The saga continues....
After we left the manor that morning we headed towards the Serengeti but first stopping in Ndutu.
I put red boxes around points of interest to give you guys a better idea about what I'm talking about. This is northern Tanzania. Kenya is the country on the north side.
On the way to Ndutu we passed by the Maasai people who were moved from the Serengeti to the rim and side of the crater. After the Serengeti became a national park they were forced to move and the govt settled them in the Ngorongoro crater area. At first they were bitter but they quickly realized the grass was plentiful and the predators minimal so they're actually happy to live there these days.
Typical Maasai village
Might be hard to see but the Maasai put up clothes on sticks going from the road all the way to the mountains. It's supposed to prevent the buffalo from grazing in the same areas that their cattle graze in. It didn't seem to be too effective...
This is a migration map of the animals. I went in early February during calving season so the migration should have been in the Ndutu/Southern Serengeti region. As it turned out, the short rains that occur in Oct/Nov were basically non-existent and this left the whole southern region incredibly dry. The migration remained in the center of the Serengeti and most animals who migrated south quickly went north. Ndutu was a dust bowl. But even so it offered some amazing sighting opportunities...
One of the first things we saw were vultures attacking this Antelope carcass. There must have been about 25 of them at the time and most had already eaten and were just hanging out. The others were still fighting aggressively for the scraps.
Cheetahs! Super cool and exciting to see these cats even if they were just lazing about. We felt very lucky to see them this early on though we weren't TOO surprised since Ndutu is prime cheetah territory (it's flat and open). This was a mother Cheetah with her two older cubs. You can identify a cheetah (vs say, a leopard) by its spots and the black teardrop lines from the eyes.
The great thing about Ndutu versus the national parks and conversations areas is that you can just drive right up to the animals where you would normally be restricted to staying on the road in the parks.
We stopped for lunch by a tree and our guide picked out this lioness lying on the ground a few hundred feet away (apparently it's perfectly normal to eat lunch in lion territory) So after we ate we drove up and took a closer look. We couldn't help but notice how big her stomach was and those black spots on her face? Those are flies. Likely loving that blood all over her face. Well that got us excited. If she just ate maybe there's something else around. So we started looking around...
An absolute beautiful lioness was a bit further away! We quickly approached her to check out what she was doing since she seemed to be running away from the rest of the lions. Could she be looking for the kill from the other lion??
Yup she was! She led us straight to the carcass. We guessed that the original lioness we saw earlier on was the one who killed the animal since she was the largest of them all and all alone.
This new lion started eating the carcass but then she stopped eating and started to move it.
She started to drag the wildebeest all the way back to the other lions who were sitting and waiting. And just in time, as the vultures were just starting to get confident and taking bites out of the animal.
All the other females were eagerly waiting for her to return with the food
The struggle to bring back the wildebeest continued for a bit. Could use a bit of help?
There we go! Teamwork! One on the neck, one on the leg. Now lift!
At last the animal was brought back and everyone got to share. We got insanely close to them while they were eating. I was able to hear the wildebeest's bones breaking as they dug further into the carcass. It was amazing to see in person though also quite humbling to be able to witness these beasts devour their prey.
Well beasts or not, they still are playful animals and seem to love reminding everyone of that. Watching them for an extended period of time roll over, mess around, you just get the feeling they're huge house cats and that if house cats were any larger they would probably just eat us.
As we drove on we came upon a lioness and her nursing cubs. They were incredibly young, probably just a few weeks old and they were all lying together cuddled up. Unfortunately there were leaves in the way so it's not the best shot but we were once again incredibly lucky to get to see them. Our guide told us he had never seen such young cubs before and a mother would typically nurse deep in the trees rather as openly as we saw it.
When we finally arrived at our lodging, Serengeti Pioneer Camp, my wife snapped this picture from the main hangout area. It was good to have a base camp and we were excited for what the next 3 days in the Serengeti would bring