Wow! We just returned from our second ADS safari and it was every bit as wonderful as the first, and yet unique. Our first trip was in September 2011 during the dry season, and our second trip was this March during the green season. Which was our favorite? That is a subject for another blog!
Our professional driver-guide, Francis met us at the Seronera airstrip and made us feel welcome. He asked what we really wanted to see during our safari and after saying “everything” we made it a little easier for him by saying baby animals, birds and bat-eared foxes! Francis delivered. We saw baby cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, Thompson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, and wildebeest. The gazelle was about an hour old and could hardly stand up – in fact it fell down with its legs all akimbo.
We watched as a mother buffalo walked her hour old baby down a hill toward the safety of the herd. Every so often she paused to sniff the air for predators that could snatch her baby. Since there were many spotted hyenas in the vicinity, we watched her progress for over an hour, rooting for her to reach the herd. As she approached the other buffalo, she decided to graze a bit, chomping on the new grasses. Fortified, she and her youngster began the last steps of their journey and rejoined the herd.
We saw many young wildebeests that had been born in February and thought we would not see a new born, but then, as we watched tens of thousands of wildebeests stream from the woodland forests onto the grassy plains after the rains, we spied a tiny, tiny wildebeest next to its mother. The mother still had the placenta attached to her. It was amazing to see these newly born animals and their protective mothers, reminding us of our connection to the creatures that inhabit our planet.
We not only saw lots of new babies, we also saw playful babies. One morning in the marshes near Lake Ndutu, we saw a female lion trying to sleep. Her two cubs were more interested in jumping on her, tumbling with each other, and biting their mother’s tail. We watched for several hours as they pounced on her tail, gnawing on it until she turned her head and snarled her displeasure. At one point she decided to get up and go sleep by a slumbering male lion. As she stood and walked away, one of her cubs was still latched to her tail and it went swinging in the air! We laughed at all the antics. Later she nursed the two cubs and then they made their way to some bushes for a nap.
Another special lion sighting was when we saw a mother lion emerge from a cave in a kopje with her newborn lion cub that Francis estimated to be about 10-12 days old. Lions open their eyes at 7 days and this little one looked just a bit older, wobbling about and straying from his mother. In the same vicinity we saw two female lions caring for 5 cubs. One female was on top of a kopje encouraging the other female to walk the five cubs up from their sun bath in the grasses to the safety of the kopje. We watched the lion parade as they made their way up the red rocks, stopping for a drink, before reaching the top and resting in the shade of the bushes. Extravagantly tactile, the two females nuzzled each other and the babies.
Birds, birds, birds! We were enchanted as always by the resplendent, yet ubiquitous, Lilac-breasted rollers perched atop branches. We also saw the European roller which was spectacular in its colorings. Small Bee-eaters shimmering in deep yellows and greens were a highlight, as were the Rosy-breasted and Yellow-throated Longclaws, Tawny eagles, Greater Flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Firefinches, Fisher’s Lovebirds, and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills to name a few!
Finally, the Bat-eared foxes. Francis found two of these fleet-footed animals one evening as we headed back to Lake Masek Tented Lodge. They took one look at us and fled – our photograph shows two blurs in the distance. We were elated that we got to see them, albeit briefly. Were we in for a surprise! Our reward for all of the rain came the next day when we observed a Bat-eared fox family drying out and grooming one another on the plains after their den had been flooded. We happily watched them for about an hour. Again, we were moved by how tactile they were with one another.
This blog covers the three Bs of our trip – babies, birds and Bat-eared foxes. A separate “highlights of the trip blog” shares a more general overview of our amazing green season trip!
Lynn and Phil
Oak Hill, VA
9-21 March 2014