Tuesday, 6/3. Serengeti Nat’l Forest.
An amazing sighting: mother leopard, apparently in the process of weaning her baby. They walk together at first and then as several safari jeeps congregate the mother deliberately creates distance from the baby. She’s preparing it for independence. Birds in the trees squawk and cry out their warnings of the leopard. At one point, we’re extremely close to the baby leopard, which upsets Tanya and Kelly. They’re sure the baby is crying.
Later, en route to Ngorongoro crater, we see a lioness stalking prey. She’s slow, methodical, her muscles tensed. The thick grass masks her from the Thomson’s gazelle. There’s amazing gracefulness in her approach but when she’s ready to pounce the gazelle takes flight. The lioness doesn’t even bother to chase; she knows the gazelle will outrun her.
We’re not the only ones observing the near-kill. Once a jeep stops, it seems every other jeep will gather around, jockeying for a better view. You’ll see six, seven, eight at a time — like hordes of paparazzi surrounding Britney or Brangelina. I’ve been wondering why, in such warm weather, Godwin wears a leather jacket each day in the jeep. It’s the Tsetse flies. Leather is one of the few materials they can’t penetrate.
Amazing birds everywhere. Unlike America’s comparatively bland robins or sparrows, the birds of Africa are flamboyant, outrageously vivid in their rich colors. Neon blues and greens. Chartreuse and flame-red. Crazy-beautiful. The Fischer’s Lovebird is a small, exquisite parrot: golden neck, bright-red beak, green chest and tail feathers.
Godwin surprises me. Frequently, when the jeep is at rest and we trekkers are absorbed with the animals, he asks me to hand him my journal. In an elegant hand, he writes details, academic descriptions. Cheetahs, he writes aren’t truly cats. They’re diurnal whereas cats are nocturnal. They have fixed claws while a cat’s are retractable.
At our campsite that night, a cadre of Dutch tourists have colonized nearby: three huge vehicles with U-haul trailers/cabooses, on top of which they pitch tents. It takes them forever to establish their beachhead. At night they build a bonfire and sit around it with laptops and cell phones. A nature experience!