This is a female water buck, a large shaggy and robust member of the order “ruminant,” herbivores such as giraffe, gazelle and wildebeest who chew and rechew their cud in order to break down the cellulose of plant cells. Don’t worry – I am not going to give a lecture on digestion. What fascinated me is this doe’s nose which looks distinctly like a heart, as I do believe Africa has stolen mine.
After a year of preparation, research, inoculations and gathering of insect repellent (epic fail, by the way – will discuss in a later posting) I traveled 7,354 miles from New York CIty to Nairobi, Kenya to begin a two-week intensive safari following the Great Migration, a 1200 mile circuit through Kenya and Tanzania in which millions of wildebeests, zebra and gazelles continually search for food and water. Along the way many fall prey to predators – from big cats to hyena to crocodiles and for those who don’t succumb, there is much competition for the precious resources from other resident and transitory animals.
Traveling with the expert guides and drivers of the world-renowned Abercrombie and Kent travel organization, we were assured the best of everything as you will see. More on our hosts later but a quick thank you to guide director and drivers Phillip Koimere, Goodluck Mushi, Mate Akaranga and also Taryn Goetzsche and Devon (Swala Sanctuary) for taking such good care of me. These are the people you want to lead you through this wonderful paradise! Unfortunately I don’t have Morris’ email so please send along my thanks!
So was it all “When Predators Attack” and constant skirmishes with elephants and giraffe and the like for those precious green morsels? Not at all – rather a literal Garden of Eden where wide ranges of species, four-legged and two-legged (and a cobra thrown in for good measure – later on that) live side by side in harmony, raising and protecting their families.
It is quite difficult, even for a loquacious and prolific person such as myself, to adequately describe the daily scenes of life in the National Parks we visited – The Amboseli, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti and the Masai Mara. Fortunately for you my readers, I have 4,000 photos to help illustrate. Not for fortunate for me, as I have been collating, cataloguing (and even deleting, though that is the most difficult chore for me) photos since I arrived back in the states. I so far have painstakingly culled the raw footage into 1900 “album worthy” pics but still have much to do.
Let’s start with some images of pastoral bliss – animals grazing together – and in some cases, helping each other out. Zebra and wildebeest, for example, protect each other with their respective strengths in sharp eyesight and strong sense of smell to warn against predators. And the oxpecker birds help rid the giraffe and hippo of parasites.
Sometimes even predators and prey live harmoniously, though it often comes down to who is upwind – see how these elephants don’t sound the alarm for a bunch of lions lazing in the shade:
It was striking to see how playful and cuddly these lions are:
One must never be complacent – for at any moment one of these cuddly cats can get all serious and stare into your soul:
And if they do this next, it is time to beat a retreat:
We never experienced a stalking – instead these massive lions ignored us and went on their way (while my heart was pounding, of course):
Predators hunting prey is not the only source of violence, sadly. As the adage says it is “Survival of the Fittest” and the males of many species are constantly challenging the current leader for supremacy – and mating rights with the females. We got to witness one of these grueling battles between two impala in the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.
The next pictures are not for the faint of heart, but please be comforted by the fact that none of the strikes were life threatening. Also, the animals of Kenya and Tanzania are all extremely fit and healthy and known for quick healing and recovery.
The buck on the left was the challenger and there was a large harem of female impala at stake. The battle seemingly was choreographed for after a few minutes of pitched fury, both impala stopped on mutual accord to look around to make cure there wasn’t a predator lurking to take advantage. After ascertaining that the surrounding area harbored no stalkers, the impala resumed their battle, each giving way to the other as they fought across the grass and road. Here is the action:
And suddenly it was over – the challenger conceded the day to the reigning buck and both walked off, the loser to lick his wounds, and the winner to reap the rewards with his harem.
And as the sun sets on this first post, I invite you to join me next week for, fittingly: “A Family Affair.”