It was a good first night in the bush. The sleeping bag I had brought with me was to warm, but that was little concern. Everything else was fine. It hadn’t rained that night, so the tent was dry too.
We got up at 6 a.m. and had a quick breakfast. We planned to stay in the bush for the whole day to see a crossing at the Mara River and it’s quite a long drive to get there. Alex made us a packed lunch and we were off.
We drove to a part of the river where wildebeest had been seen and that meant there could be a crossing. Very few vehicles were waiting in a safe distance from the river to give the animals the space to gather together and get ready to go. It’s all about patience. They start moving and everybody gets excited and then they change directions and the waiting starts again. After a while we thought, just let’s try another usual crossing spot and we headed further up the river.
On our way we heard about a leopard in a tree and we went there first. A female leopard had a kill and was feeding on it. Only three other vehicles where there and it was a relaxed sighting. The female was a bit restless and annoyed by birds that were shouting at her. She went off and on the tree, getting a drink and thinking what to do next. She decided to stay in the tree and to have a nap. The birds carried on with their noise and her ears were flat in annoyance. We enjoyed being with her for hours. The other vehicles had gone to their lodges for breakfast and we stayed alone with her, enduring the increasing heat and the camera always ready in case she was going to move.
Our only source of electricity during the safari (also in the camps) was the vehicle. An inverter transformed the power from the cigarette lighter into power to recharge the laptop and batteries. That meant one had to be very conscious about using battery powered equipment. When and for how long do I need the laptop? When can I recharge the laptop again? The laptop couldn’t be recharged while being in use and only when the vehicle was driving or the vehicle’s battery was full after a longer drive. It would drain to much power from the vehicle’s battery and the inverter switched off automatically when it became critical. For that reason any chance of battery power had to be used wisely. That made me setting up “office” while we were with the leopard. A couple of memory cards were already full and it wasn’t even lunchtime. I had to upload them to the laptop. So while I watched her and had the camera ready to shoot, the laptop was running and the processing had to be watched too. I was tired by noon. We decided to leave her alone and carried on to the river.
Paul and I had different opinions on where a crossing would be possible. I thought let’s go to the main crossing where they usually gather and he thought let’s check first other possibilities. So we first checked on other spots and got to the main crossing as the last option. There were probably about 12 vehicles and they had the good news for us: just half an hour ago about a thousand wildebeest had crossed. We stayed to watch the last 5 or 6 to cross the river and Paul became cross with himself. It made no sense to get angry. It was gone and that’s just how it is with looking for wildlife interactions, you never know for sure what and where it’s going to happen. It’s on their terms.
We started heading back to the camp, a long drive and a thunderstorm building up at the horizon. It started bucketing in an instant. You could hardly see the road and Paul got nervous. He told me later that he panicked a bit, because the road had a couple of deep dips and getting stuck was the last thing you want. When the rain stopped we were on safe roads and were rewarded with the sighting of a big pride of lions. The light just after the rain was soft. The playing cubs and mums looked smooth. A serene scene of family life.
From the lions it was just a short drive to our camp. It was about 6 p.m. when we arrived and still raining there. I fetched toilet paper and dried my tent, organized the luggage that I could remove it easily if it would start raining hard at night, had a shower, a quiet dinner and wanted nothing more than to sleep. I was so tired.
Ute Sonnenberg for www.rohoyachui.com