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Serengeti strikes back (after Mara kicks sand in her face)


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The new predator was the Side-striped Jackal. I've seen Caracal before, although I only have a picture of the ears and a lot of grass - nice shot of the ears. I'm afraid we'd drive our wives mad if we double-dated Leeds - nice idea for us though, providing we're earning enough for the alimony. :P


You swamped me with "Likes". I really appreciated the first dozen. ;)

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Overcompensation for missing the start!

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Okay, I'll start again as I have a holiday on Wednesday and should have enough time to get through a few days.


The next morning doesn't really need much explanation - the pictures pretty much tell the story. Some of the shots are a bit over-saturated - I had one night processing where I must have been having colour-blindness issues, but this isn't primarily a photo forum so I'll not go all prima donna on you and "have to redo them first".


We left before sunrise as we were all pretty excited at having ended up in the midst of the migration, and because Deo reckoned we'd have until 9 or 10 before the tsetses descended on us. There were wildebeest all round the camp but there was plenty of other wildlife around too. The next few shots (up to the lions) are all within a very short drive of camp - the staff tents are actually just out of shot in the elephant picture.


First sighting of the day....




Then we saw some gazelles running very fast - the reason why would become clear in a few minutes.




But first we'd have to stop for some hartebeest....





It turned out if we hadn't stopped for the elephants we might well have seen a cheetah kill - the gazelles had been running from this.... taken some time later when the gazelle was pretty cleaned up - we arrived when she was making her second incision in the belly, but I'm guessing you can do without seeing that. :)




She was pretty hungry and Deo parked us relatively close. Either Bibi has quite a strong stomach or her eyes weren't adjusting well to the early morning light. This cheetah appeared to like brains and intestines and had a particular method of eating them that was quite noisy.




After 45 minutes (alone) we left the cheetah to the remains of breakfast. She has been quite nervous eating - looking around every minute or two before resuming feeding. At first I thought it was us, but it didn't seem like it. A few minutes away we found the real reason - three big male lions and their pride on a wildebeest kill. The males had just finished and one of the lionesses took her cubs to feed.







And some cleaning afterwards... while a slightly older cub went to check out the wildebeest.




And the younger cubs were then taken off to the bushes to rest, while the older cub came back to take on the carcass on his own.






With the lions getting ready for sleep and really enough sightings for a day already in the bag by 9.00, we decided to head off down to the river to see what the wildebeest were up to - they had been moving that way and a crossing seemed likely.


I won't go on about waiting for crossings again - basically it was just like the year before but with slightly better shade. There were some promising signs, but everything was rather calm. Zebras came down to the river, followed by some wildebeest, but it was only to drink as they had been massing since the early morning (we heard from Deo's friend from Sayari who does a radio commentary - like "Live from the Crossing Point" - for the other guides who know to listen. Deo gave us some translation, but warned us this guy was notoriously (and hilariously) over-excitable, and that his commentary of "They're massing in their thousands. There's going to be a HUGE crossing today and you better get here . This could be a record crossing - they're still coming from everywhere!" should be taken as entertainment as much as information.


Just down for a drink




We had breakfast with a view of the river, ready to go just in case, but the drinkers went back up the bank and the wildebeest started drifting away from the banks to graze; so we settled in for a long wait. However, the end of breakfast was interrupted by some news from just up the road.... two rhinos out in the open and browsing without a care. They hadn't been seen for quite a while and so we quite lucky to be there. It was a mother and (very big) child). You can see the wildebeest "state of play" in the background.







It was turning into a pretty good morning.



Back at the river, the sun was hot as it got to midday, but the wildebeest were annoyingly neither coming or going. The scenery is a lot prettier at other times of day.




We decided to go for a drive as we would have a number of chances to see crossings, even if we missed this one. We didn't see much, but got an idea of the lay of the land, and a large number of basking hippos was more than distracting.




In the heat most of the animals were hidden away, but with all the wildebeest carcasses in the river there were of course lots of vultures, a few crocodiles, and Marabou Storks everywhere.




We had lunch back at the river and decided that if there was no movement by the time we finished we would call it a day and return to the Lamai Wedge to look for lions and cheetahs and whatever else was about. As I mentioned, we could afford to be cool about crossings because the best was obviously yet to come and we had another 6 days here.


Of course nothing did happen and we crossed back over the bridge and were completely on our own again. We didn't see much at first - just the usual suspects (which included Eland here) and a single buffalo who wasn't all that happy about being disturbed in the bath.




