Additional animals are constantly appearing, their hooves throwing up clouds of dust that hang heavily in the hot air.
The zebra, like the buffalo before them, immerse themselves in the still water, drinking, bathing and cooling down.
On the horizon a herd of eland nervously make their way towards the waterhole. Normally extremely shy (as a result of being endlessly hunted for their delicious meat), we wonder if – or more likely when – they will start running in the opposite direction.
So far so good as they cautiously move nearer and nearer the water.
I am so excited to see them drinking – this is definitely a first for us!
The other elands are looking at us apprehensively, as they consider whether it is safe enough to quench that thirst.
The zebra, on the other hand, do not seem to have a worry in the world.
Another eland has braved it to the water's edge.
But will he drink?
Yes, he will. They are getting very brave now.
The zebra look on with amazement (or is that my overactive imagination again?) as a band on mongooses make their way down to the water for a drink.
They are loving the water, rolling around in the mud at the shoreline.
From a quiet waterhole with just a couple of sleepy buffalo, the place has now come alive with activity and several different animal species. This is awesome!
There is even a couple of amorous Egyptian Geese on the water.
Having all these newcomers disturbing his hitherto peaceful morning siesta, Mr Buffalo gets up and moves on to pastures new.
He looks thoroughly pissed off.
The mongoose have had enough too.
Even the zebra are on the move.
I have never noticed before that zebras vary so much in colouration. Look at how dark the one on the left is compared to the zebra behind him.
Just as we decide to leave, a European White Stork arrives. They are not native to the African continent (the clue is in the name), rather a migrant. A bit like us then.
Another stork arrives, much to the bemusement of the eland.
The moment Malisa starts the car engine, the shy elands scatter. As expected. I am surprised they stayed this long.
As we travel towards Ogol Kopjes, we see a few animals on our way.
A spotted hyena who barely raises his head from the puddle he was sleeping in when we pass.
Common Praticole - a nice little lifer (a new bird species for us)!
Another lifer, the European Roller. This one has been on my wish list for a while now, so I am particularly excited to see him. Or her. I really can't ell from this distance.
A couple of topi on a mound looking out for predators.
A cute little zebra foal, grazing with his mummy.
And some eland - running away from us of course.
Eland are pretty huge animals (around the size of an average horse), and create quite a considerable amount of dust as they gallop across the dry savannah.
We leave Ogol Kopjes behind and search for some shade for our lunch picnic.
Be sure to check out my next blog entry for the rest of this afternoon's safari experiences with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operator by far.