Posts Tagged ‘lions’

 Three things can not be hidden long: The sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha

A wide awake cub hidden among the foliage near a half-dozen other cubs and their mammas, all fast asleep in the heat of the noon day sun. --Photo by Kim Perrin

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 “There is always something new out of Africa.” Pliny the Elder, 23 Ad – 73 AD


An up close and personal big cat experience. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Photo Souvenir

We had the “Kids” with us for our wildlife drive yesterday and again this morning. The young couple, newlyweds, were Frankie and John from London, and as excited as Kim and I about the wildlife and landscape.

I caught Kim’s eye as John bounced around from one side of the Land Rover to the other, and may even have smirked. .

I had done exactly the same thing until Kim strongly let me know that my bouncing was interfering with her photo taking. She was as serious about photographing our adventure as I was about seeing Africa’s birds. I tried to be more sedate after her scolding, but enthusiasm is hard to contain.


Friends still on our very last wildlife safari outing. -- Photo by John

Today, as John bounced, Kim resignedly smiled back at me and ruefully shook her head. Some times you just have to go with the flow.

And today’s flow was perfect – from a wake of Ruppell’s griffin vultures feasting on a dead wildebeest to a lion mom and two young sons strolling past our vehicle. Joseph had seen them and had parked near where he thought they would pass. He was right on, as he had been so many times in selecting our viewing sites. It was as if he could read the animals’ minds.


One last cheetah -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was one of the young males that gave me my final tall cat tail. Just as the trio were passing, it veered toward our Land Rover and casually scratched its back on a rear tire – the one I was standing over. It looked right straight up at me and I stopped breathing. I was sure hoping, that as we had been told, the wildlife considered us just a part of the non-digestible metal beast they saw everywhere.

When it finally looked down and started to walk away, however, I snapped its picture. It’s not a great shot, but I considered it one of my favorite African souvenirs. When I showed the picture to Joseph on my digital camera, he was surprised. From his seat in the front of the Land Rover, he hadn’t seen it. Neither had Frankie or John, whose names always made me want to burst out in song “”Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts ….”

But Kim had seen it. So I had a witness to my tallest cat story of all.

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“Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.” Alex Karras


The young male lion struts his stuff -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Female Power

The Lion fight occurred when we were still in Tanzania with Bilal. We were watching three female lions with several cubs when we noticed a young male, his mane still not developed, watching them.

Slowly he began making his way toward the females and their cubs. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. One of the lionesses took all the cubs off away out of harm’s danger while the other two stood guard.. Male lions are quite protective of their own young, but will kill the young of any other males so their moms will be ready to breed again so he can sire his own cubs.

One mama takes the cubs away -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was likely this is what the young male had in mind this day – and since the cubs’ father was no where in sight he evidently saw this as an ideal opportunity.

Bilal, as we watched the action, said that the lack of the cubs’ father when another male was in his territory was probably because something had happened to him.

Suddenly, as the young male shortened the distance between him and the two lionesses, the females attacked. In a matter of seconds, the young male was limping away, and soon he lay down to lick his wounds.

Kim and I cheered, but Bilal said the male would eventually get his way. We chose to believe that the females

The male licks his wounds. -- Photo by Pat Bean

would hold out at least long enough to raise their cubs.

“They gave him a pretty good licking,” we said.

Of course Bilal might have been right, but we had faith in mom power. We thought the lionesses were tougher than Bilal gave them credit for – just like Kim and I.

As Mahatma Gandhi said” “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

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This wide awake youngster reminded me of my oldest son, who would never take a nap. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

 “Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” – Francis Bacon

The lionesses, about half a dozen of them, with several cubs were camouflaged well beneath some bushes. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: The Sneaky Lionesses 

I lost track of how many lions we saw in Africa. It was a lot. But several of the sightings will live on in my memory forever

Kim and I saw mating lions, fighting lions, sleeping lions, sneaky lions, yawning lions, stalking lions, full-belly lions, mama lions, baby lions and one young male who made a detour from the path he was walking with his mom and sibling to scratch his back on the tire of our Land Rover.

The sneaky lions were actually the most scary. We had been watching several female lions, tucked away beneath some thick bushes snoozing. They had several cubs among them, all also sleeping except for one frisky little bugger.

As we watched, the youngster played around by itself for a while, then decided it was hungry and began crawling all over the sleeping lionesses looking for a titty. .

One of the two mama lions who crept up to keep a close eye on us. It was spooky when we suddenly spotted her. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Three of the mamas flicked it away with their paws when it tried to nurse, but a fourth – I’m not sure if it was the cub’s actual mama or not as the nursing seemed to be a communal activity – finally allowed it to suckle.

