The next day, we woke up early in the AM to commence our second Game Drive. It was something about the wilderness that stirred up more feelings than expected considering our relentless pursuit to encounter the king of the jungle. In anticipation, we made our way through the open landscape and spotted social groups of reddish brown impalas grazing on lush grass while a large group of white bearded wildebeests hung out and snorted out a welcome message. I think. We drove up on some giraffes munching on acacia and took a detour towards the river and gawked at an hippo assembly of murderous eyes peering out the water intensified with noisy grunts and abrupt splashes from their nostrils.
There were times when we were close to giving up on the lions after repeatedly spotting the aforementioned scattered across the grassland. More than that, the monotony was occasionally broken by random sightings such as baby warthog running behind their mom, a family of elephants with prominent tusks walking in line or zebras beautifully chiming in with nature. Just when our effervescent curiosity hit rock bottom, Ziggy revved up the engine, drove into the empty landscape and asked if we could smell them. “What in the African grassland was he talking about?”
A classic after-kill scene: Vultures circling in the sky pronouncing a fresh kill. Received via “vulture GPS system”, an opportunistic bone chewing spotted hyena kept a close watch of what was a magnificent view of a pack of lionesses devouring their kill. Some were slumped under a tree for an after meal nap, while others just licked fresh blood from the corners of their mouth. Ziggy slowed down and stopped the engine. Besides marveling, we went all out on the digital zoom. The result? Poor quality pictures. The rationale? We were not close enough.
Rule #4: It doesn’t matter what you see, it’s how close you get to it. (DON’T PUSH IT)
Because Ziggy was a total expert and super cool, he gave us a taste of his workmanship a la our risk. He maneuvered cautiously towards the pack until we were only a few feet away, and hung around for a few minutes. We lifted our cameras and went on a clicking frenzy.
The game was on. We headed towards a bunch of vehicles lined up, a common sight in most game reserves, which is a signal to something precious. This time, it was going to be a live kill. Cheetah vs. Impala. Known for day time hunting, the muscular cheetah stalked a family of impalas grazing on the open plains from a distance. For about an hour, we watched the cheetah adjust its cover and slowly move in closer. As soon as it burst into explosive speed, the impalas escaped. The defeated cheetah then walked away and headed towards a termite mound, perhaps hopeful it would be able to catch its next prey.
Immediately after, the sky turned grey and it started pouring, as if to reinforce the cheetah’s unsuccessful mission.
Spot Big Five Mission.
Elephant? Check. Lion? Check. We still had another day to go.