At Ndutu, we head out on our game drives each day at dawn to catch the early animals. This area is unique for game drives because our guides are allowed to drive off road so we can go whereever the action is. This makes Ndutu a favorite safari site. And the sunrise doesn’t let us down, either.
We are in luck! We immediately find two cheetah brothers in the savanna.
They are magnificent creatures.
And it’s amazing how they can disappear into the grass.
After our cheetah adventure, our five safari cars get together for breakfast on the plains, with “Uji” , Swahili for hot cereal. This is a finger millett-honey-nut hot cereal brought with coffee, tea, breads, etc. Very good and fun out in the open.
Continuing on, we pass a Maasai giraffe stretching out, eating leaves on a tree. There are three types of giraffe and we’ll get to see them all. The Maasai has irregular splotches, looking somewhat like rosettes.
We see some amazing birds in the tall grass:
Kori Bustards amid impala. This may be the heaviest bird capable of flight. They usually feed on insects, lizards and snakes.
A giant Secretary bird is a unique shape with an eagle-like body on crane-like legs. It spends much of its time walking in the grasslands hunting insects, small mammals, lizards and snakes.
A Lilac-breasted roller is perched on a post. This is a vibrant bird, said to have over 20 colors on its body. They typically sit on a tall stick or dead tree, looking for insects or other small prey on the ground.
In a tree, we see a beautiful black-chested snake eagle, also watching for breakfast.
We find a beautiful augur buzzard,
And one of the must vital birds on the plains, the vulture. This Nubian vulture isn’t pretty but it serves an important function. Like all vultures, It cleans the carrion. It’s nature’s housekeeper. Vulture’s have heads without feathers so they don’t contaminate themselves when eating the rotting meat.
After breakfast each safari truck takes off in different directions. We come across an old Cape Buffalo resting in the shade under a tree. He is alone, which probably means he was expelled from the herd because he was too old.
A little farther we find a maternal lion pride. At least 5 mature adults, several younger females and 5 cubs- 20 in all.
When we first found them they were relaxing in the grass, grooming each other. Suddenly the lead female went into a “point” position and our driver said she mauy be getting a scent from the direction of the buffalo.
The lead lion stands and snarls and looks in the direction of the buffalo.
This is amazing. She is assembling the troops! The other adults get up, face the same direction and begin licking their chops.
The matriarch begins leading the pride across the plane. We follow, off to the side.
The lioness takes a hunting pose as she continues forward.
As she begins her run in the buffalo stands. The lead lioness attacks, grabbing the buffalo’s back.
She leaps on his back and is joined by the others.
The lions have him trapped.
The pride continues to chew and bite the buffalo while one lion goes nose to nose with him. Its amost like she is checking if he is going to fight or give up.
This is not a quick process. The lions continue to fight the buffalo but must stay clear of his horns.
After almost two hours, one lion finally is able to grab a shoulder and bring the buffalo down on his side.
Once prone, an adult covers his nose with its mouth. Thank heavens it is finally over.
They make quick work of the carcass. By the end of the day this was all that was left.
This was very hard to watch. The lions and their cubs were hungry. The old buffalo had been forced out of his herd so his days were numbered. However, the kill was difficult to witness. More because it was not quick and over. The buffalo would not give up so he was attacked for about two hours before he finally gave up and they could kill him. Life–and death–in the wild.
The kill also draws other animals who benefit from the lion’s efforts. Jackyls hide in the savanna until they can sneak in when the lions leave.
On the way back to the lodge we came across another pride with male and female lions not too far from the kill. They obviously had no idea of the feast they missed just over the hill.
As we end our day, we end on a more gentle note. We crossed paths with an elephant herd with a nursing calf about a year old.