We were back at our camp by 8am and the whole camp crew were as disappointed as we were that our hot-air balloon flight has been canceled. Four hours of our day was gone, we were hungry and tired and I was sick. We ate a quick breakfast and I asked Emanuel if I had time to take a nap. I’ll be useless if I can’t rest for a while. He assured us the animals will still be there later.
We got on the trail about 11, and as inauspiciously as the day began, it quickly became our favorite day yet.
After more impalas and our first wild ostrich, we noticed Emanuel looking even more intently than usual as we drove the dirt tracks. “What are you looking for?” we asked. He told us leopards often spend the heat of the day in a tree, and you can spot them because there’s usually a leg or a tail hanging over a branch. We all started looking but of course it was Emanuel who spotted one. He positioned the Landcruiser as close as he could but it was only one of two sightings that would remain just beyond the reach of my 200mm lens. I did the best I could with the camera, but we all enjoyed watching the beautiful cat through binoculars as he panted in the noonday heat. If you click on the second photo so that it’s full screen you get a pretty good look at this stunning animal.
On the day we entered the Serengeti we passed some interesting rock formations but I hadn’t taken any photos. I asked Emanuel if we weren’t too far I’d like to see them again. On the way we saw topis and our first eland.
The rocks are beautiful and the day was perfect. I could have spent hours just soaking in the scenery. But Emanuel had other ideas.
In a cleft in one of the rock formations he spotted a three month old leopard cub, snoozing in the heat, waiting for mama to come back. What a find! We watched quietly for a while until he woke up, stretched and walked to the other side of the rocks.
We followed him around and found his brother, also snoozing. We watched again until he woke up. Both eventually returned to their preferred spots and went back to sleep. We never saw mama. Emanuel speculated that she was probably hunting.
The rest of the day brought more and more wildlife to our eyes and lenses. Emanuel understood by this time that we hadn’t come with a checklist, or the need to get the perfect shot of anything. We were happy just to watch and enjoy this privileged proximity to a rich and complex ecosystem. We appreciated his knowledge of the habits and behaviors of the various species. As we watched, he said, “It’s like living in a National Geographic film.” And it was.
This turned out to be our shortest game drive day, but one of the best. Tomorrow we’ll try again for the balloon safari. It’ll be our last chance.