We ran our typical early morning schedule, waking up at 5:30 and getting in the car at 6. The morning started off with a pair of lionesses and their five cubs snacking on an unlucky wildebeest. Zach had fun people watching one of the other cars which was full of photographers with enormous camera lenses.
We encountered an enormous herd of wildebeest far from the river before heading out to an area where the rangers had done a lot of controlled burning. It looked like a couple acres of plains had been burned to an ashy crisp; this did make it really easy to spot a lion and lioness who were wrapping up their honeymoon. We waited fifteen minutes to see if they might have a go at it again and then we posted up further away to eat breakfast.
The boxed breakfasts and lunches are so much food. We had omelette, crepes, croissants, pineapple, mango, watermelon, tea, coffee, and milk. Way too much food to try and eat when all you’ve been doing is sitting and standing in a land cruiser for hours every day.
We drove around the burned plains and discovered an injured male cheetah whose special parts had been scratched up and exposed (likely by hyenas or a lion). It was really sad to see the cheetah lying on its side in a shallow depression on the ground, hiding from other predators, looking very starved and skinny. He licked his balls tenderly and eventually got the energy to stand up and walk over to a tree, but the conclusion was that he didn’t look like he was going to last more than weeks or days depending on if he could get any food. I was pretty bummed about the cheetah; on the one hand Mother Nature has to run its course, but on the other I wished that there was a zoo or animal biologist who could come rescue the cheetah and help him recover (or at least put him out of his misery).
The road we got back onto eventually took us to the Kenya-Tanzania border, where Zach and I hopped out of the car just for a minute to take a few steps on Kenyan soil. (We’ll also be flying through the Nairobi airport, which will give us two “stops” in Kenya technically.)
The rest of the day we tried to catch a wildebeest crossing. We drove up to see just the tail end of one happening; maybe fifty animals were remaining and had started the hurry across the water, not wanting to be left behind. One lone zebra picked up the tail and then they were done. The sun was starting to beam down on us so we found a spot shaded by a tree to post up for lunch and wildebeest monitoring. Unfortunately being in the wooded area also meant that another consistent flow of tsetse flies continued to visit our car, mostly pestering me every few minutes as I attempted to swat them away and not get bitten.
We watched for over an hour, but all of the animals were just kidding about crossing, as they came down to the water’s edge just for a sip before scrambling back up. I was relieved when we all decided to call it quits for river crossing monitoring for the day, solely because I was getting rather paranoid about the tsetse flies.
Later on we drove around to see other animals in the area. When we were watching a small herd of elephants eat next to a gully, I thought about just how evolved humans are that we have countless ways to physically eat food, to get the food to our mouths. Our mouths are on our heads, but we have hands that are always capable of bringing the food to our mouths, and on top of that we have an endless set of utensils at our disposal. So many four legged animals can only use their mouths and necks, craning their heads close to the plant they want to eat. Elephants have long trunks which help pull off plant material for munching on, but even that feels laborious when you think about it. Evolution is pretty incredible.
We wrapped the day’s drive heading to where there was a leopard, but the cat just lied on its side the entire time we were around, so after fifteen minutes we headed back to camp. A lot more people had arrived, so for dinner we sat next to a family from Oklahoma (Norman, specifically! Who’d have thought we’d find a mini-Red River rivalry in Africa.).
When we were heading back to our tent for the night, we noticed a small group of four or five zebra munching away at the grass twenty yards from our bed, and there were a few low wildebeest chortle noises as well. I read through a few more chapters of the Chamber of Secrets before completely passing out in bed.