A Drive on the Wild Side – Life & Death on the Serengeti, Part 2

As promised, our African Safari the next day was action-packed. A scant 3 miles from the Serengeti Park gates, Buffalo Camp offers, for a price, wildlife activities that are unavailable inside the park.

I opted for the walking safari as it’s only permitted on private land. Also on tap was the fabled sundowner – a classic safari tradition – with bush dinner under the stars and last but not least, a night game drive with a local tracker and the camp’s driver/translator!

Starting a fire in Masai tradition

Our turn at starting a fire after a demo by our Masai guide. Apparently it’s carpaccio and sashimi for us judging from the result (or lack thereof)!

After lunch we set off on the walking safari with our Masai tracker, followed by a ranger totting a traditional spear, and another, a gun. The guide showed us different medicinal plants plus practical essentials like the Masai version of biodegradable tooth brush and toilet paper!

A jewel-toned lilac breasted roller

A jewel-toned lilac breasted roller looking at us quizzically.

We’ve seen plenty of striking birds in our travels, but few display as many colorful hues as the lilac breasted roller!

Safari jeep with tracker chair over front bumper

Waiting for action in the tracker chair.

While our butler was setting up our sundowner (sort of outdoor happy hour at sunset) and bush dinner, I checked out the lodge’s safari vehicle. Unlike the jeeps intended to criss-cross the vast Serengeti, this is an open sided Land Cruiser with a tracker chair mounted over its front bumper.

Sundowner location

Emmanuel, our butler, patrolling ‘incognito’ without of his Masai garb.

The spot for our sundowner is on a ridge overlooking the Serengeti. At 6000 ft elevation, it gets chilly in the evening so the bonfire is by no means decorative – it’s needed to keep the nip off the air!

Bush dinner prepared by the lodge chef and staff

The chef and his help setting up our dinner under the stars.

Talking about pampering! Since there were only 3 of us, it was a very small and intimate setting. Some lodges offer a dinner inside a boma, a fenced Masai compound, which would be an even more amazing experience!

Night safari viewing zebra birthing with red spotlight

We lucked out and caught the birthing of this baby zebra on camera! The guides use a red search light to look for wildlife as it doesn’t seem to disturb the animals.

The zebras were unfazed by our spot light. As the baby struggled to get up, its mom tried to help by stepping on the placenta still attached to the newborn.

Masai staff at Buffalo Lodge

A Masai in the distinctive red-and-blue checked wrap at the lodge. Men all wear elaborate beaded bracelets for adornment.

Buffalo Camp conjures up visions of Colonial Africa, an enchanting oasis of genteel living amidst the vast wilderness – you almost expect to see Dr. Livingstone striding up the path! But all too soon, it’s time to drive back to Central Serengeti where queues of Land Cruisers await…

Cheetah

As we decamped, we came across 3 cheetahs lounging languidly in the shade. One of the brothers came to investigate shortly after we stopped.

The cheetahs cased our Land Cruiser before crossing the road to disappear among the grass and scrub.

Leopard napping in a tree

Big kitty snoozing in the tree.

Prosper suddenly stopped, reversed the car and said “Leopard in the tree!” We eventually found the cat with our binoculars almost 25 feet above the ground. Sprawled precariously on the trunk, I was surprised the leopard didn’t fall off its perch!

Leopard with zebra carcass in tree

The Leopard eyed us for a moment – as if sizing us up for its next meal. Luckily, its larder was full.

The leopard woke up eventually and prowled around the tree. Prosper said there was zebra stashed up there as well. Guess it didn’t get up the tree on its own volition… I could barely make out the stripes (in the red box) dangling 5-6 feet ABOVE the leopard. Considering a zebra is several times the cat’s weight, this is an awesome feat!

Amazingly we saw a second leopard ensconced in a tree less than a mile away. Given leopards are territorial, they were probably unaware of each other’s presence.

Hippos huddled in river

Slumbering hippo with a contented grin.

Next stop, ‘Hippo Pool’. I counted almost 50 hippos in this stretch of river. Hippos aren’t social animals, but for some reason, they like to huddle. This one looks soooo relaxed!

Baboon mother with baby

A baby with a face that only its mother can love…

Baboons are not the most photogenic bunch but since they are staring at the camera, I might as well make use of the opportunity!

Elephant with ears flapping

Prosper told us elephants give 3 signs when they’re about to charge. Warning 1: If an elephant starts flapping its ears and faces you, it’s time to RUN!

We saw many herds of elephants during our safari. They even grazed around our Land Cruiser on a couple occasions. However when Prosper saw this elephant flapping its ears at us, he decided we’ve outstayed our welcome and we cleared out in a hurry.

A pride of lions

Just one big happy family of felines chilling out and playing tag in the grass.

This was a pride of at least 20 lions and cubs. Some of the lions were so well camouflaged that they were practically invisible till they got up to move around!

Here’s a video of some rambunctious lion cubs wrestling in the Serengeti. Enjoy!

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