Day 4 is broken up into three parts.
We opted for a 6:15 departure in an effort to complete our Big 5 adventure. L&M were leaving later today, so this was our last game drive together. We, of course, stayed out an extra hour longer than we should have to see things, but they still made their plane.
On our way toward the park gates we watched two hot air balloons inflate and take off - quite a beautiful sight! One was the balloon D, L, and M had taken on Day 2, so they got a new vantage point. Farther down the road we spotted a clan of hyenas running on the road in front of us. There were 5-6; it was hard to tell once they took off into the grass. Joseph was worried they had been scavenging at a poaching site overnight, but we never did hear anything terrible, thankfully.
As soon as we entered the park gates we headed for the riverine forest area where, Joseph said, 90% of his leopard sightings occur. We were feeling good about that number until he admitted he hadn't seen a leopard in a month. We weren't deterred, though, and all five us were dead silent with our eyes keenly scanning the ground, trees, and savannah at once, hoping for a mighty leopard spotting. The old safari adage admonishes that the only time you see a leopard is when you're not expecting one. But we'd tried three solid days of pretending we weren't looking for leopards, and it had resulted in diddly squat. So we abandoned all pretenses and looked for leopards.
At one point, while I was taking a photo of a skull in a tree on the river bank, D&L swore they heard a roar. We searched all around the area but saw nothing. This moment becomes important later on, in part 3 of Day 4, so stay tuned and keep that in mind.
We looked and looked and looked and hoped until our eyes hurt, and then we moved on. We saw many ungulates enjoying their morning graze, including three baby giraffes who had clearly been told by their moms to stay in one place. One of them still had an attached umbilical cord. I have the photo below, but the cord isn't easily visible. Joseph said he was probably just a couple weeks old.
Several hippos were slowly making their way back to water, the waterbuck were out in full force, and we saw more warthogs than I can even count. It was a gorgeous morning, and there was lots to see, but we had really been hoping for a leopard.
Joseph wanted to find at least one cat before we headed back in, so we set off in search of lion. We stopped so L&M could use a bush toilet, and Joseph scanned the horizon with his binoculars. "Lions," he said calmly, pointing in the distance. L&M didn't see the point, so they hurriedly got back in the vehicle, and off we went. I saw the spots where Joseph was pointing, but I doubt I would have identified them as lions and not rocks.
We were the only ones to see them, apparently, and we drove up the side of the escarpment to get closer. There they were, a male and female pair, and almost as soon as we arrived they mated. We're pretty sure they were the first pair of mating lions I saw on Day 2. Afterward they spent a few minutes getting comfortable among the rocks. The light was spectacular, as was our viewing angle, so I took a lot of photos of this. The male lion had been in some sort of fight; he was bruised and bloody and cut up. Nothing life-threatening, probably having to do with mating, but since he had a partner I assume he may have won, at least that round.
After a while the lions go up and looked like they were going to mate again. But, instead of doing so on the rocky outcrop, they walked down to within feet of our vehicle and did it there, treating us to a true close up. Another vehicle drove up just as they finished. So funny. Exhibitionists, they are. I still don't believe Joseph that this is truly a rare thing to see - I saw three couples and eight copulations in five days.
By now we were well and truly late, so we did head back to the lodge, passing a few jackals on our way. We had a lovely breakfast and a sad goodbye with L&M. I then headed for a rest while Danette headed for a hike. We met back up a little while later at the Olonana Maasai Village, which will comprise part 2 of Day 4.
|Balloons taking off.|
|Not a morning person.|
|Beautiful sunrise on the savannah|
|Skull in tree on river bank. Roar. Remember this photo for Day 4, Part 3.|
|Lovely mama waterbuck.|
|Hippo and warthogs.|
|Baby giraffe. The umbilical cord (hanging by front legs) is obscured by the foliage.|
|This zebra used the dead tree branches to scratch herself. With her oxpecker on her back it was a spa morning!|
|Joseph saw these lions from well over a kilometer away. They could easily have been rocks!|
|See all the cuts on his face?|
|Love the paws in the air pose.|
|Whatcha looking at? (Buffalo)|
|Sleepy guy. See the blood on his mane.|
|And this is them deciding to mate next to our vehicle|
|Another stunning landscape view|
|Jackal sitting pretty|