17 February 2017, Day 30, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
This morning we leave early, at 6:30 a.m., for a morning drive. We will return to the Simba Serengeti for lunch. Today we are with Mohanga. He bids us put on our seat belts for the ride through the village. One of his colleagues hit a bump yesterday and threw one of his passengers to the floor.
Even before we reach the park, the vehicle ahead of us finds a leopard with three cubs. By the time we show up, the cubs have scuttled away, but we see the female erupt from behind her bush and bound off into the distance, the white end of her tail flicking as she runs.
Simon does the paperwork, and both vehicles enter the park. There are animals near the gate, and then a long bare stretch before we see animals again. Impala are running and leaping seemingly in fun. A silver-backed jackal crosses the road and runs away.
We see a pair of dik dik, herds of wildebeest and zebras and gazelles, a male and female lion in the distance. It’s clearly mating time for lions. The male breaks off with one female and they are together for a week, mating often, before they rejoin the pride.
We pass a dead zebra. Here there are many vultures and a couple of marabou storks, but no predator in sight.
We stop for tea and coffee, then continue on our way. On one side of the road the grass is short and green; on the other it is longer and brown. Park rangers set controlled burns in the park before the rains; the long grass is burned off, making room for the new green. Next year they will burn on the opposite side of the road.
We find a cheetah walking through the grass, quite close to us. The guides again speculate that perhaps this one is not too healthy, as it is quite thin and walks rather than running.
There is another lioness in the shade. It is clear that she is wearing a collar. A group of elephants appears on our left. The adults are crowded in the shade of a tree, with a small baby in the center for protection.
At water again, marabou storks line the banks and sit atop the trees, while reed bucks graze near the pool.
We head back to our lodge for lunch. On the way we see two large groups of topi antelope, the blue-jeans ones. I ask Mohanga if, each day that we have been there, are there more animals in the park? ”Yes,” he says. They know the rain is coming, so all are gathering in the central area, ready to get on with their migration north to Kenya, although they may not make it.
Mohanga told us earlier that when the rains begin the wildebeest will drop their babies by the hundreds, and the zebras will also accelerate their birth rates. We have seen baby wildebeest in the dozens, but imagine … hundreds.
This helps the migration in this way. The animals drop their babies. In just a few minutes the babies are ready to move. The animals leave their placentas behind for the hyenas and jackals and vultures. So no worries about the hyenas, who do hunt a well as scavenging.
We surprise a pair of bat-eared foxes as we travel between the village and the lodge. These are nocturnal animals. They scamper away quickly. Examining the site, we surmise the hole we see is their burrow.
It is raining to the east again as we head up the hill to Simba Serengeti. Lunch is good, a welcome change after box lunches. We have free time until 5:30 p.m. I head up to the lounge to type and play with pictures. About 5 p.m. the wind picks up and the clouds lower. Rain is coming. The rains are coming.