Joseph, who was our guide for this lion viewing, decided to drive around the back of the bushes, on the far side of a short trench, for a better view. As we sat there watching the lion pride snoozing in the bush, we suddenly realized that two of the concerned mamas had crept up from the ditch and were watching us.

Our Land Rover suddenly felt a little less safe. Joseph must have felt so, too, for he turned the ignition to drive us away. But the engine sputtered instead of starting.

Carefully, keeping the vehicle between himself and the lions, he got out and opened the hood, then fiddled with something for a moment or two before getting back in the driver’s seat.

The vehicle started and Joseph, whom we could almost hear sigh in relief, drove off to a spot with a clear view of the surrounding landscape and got out and fiddled with the engine some more.

“Just an excess of dust,” he commented as we got back in the Land Rover and drove on for some more wildlife viewing.

Next Tall Tale: The lion fight

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Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” Helen Keller

Bateleur -- goafrica.com photo

African Safari:

Our afternoon safari with Joseph started off with some new life birds for me, including two eagles, a bateleur and a greater spotted eagle. Joseph said the first was known for its snake killing talent, and the latter was a rare find.

“I don’t get to see to many of them,” he said.

Since the spotted eagle was in its winter plumage and its spots not clearly visible, I probably would have missed the identification without Joseph’s help.

The bateleur, however, was a much easy bird to identify, and I had been looking for one ever since I had hit Africa. It was great to finally see one of these magnificent birds. It reminded me of our own caracara just a bit.

Joseph then decided it was time to go look for some cats. First on the agenda were some lions, including one whose yawn looked ferocious. It provided us with a good view of its deadly fangs – and made me glad I wasn’t a warthog or a gazelle.

Just a yawn, but he's not your average pussycat. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Next on Joseph’s mission were a mom and three young cheetahs. It started to rain and the territory, where he suspected they were hanging out, was extremely rough but Joseph wouldn’t give up.

And to Kim and my delight, we finally came across the cheetahs just as the sun was beginning to set. Kim got a fantastic photo of the mom and one of the young ones, who mostly kept low in the rocks.

The rain followed us back to camp, and Kim and I got a bit wet since the sides of the Land Rover were open for better game viewing. I didn’t mind at all. And neither did Kim. It had been a marvelous day – and a little rain wouldn’t melt us. .

A cheetah mom and one of her three young charges at sunset in the Masai Mara. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Bird Log of New Lifers: Grey-headed bush shrike, woodland kingfisher, red-throated tit, yellow-throated longclaw, greater blue-eared starling, wooly-necked stork, rosy-breasted longclaw, bateleur, spur-winged goose, black-winged plover, rufus-bellied heron, sand martin, wire-tailed swallow, white-faced whistling ducks, white-browed robin, northern black flycatcher, Ross’ turaco, double-toothed barbet, spectacled weaver, African blue flycatcher, greater spotted eagle.

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 “A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together.” – Chuck Jones

Kim sitting at the table where we ate breakfasts and lunches while at Little Governor's. The roofed area in the background was where we ate our dinners, for which we dressed. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

We arrived at Little Governor’s Lodge in time for lunch. It was served outside beneath the trees in view of the marsh, where we could watch birds and other animals as we ate. This day we saw giraffe and water buffalo on the far side of the marsh and sacred ibis not far from our table.

Kim and I were enchanted with our new camp, and it would become our favorite of all the lodges during our Africa visit. So much so that I would love to go back and spend a whole month there one of these days.

A lion intently watching a wildebeeste which he later chased but failed to catch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

After lunch, we were escorted to the river and then back across to meet up with Joseph, who would be our driver/guide for the Masai Mara. Normally there would be four of us safari goers in his Land Rover but today Kim and I had him to ourselves.

He was quieter than either Bilal or Emanuel, but when he did open up we discovered he had a wealth of knowledge to share about the landscape and wildlife we were seeing. And then I discovered that not only was he a birder, but one who kept a life list as I did. 

Sacred ibis — Photo by Johan Wesseks


We were always amazed at his successful efforts in finding lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He said he got his clues from the prey animals.

“Especially look where the topi and the zebra are looking. They act as lookouts for other animals as well,” he said. We did and soon we saw a lion make an unsuccessful attempt to chase down a wildebeest.

“Lions,” Emanuel said, “are successful only about 40 percent of the time. Leopards, on the other hand, have an 80 percent kill rate.”

Along with the four-legged wildlife we saw this day, I also added three new life birds, a grey-headed bush shrike, red-throated tit and a yellow-throated longclaw

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 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Bilal always had our Land Rover swept and washed when he picked up us each day for our wildlife adventures. Above are Kim and I in our regular wildlife-watching positions. -- Photo by Bilal

African Safari: Afternoon in the Serengeti

Mating lions -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Bilal picked us up after lunch for an afternoon game drive in Serengeti National Park, one of the largest wildlife refuges in the world.