We saw a few more hyenas, but they weren't doing much, and so we agreed to take Bibi back to camp (she was a little tired) and then come out again. We drove up to the Kenyan border marker and spent the last of the day among the wildebeest, who were growing in numbers, and watching the goings-on in Kenya, where ti seemed very quiet indeed. We didn't see anything except wildebest and the occasional elephant or giraffe in the distance, but it was wonderful to be out there, out of the vehicle at the border marker, seeing what we could see and discussing Mara experiences with Deo.














Back at camp we met some people who had waited all day for the crossing and been rewarded with one at 5 p.m. They had been there since 7 a.m. as they were amazingly only here for two nights (so one whole day) and wanted to spend the whole time waiting for a crossing. good for them and their patience, but that would have been four more hours of waiting and we didn't regret our decision at all. We'd be very well rewarded for our casual attitude the next day.


There was soup and something for dinner and we drank a bottle of wine. At night there were lions and hyenas around camp, and another wildebeest cried in the night and never made it back across the river.

Edited by pault
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And just in case you are reading this with breakfast wherever you are in the world, here are some morning exercises with Bibi to get the circulation going.


To the left-2-3-4 and to the right 2-3-4 .... repeat five times and HOLD!


Tsetse trap is an optional accessory - hanging a blue shirt on the washing line is a simple substitute..



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Loving the photography, really beautiful.

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It's time for this.....




There are a couple of things about the previious night that I missed out, because they are part of the story oif the next day. Firstly, we'd talked over dinner and decided that we would dedicate the next day to crossings. Part of what we werre doing out on the kenyan border was looking at the wildebeest movements and the size of the herd - and it now really was spread as far as the eye could see. There were a few spoits where there weren't any wildebeest (and those were very worth checking out for predators) but generally the whole of the Lamia Wedge and the part of the Mara visible from the border was covered. There were now woodland wildebeest making life difficult for the impalas. Even better there was cearly some rain falling to the south. Babu thought the next day was as close to a certainty for a crossing as we could get - and that in fact there would probably be multiple crossings. We were cool with that, as Bibi needed to see a crossing, and we ourselves had never quite seen anything this massive. Babu was quite excited himself.


At night walking back to the tent, when I shone the torch into the bush as usual, on the off chance there was something interesting, the bushes lit up like Christmas trees with thousands of wildebeest eyes. We were completely surrounded by them. And that night, after the cry of the dying wildebeest the thunder started - thousands of animals running; whether backwards and forwards in panic or just forwards to the river, I don't know, but I do know it was difficult to sleep because of the thunder. Finally, as a climax of sorts thousands of them ran right past our tent - both front and back - and the air was thick with their noise and their smell. After five minutes they were either gone, or they stopped and settled down - I didn't really know, but I did then sleep soundlly.


So in the morning we left again at dawn and slowly drove down to the river.





We had a look for the three male lions on the way. but they had moved on, as had their pride and we were not going to search for them this day. The wildebeest hard was getting denser and louder and although it was still very early we decided we would cross over to the other side of the river and see what the situation was. Status report: massive. Near Olakira there were already two groups of perhaps a thousand each out on the banks and many thousands more behind them in the trees, and more importantly, they were streaming down to the river from every direction. And this wasn't all of it - we heard there was another very impressive massing going on just a few kilometers upriver too. The group near Olakira were looking ready to go soon but not imminently, but since the road along the river is a challenge even in a 4x4 - perfectly doable but it requires concentration in places - we decided not to drive further to check out the other group. Bad move, because shortly after we heard they were crossing! Hold on Bibi! Keep us vertical Babu!


We arrived in plenty of time because the other crossing turned out to be a big one. When we arrived the crossing was coming to a halt and we thought we had missed it, although there were clearly still 80% of the animals on the other side of the river. However, it was just a blockage caused by some careful zebras who ahd got sppoked by a wildebeest carcass near their entry point, and the presence of a couple of crocodiles. The zebras got their courage up and the crossing restarted, giving us 15 more minutes to watch.. Bibi was quiet for once and Babu took care of explaining some things to her and telling her where to look.


Zebras rounding the corpse




The water was quite fast here and animals were struggling to keep on line, although surprisingly we saw very fwe completely swept away.







After 20 minutes or so, the zebras and then the wildebeest started to spook again - there were a couple of big crocodiles in the water and then one on the bank moved, which freaked everybody out - especially Bibi who couldn't find it through her binoculars. The crossing was abandoned and suddenly it was a race to get up the bank and away from the water.




I was wondering whether we should wait for them to start again but Deo said no because he'd heard by radio that the herds at Olakira had become mega-sized and a crossing looked imminent. Our exitable commentator was calling it .... "It's going to be the biggest crossing I've ever seen.... you will never see anything like this in your life." Even given his love of hyperbole, we couldn't really not go, and so it was back to "Hang on Bibi" and "Keep us vertical, Babu." as we returned to Olakira.


