Where we stayed at Lake Victoria was very close to the west entrance to the Serengeti, so we were quickly in the park on Friday morning. The initial area that we drove through had had some controlled burning as park of creating fire breaks, so it wasn’t particularly picturesque for the first part of the drive. The landscape was open plains dotted with acacia and other trees here and there, often with animals huddled beneath them in the little shade that was provided.
Once we were a bit further into the park, we went to an area where lions have often been spotted and came across a female and male, some distance away from each other. The female had picked a shady spot under a single small tree, and she was massive, so much so that with her large belly I wondered if she had either recently gorged herself on meat, or if perhaps she was pregnant and soon to give birth, since she as alone. Females leave the pride when they are about to give birth, chosing a den site and waiting about six weeks to introduce cubs to the pride. She wasn’t in an area with an obvious den, but there could have been one nearby.
A short drive away we came across a large single male, and admired him for a while. I noticed a large claw protruding on one of his claws, but didn’t realize something was wrong with it until he got up and was really limping when he put weight on it. Looking closer at photos it seems that the claw has been pulled out far enough that it’s sticking into one of the pads of his paw, which looks infected. Not sure what happened to him, but we left him alone to hopefully be able to heal.
A bit further we came across the largest and stinkiest group of hippos up to that point, with them soaking in their own filthy stew of waste. Clearly one of the hippos defense mechanisms is their smell, because holy hell it’s bad. A bit further upstream there were a bunch of crocodiles, some on the sandy shore, others in the water, and a few hippos nearby. We took a quick break at a local airfield, which always makes me happy, the combination of aviation in this landscape is really quite magical. Back out on the plain, we soon saw another lion, this one a single female, who had to weave through other safari vehicles to get across the road to where she was headed. None of the vehicles were near her original position, she just decided to come through, and thankfully we were a little ways back and weren’t blocking her path. Shortly after seeing her, we saw a single young lion cub, probably about 9-10 months old, and I had to wonder if the little guy was hers.
Close to there was our next stop, and what would become the completion of seeing the “Big Five” for me: a leopard in a tree. It was a little ways off the road, so it was another “full zoom” photo, with the leopard tail and part of the body visible, as it was faced away from us. Quite thrilling to finally see one, as they are so illusive. Definitely not the social cat type like the lion.
We got to our camp in the early evening, which was an upgrade from where we were originally scheduled to stay, as that place was overbooked. As fate would have it, this turned out to be a very lovely surprise, as it was lovely, and the luxury tents… well, it was like stepping into a bit of history, but with all the modern comforts. Just beautifully done, with antique style furnishings, and a luxury safari feel. It’s as though someone read my mind when designing it. Definitely my favorite place from the safari part of the trip. The camp site sat on a hill with a view over the plains, with the tents scattered over the hillside, with good separation between. Dinner was exquisite, with a beautifully set table and delicious food. One of several highlights of the trip, for sure. During the night I could hear the sounds of hyena, lion, elephant, and others. And the stars — just incredible.
I think the first night here is when it really hit me where I was, and how incredible it was to be sleeping in the middle of the Serengeti with the sounds of wildlife all around, nature’s perfect lullaby. I’ll never forget it.