Serengeti: Cue the Cats!

IMG_6318So, our last post ended in the early afternoon of Day 4 of our 5-day Serengeti stint with this lioness carrying off a warthog she had just killed. Up to that point, we had seen lots of cats, but we just didn’t have any encounters that produced the great photos we hoped for. It seemed that our South African-induced “Curse of the Cat” was going to haunt us for our entire time in Tanzania, too.

But, just as we were headed back to camp that day, we witnessed the scene above, and suddenly things changed. It was if some offstage director in charge of the comings and goings of wildlife in the Serengeti yelled: “Cue the cats!” That’s right, our luck had finally changed. For our last 24 hours in the Serengeti, we saw cats everywhere.

Just after heading out again that afternoon, we ran into this large male and three lionesses hunting a small herd of gazelles.

Click to enlarge photos and view as a slideshow.

After a failed ambush, the gazelles retreated, and the lions laid low. But the tiny gazelles could barely see above the tall grasses. After waiting a few minutes, they must have figured that the lions were gone, because they literally walked smack dab into the waiting cats. The lionesses pounced on the lead gazelle, and he was dead in a flash. Of course, the male lion claimed the prize for himself and hauled him away to the shade of a nearby tree. The lionesses made no attempt to follow, opting to rest beside the road instead. Saving up energy for the next hunt must be preferable to begging for scraps. Life is so unfair…

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Later on, we encountered one of the same lionesses roaming on her own. It was easy for us to recognize her with such a distinguished battle wound on her nose. We wondered what animal might have caused such a scar—a true reminder that it’s not always easy being queen.

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Just before sunset, we came across another pride of lions, sleeping in the grass. For the most part, the group of 10-14 lionesses and juvenile cubs were spread out and laying low, so it was hard for us to get an accurate count of just how many there were. A pair of lions suddenly poked their heads up, alerting us to a lioness approaching. Their keen interest in her return made us wonder about the solo lioness and her status in the pride.

There was a small pond 50 meters or so from where the pride was sleeping. A reedbuck wandered up for a drink of water and caught wind of the lions. He repeatedly let out loud danger calls, but the lions seemed indifferent to his warnings. This stand-off continued for several minutes, when, suddenly, every single one of the lions jumped to attention.

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They had their backs to us, but just imagine how that reedbuck must have felt when he saw a dozen or so lions staring him down. Lucky for him, the lions decided he wasn’t worth the effort and laid back down to continue their siesta.

On our drive out of the park the next morning, we found another leopard in a yellow fever tree. This one was hanging out high in the canopy at least 30 meters in the air, and he seemed somewhat bothered by our presence. On closer inspection, we understood why. He had a fresh kill stashed up in the tree, and these elusive cats prefer dining alone. The leopard must have had his fill for the time being—just look at that belly!

Our final day in the Serengeti just kept getting better. We ran into another pair of cheetahs and a male lion on the move, but the best cat sighting of all was our last—mating lions! Perhaps it’s best to let this short video and the pictures do the talking growling here…

Geez, Louise! That gives whole new meaning to the notion of sweet nothings being whispered in your ear, doesn’t it?

By the time our visit to the Serengeti was all said and done, we were almost begging Mansour to make it stop. All those cat encounters and the excitement of photographing them were exhausting. Of course, there is a lot more to see in the Serengeti besides cats, and we had discovered that Mansour was dealing with a curse of his own. Stay tuned for more…

12 thoughts on “Serengeti: Cue the Cats!

    1. Thank you! You can tell by the audio in the clip that we were really excited. We have spent a lot of time on safari, but it was the first time we had ever seen something like that. We felt super lucky!

  1. I saw two gorillas do that at the zoo this summer. Before they did the deed, the female threw her hands up and backed away as much as she could. It was hysterical!

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