Ndutu Serengeti Wildebeest Calving Safari: A Close Encounter …

Brendon’s Bulletin from Serengeti:

We were on our vehicles, aiming to reach the Masai Koppies at first light.

We discovered a mating pair of lions, lying in an open area, and managed to capture quite a collection of mating shots. We remained with them until the day started to warm up and the amorous activities started to slow down as the thermometer rose.

Our goal for today was to wander around and see as much as possible, and as we departed from the lion pair we spotted another lioness lying on a rock not far away. She posed beautifully for us until the sun started to bother her and she moved to a cooler, but obstructed spot. So we put our cameras down and continued on our way …

We headed north towards Research Koppies. On the way we saw a Caracal. It was great to see the cat, but didn’t manage to get great photographs before it slunk away.

When we spotted a vehicle or two we headed that way to see what the attraction could be. There were two large, typical East African Serengeti male lions with massive manes lying in a clear area. They were very full and didn’t move too much, except for one that got up for a drink in a puddle before flopping down to rest again next to his brother.

3 Lion Male Wim van den Heever-049

Research Koppies were about a half kilometer away so we drove behind the rocks to stretch our legs and enjoy a hearty breakfast and steaming coffee.

We had not quite finished our repast when cars came rushing around to tell us that the lions were headed our way. We peeped around the corner, and sure enough – there they came! But ooohhh! Not only the two males. The huge boys had been joined by two lionesses and as they marched doggedly towards us they seemed bigger than ever. The guides had told us that the lions like to lie on the rocks at Research Koppies, but the two males seemed so settled a few minutes back!

A frantic scene ensued! Frantic grabbing of everything we had needed for breakfast as articles were flung hurriedly and haphazardly back into the vehicles before we scrambled up to our seats seconds before the faces of the two lionesses appeared above a rock that would have been too close for comfort. The males settled on another rock close by. We had great photo opps and took full advantage.

At the same time we looked across the open plain and spotted four cheetahs. The area around Research Koppies is very open and flat – wide open, treeless plains. We made our way to the cheetahs, and found that they had recently eaten.

3 Wim van den Heever EP-033

Tell-tale signs like very full bellies and blood on their faces told the whole story. One of the cheetahs jumped up onto one of the vehicles to use it as a vantage point to look around and scrutinise the area, but when it saw nothing of interest it jumped down again.

Next we bumped into four lionesses. They seemed a bit out of sorts and it appeared that they had been chased off a wildebeest kill. Three hyenas and a bunch of vultures were devouring the wildebeest kill with plenty of tearing, ripping, yipping, and flapping around, while the lionesses watched disconsolately from a short distance away.

Further on we saw a few Black-backed Jackals, and then a large herd of buffalo, and of course there are wildebeest everywhere. The migration herds are making their way through this area at the moment.

And then yet another pair of male lions. Two young adults – not quite as huge as they will become, but certainly quite imposing even at this almost grown stage. This photo is from the day before in the rain:

3 Serengeti Lion Brendon

Finally, we found another male cheetah seeking shelter from the hot sun under a tree.

This afternoon we returned to the mating lions and found them right on top of the koppie. We spent the entire afternoon with them, collecting fabulous images of the two mating up there on the rocks. We worked the scene from every angle, and taking advantage of every opportunity as they lay down, mated, looked around, growled, and moved around to find the most comfortable spots to lie down again. The lighting was spectacular. We even practiced high key photography, back-lighting, silhouette shots – actually, every approach that can be imagined.

Tomorrow is our final morning here and we all hope that it will prove to be as amazing as all our other days have been …