The Safari Advisor

Out of Africa (And Back Again and Again…Continued) (by Steve Brynes)

 

“Big cats, and after that, everything else,” I replied.

With that, we moved off.  A short time later, Waziri, stopped and said, “I see a cheetah sitting in the grass far off on the plain.  Let’s go near and observe.”

We approached within 20 yards of the cheetah, a beautiful female, who paid us little attention, her gaze focused on a not-too-distant pack of gazelles.

Waziri began to speak, first in hushed tones then in an increasingly excited and dramatic manner, much like an announcer of a thoroughbred horse race.

“Look at this beautiful animal. See how she stares at the gazelles.  If we continue to watch perhaps we will see a hunt.”

“She is rising, look at how she is holding her body and beginning to stalk the gazelle.  She must get within about 50 yards of its prey to have a good chance at a kill, but she is still about 100 yards away, now 70 yards away, still too far.”

“But look! She is starting to trot; the gazelle see her and are moving away.  There, she is going to full speed now, maybe 100 kilometers per hour!  She was too far away, but still she is passing some members of the pack, she is focused on a very young gazelle.  No, she will not catch the young one; she is stopping, giving up the hunt!”

We all sat back, winded, most likely from holding our breath, but winded all the same, as if we had been chasing prey.  “Let’s have a look,” Waziri said.

We pulled up within 5 yards of the cheetah.  She sat on her haunches, her chest heaving as she took huge gulps of air.  Waziri explained that although cheetahs can attain terrific speeds within a short time (standstill to top speed in an astounding 3 seconds), they do not have the stamina to go more than 200-300 yards at that pace.

At dinner that night, an excellent four-course affair held in a boma (a traditional enclosure under the stars), Waziri said he wanted to show us some zebra and to expect an all-day game drive the next day.  Our destination would be the Seronera, located in the heart of the Serengeti.  An all-day drive was a departure from the usual game-drive routine of a three-hour early-morning drive and a late-afternoon drive that usually lasts past sunset, and I wondered what Waziri had up his sleeve.

The distance from the Grumeti Lodge to the Seronera is about 100 km, or 60 miles.  But given the rutted, slippery condition of the road (again, it was November, Tanzania’s short rainy season), that distance requires about 3 hours of driving. 

The roads of the Serengeti, truthfully, do not make for comfortable rides despite the robustness of safari vehicles.  On a typical drive, you will be jostled, hurled, thumped and lurched to each of the four directions of the compass and all points in between. 

But any thoughts of discomfort evaporate instantly when presented with an interesting sight, which luckily happens on a continual basis.  So along the way to the Seronera, we were diverted by the occasional warthog darting across the road from tall grass followed moments later by a skittering handful of piglets; by a strikingly beautiful Black-and-White Colobus monkey sitting practically shoulder to shoulder with hawks high atop a tree along the Grumeti River; by groups of various species of Africa’s supreme scavengers, vultures, bickering among themselves and intermittently putting on a fairly impressive show by spreading their enormous wings; and by families of giraffes who, although they preferred the road, yielded only when they realized the Land Cruiser wouldn’t.

Out of Africa (And Back Again and Again...Continued2)