Meaning endless plain, the Serengeti is spread out over 5,700 square miles and ranges in elevation from 3,120 to 6,070 feet. The park provides habitat for over 500 birds and hundreds of mammal species. USA Today lists it as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was with great anticipation that Kim and I looked forward to seeing it. And Bilal, with his knowledge of where to find animals didn’t disappoint us.

Our list of mammal sightings included Thompson’s and Grant gazelles, hartebeests, topi, waterbuck, elephants, giraffe, cheetahs, baboons, zebras, lion, and of course lots of birds, including many of those already one my life list and new ones to add to it.

Because I often saw birds before other wildlife, the running joke soon became "Oh, there's an animal beneath that bird." In this case it's a water buffalo with an yellow-billed oxpecker on its back. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

One of our stops was even at a small lake where we saw quite a few water birds, including a family of cute red-billed teal.

On the grasslands, we watched a secretary bird stomp across the plains, then stop to wrestle with a snake of some kind, its favorite meal.

One voyeur viewing was of a pair of lions mating, which Bilal said they would do every 15 minutes or so for about three days. There was a lot of quiet ignoring in between the love sessions, and a lot of snarling during it.

Lion dads, while sometimes aloof around young cubs, do stick around to help protect them after they are born. Cheetah dads, meanwhile, go AWOL and leave all the raising of his offspring, to mom. Most of the cheetahs we saw this day, and for the remainder of our safari, had three or four young ones in tow.

Red-billed teal -- Wikipedia photo

Meanwhile, it continued to amaze me at how the animals acted as if our Land Rover was no threat. Of course we weren’t. Bilal said they just considered us a metal beast that wasn’t good to eat – thankfully.

Way too soon it was time to head back to our lodge for the night, where after dinner in the main lodge, we were walked back to our rooms by a guard. He told us to sure and keep our balcony doors closed against a baboon invasion.

Sleep that night, beneath mosquito netting in our luxurious two-bed suite, was accompanied by a hyena chorus, while our morning wake-up call was served up by howling baboons. It was all awesomely different from our regular routines – and we loved it.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Ruppell’s long-tailed starling, red-necked spurfowl, African white-backed vulture, Coqui francolin, red-billed teal, three-banded plover, Kttlitz’s plover, four-banded sandgrouse, little stint and little grebe, Aug. 23, afternoon drive in the Serengeti.

Next: A feminist conversation with Bilal.

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It's easy to see that giraffes are what help give the umbrella acacias their shape and name. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.” – Mervyn Peake

African Safari: Runners, Wildlife and Thorns

When I travel from place to place in my native America, I try extremely hard never to get on a boring freeway. In Tanzania, Kim and I never had to worry about our driver, Bilal, taking such a wide interstate from place to place. There were none, or at least none in the areas we traveled.

We were lucky if the roads were paved. Their roughness prompted Bilal to joke that along with being our driver, he was giving us a free massage.

Which was perfectly fine with me. The bouncy ride was part of the adventure. And the slower we were forced to go, the more time it offered for sightseeing.

And there was plenty to see this morning as Bilal transported us from Lake Mayara’s Serena Lodge to the Sopa Lodge in the Serengeti. The drive took us from wide-open Wyoming like scenery through a misty jungle that brought images of Jurassic Park floating though our brains.

Wildebeest and morning mist on the Ngorongoro Crater escarpment. -- Photo by Pat Bean

One of the populated areas we passed through was Karatu, which Bilal told us was the home of many great marathon runners. Watching the area’s slim, black men brought to mind images of the Boston marathon and other long-distance races I had seen in which racers with such physiques were always frontrunners.

The misty jungle scenery came near the top of the Ngorongoro Crater, which was formed seven million years ago when the land was pushed up by volcanoes, then collasped. At the crater overlook, a Maasai salesman was immediately upon us, but Bilal suggested that we wait to shop somewhere that would benefit an entire Maasai community.

This hungry simba had his eye on a tommy (Thompson's gazelle). -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Zebra, cheetahs, lions, gazelles, monkeys, giraffes, gazelles, and other African wildlife were also on the sightseeing agenda this morning. We lingered the longest to watch a mother cheetah with four young cubs that stayed mostly hidden in the grass while the mother kept a look out.

Bilal stopped to show us the whistling acacia tree, on which grow hollowed nodes favored by ants. The ants create holes in these bulbous growths and when the wind blows over them the produce a whistling sound.

