Friday, July 25, 2008

Africa #8: Central Serengeti

Look Behind You!

Today, we started off with a three hour drive eastwards towards our next stop, the central Serengeti. On the way though we were quite surprised to be chased by a Cape buffalo that thought we unfairly disturbed his mud bath by stopping to take pictures. Despite their bulk, those things can be quite quick once really ticked-off, and certainly a match over the first few yards for a ponderous diesel Land Cruiser caught in the wrong gear. However, 100 years of internal combustion engine development won out and we escaped unscathed.

Today was also the day we caught sight of our first cheetah. Alas, by the time we got there it had gone to ground, lying down in some long grass about 50 yards away. We stayed and waited for a while but ultimately gave up and decided to move on, stumbling over a price of lions instead!

This all came about as we headed off-road a distance to reach a small wooded area close to some water where the guide thought there might be game to be found. And he was right, there was, but we didn’t actually find it ourselves. Instead, and this turned out to be a pattern we repeated many times, we saw a couple of vehicles already stopped in the long grass watching something off ot the side. This was the cheetah, and they had first seen it crossing the open space just ahead of them. Said cheetah decided to hide here for a while until we all just gave up and went away, but as we started-up our vehicle to move on he/she got up and loped further into cover. We decided to go around the end of this area to see if we could find her again, only to stumble across the aforementioned lions. They seemed to care very little that we were there, other than to note that the noise of the engine seemed to be keeping a couple of them awake. Tch, neighbours, eh?

Next stop was the Hippo Pool, so called because , well, it was a pool full of hippos. Never knew quite how noisy those things were, or how smelly. However, let me try an analogy: imagine a small body of water that, year round, is the primary resting place of very large creatures who eat nothing but vast amounts of vegetation which, let’s face it, has to end up somewhere. Let's further pretend that they will spend most of their waking hours wallowing around in said pool while it all, err, matures. Oh, and imagine too that this is all somewhere hot where there’s no flow to the water and 30 of the world’s most virulent diseases can be found, doubtless all transmitted by the sorts of insects that love a dirty, swampy place with lots of ordure and big tasty animals to feed upon. Yup, that’s a hippo pool.

Time to head off to the hotel, but on the way we again saw a small group of LCs caucused by the side of the road, and by now you all know what that means: something’s afoot …. apaw? In the far distance you could just about make out a set of four legs hanging over a branch high-up in a large tree. With binoculars you could see that it was a leopard and that it was happily having a siesta up there basking in the late afternoon sun. Tried a few shots but even with a 400 mm lens plus a 1.4x converter the end result was a bit small and not at all sharp. Bummer. Still, something to now aspire to finding again somewhere on the rest of the trip, but preferably a lot closer to the road.

No comments: