BY HAGAI ZVULUN
Arriving in the Eastern Serengeti, I sighed a sigh of relief. It has been too long since I’ve been to Olmara Camp. A tower of giraffes calmly watched us pass, and large herds of gazelles grazed at the valley bottom. The plains are still green, waterholes still hold water, reflecting the late morning sun, and distant rain clouds hang low above the plains.
I am always surprised at the quality and quantity of wildlife viewing this area provides. After only three-game drives, we’ve had more than ten big cat sightings, two of them on successful kills, and multiple sightings of antelopes, mongooses, warthogs, ostriches, and of course wildebeest and zebra. In addition, the incredible green season sky produced powerfully dark and moody skies providing unique backdrops, with rays of light penetrating the cover to paint the plains below.
I was curious to catch up with our resident cats and see what had happened since February when I last came to camp. I heard that one of the kibumbu pride lionesses had three cubs and went searching for the new generation of the pride. We managed to locate them close to camp, sitting on a rocky outcrop. The six-week-old cubs were making their first forays into the world, just a few steps away from their watchful mother. Eyes still blue, they were looking with wonder at the new world; every experience, tasting leaves, stumbling over a tuft of grass, and playing with sticks, was a new adventure.
Down the road, we found the pride males on a large Kopje, enjoying the setting sun; further down the road, another female and her two mature cubs came down to the swamp to drink, just a couple of meters from our car. Nothing feels like that intense stare when a lion locks eyes with you. Just a few months passed, and these beautiful young lions were just toddlers, but now they were fast approaching the time they would have to leave the pride and seek a new life elsewhere.
On the plains overlooking the Ngare Nanyuki River, amongst the large herds of gazelles, we found a few cheetah mothers and cub pairs, the mature cubs already taking part in hunts and showing promise of becoming independent in the months ahead. A 20-strong elephant herd came down to the river for a bath in the golden afternoon sun, the young frolicking in the water with abandonment as the matriarch kept a watchful eye on a crocodile that was sunning itself downstream.
Driving back to camp, we found the resident Leopard male on the ground next to the road. We watched it climb a large acacia with a jaw-dropping sunset for a backdrop. It successfully hunted a gazelle, brought it up, and settled down to feed on its kill as we bid it farewell and headed a short distance to our camp for a shower and dinner.
Just another day in the Serengeti.