Despite the thorns, giraffes find this plant a delectable meal.

Whistling acacia

I found this information fascinating, but once again, our sight-seeing put us behind schedule. And so Bilal again put the pedal to the metal to get us to the Serengeti lodge in time for our scheduled lunch. Kim and I just hung on – and smiled.

Next:  The Homeless Maasai

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Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” – Eddie Cantor

Lake Manyara sunset was the first of many Africa gifted Kim and I. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Lake Manyara Continued

I know I said we were going to drive to the Serengeti today, but I decided to linger a bit longer at Lake Manyara to share some of Kim’s photos with you.

She took hundreds, if not thousands, compared to my relatively few, and sent me a slide show of the best of them shortly after we returned from Africa. But they were in a format that I couldn’t download onto my computer.

Kim and I in front of our Serena Lodge rondeval. -- Photo by Kim Perrin, using timer and tripod

An orchid growing around the lodge. -- Photo by Kim Perin

Finally, last night, she found a way to send me the originals that I can copy and use for this recap of our 2007 African safari. It would seem a shame to waste her efforts, and all my efforts downloading them this morning, to skip showing you at least a few of them.

I hope you enjoy. And tomorrow, I promise, we’ll drive to the Serengeti.

In addition to lions and elephants, Kim and I also took time for smaller things, like this awesome chameleon we watched as we ate our lunch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

A mama lion and two cubs in Lake Manyara National Park. — Photo by Kim Perrin

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Overview of Lake Manyara -- Wikipedia photo

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.

African Safari: A Morning of Firsts

These tall fellows that eat leaves shape the acacia trees so they look like umbrellas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our morning agenda, according to the carefully arranged plans detailed in the booklet of our journey prepared by the African Adventure Company, was a two-hour drive to the Serena Lodge at Lake Manyara for lunch.

Such a terse description now seems obscene.

On our way there, we saw our first lions, a mating pair, which made the sighting more special, even if it also made us voyeurs. We also got our first view of giraffes and cheetahs, the later being a mom with three youngsters.

New life birds, meanwhile, were coming into view so fast that I truly couldn’t keep

The Serena Lodge as viewed from the compound's pool. -- Photo by Pat Bean

up with identifying them. Bilal helped, but I later realized that while he was great at putting a name to the larger and more common birds, he was not quite as good at the smaller, obscure birds of interest only to crazily addicted birders like myself.

Lake Manyara, located along an escarpment of the great rift, and called “the loveliest … setting in Africa” by Ernest Hemingway, provides habitat to over 400 bird species, including marabou storks, which when I saw a flock of them in some overhead trees thought were the ugliest birds I had ever seen.

White-headed buffalo weaver -- Wikipedia photo

They were hanging about an outdoor market just outside the Serena Lodge compound. As we passed it, my attention was taken away from the birds to an exhibit of colorful African paintings. When I expressed interest in them, Bilal quickly cautioned us not to visit the market unescorted.

As we passed through a fence and guards to get to our accommodations, I realized that our safety was important not just to Bilal, but the country’s entire tourist interests. Harm to any one safari participant would mean bad publicity for business.

As beautiful as this superb starling is, it soon list its glamour because it was so common. We saw them everywhere. -- Wikipedia photo

The Serena Lodge, where we were to spend the night, was owned by India businessmen and staffed by local natives – as were most of the places we stayed at during our trip. It was a grandiose eye-popper.

Our rooms were circular, situated in tall, white-washed roundavels with thatched roofs. The structures sat on a cliff that provided panoramic views of the landscapes and wildlife below. A large swimming pool went right up to the edge of the escarpment.

Taita fiscal -- Wikipedia photo

Lunch was served in an outdoor setting, with birds frequently flittering about. It made for very distracted eating, but a perfect meal, especially with the bottled Coke we ordered to go with it. It was so much tastier than the ones we get in America.

Everything about the Serena Lodge was delightful, and everyone catered to our slightest needs. But the real Africa, both Kim and I knew, lay outside this guarded sanctuary where Bilal didn’t want us to go without him.

I had that decadent feeling again – but I was enjoying every minute of it.

Bird log of New Lifers: Augur buzzard, gray heron, yellow-necked spurfowl, black-shouldered kite, white-headed buffalo weaver, African gray hornbill, superb starling, northern white-crowned shrike, taita fiscal and marabou stork. (August 22, drive from Arusha Coffee Lodge to Serena Lodge near the main entrance to Lake Manyara National Park).

We also saw lots of cattle egrets, is a bird now common in North America, having first migrated to the United States from Africa in the 1940s. I would see many more of them on our wildlife outings while in Africa.

Next: An Afternoon in Lake Manyara National Park.

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