And we were not disappointed. Although there are many spectacular crossings near Olakira every year, this one kept the guides' tongues wagging for quite a few days, and I suspect that "I was there when..... " will get me respect from Olakira guides for a little while to come.


I'm being a tease again.... so here is a teaser. Unfortunately work means I'll have to wait to post the rest of the day's excitement.



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Loving the photography, really beautiful.


You realise that when you posted this, it started a new page but (I guess as a function of the forum program) it took the single photo of Mum's morning exercises with it. I have to laugh when I think what someone browsing through and jumping straight to the top of page 7 will think! :D And thank you!

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From the previous page:

Rhino calf not.... :blink: rhino child!!!


And from this page:

The whole of our part of the Lamai Wedge was full of wildebeest - I have no idea if the rest of it was full too as I didn't have a helicopter with me. I got a bit carried away like our friend on the radio. :rolleyes:

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The crossing was three crossings in one - with three entry points being used. I have no idea how many wildebeest crossed and with the amount of trees on the other side of the river, there was no way to see how many there really were over there - but they just kept on coming and coming for around 40 minutes - timed by my camera. Every time you thought it was nearly over, another few hundred came running out of the trees, and two of the three entry points were spewing wildebeest into the river for pretty much the whole 40 minutes. We moved twice to get different views of different columns crossing as they covered quite a wide area.. A couple disappeared under the water for no apparent reason - so crocodiles probably, and a number got swept away by the current. There were dozens of little dramas going on just that I noticed, and surely so much more that I didn't. Really this is not a great place to cross the river as the current is strong... but they clearly don't bother about that and it makes for dramatic viewing


You know what it was like, noisy, dusty and complete chaos - but here we had been watching two or three sizable crossings all at once - overkill for the senses. At the end all any of us three could say was "wow!" Bibi is a talker and she started about three sentences but just couldn't get beyond the first couple of words with any of them. Our eyes and minds were just too full of images of leaping, swimming, crawling, clambering wildebeest to process speech for a full minute.




Perspective on part of the scene



The zebras in the water in the background crossed from a fourth point and that ended up to be a tragedy for one of them. Here they are being too smart for their own good and heading for a private crossing point.










Some didn't make it but did manage to get back ..... others just didn't make it.





Over the rocks looked like a good route, but it was slippy and the effort needed was almost as great as in the water.




The zebras were running into rock and hippo trouble and a foal was getting separated. I took this shot just for a wider view and didn't realise until later that it was (sort of) evidence for what was going to happen next. You see the foal beyond the last zebra - it's heading for the hippos and it is going to get swept further downstream by the rapids just behind the hippo in front of it (check out the first picture to get a clearer idea of where that current is going to take it).





I was following a wildebeest that had been bitten by a crocodile and was completely exhausted and trying desperately to get the energy together to climb out of the river, but couldn't, when my wife and Babu started talking about a hippo killing a zebra. I wasn't paying attention and was totally caught up with the struggle of the wildebeest (it made it, by the way and no bad cuts or broken legs as I was sure it must have) and dismissed what I heard as a misunderstanding by my wife... I really should know better. A moment later "The hippo's eating the zebra" got my attention and as the wildebeest was out of the water I followed Babu's finger. Sure enough....








I can't say I saw the actual kill myself, and my wife wasn't looking through binoculars so she just thought she saw that happen, but others claim to have seen it and I guess some even photographed it as there were three vehicles quite close to where it happened. I know there are a few cases of hippos killing to eat (well, I do now, thanks to the internet), and of course there are many cases of hippos feeding off carrion, but it is still a surprise to me. There was still plenty of food for the hippos on land and maybe the exhausted zebra foal just kind of floated with the current into the hippos mouth. Anyway, that is something I probably won't be seeing again. I may also never quite think of hippos in the same way again.


Babu asked if I wanted to go around and get closer for some shots - I declined and although normally he would be slightly upset if I didn't want to get into the best position possible for something worthwhile or remarkable (what business it is of his, I don't know, but if your guide is going to have an annoying trait, I think this is a rather nice one for him to have :) ) in this case he was quite understanding that we could live without the close up view - I had the shots for the record anyway.


Does it add a more sinister edge to this picture?




After all that, we drove out to see a cheetah and her cubs on a kill that had been made around the time of the first crossing - some people had been there and had to choose between these two events, but the second crossing made their decision to stay a wise one... if they did (it wasn't really clear to me). Anyway, Deo had been told about the cheetahs sometime during the crossing.


It was late morning and the sun was mostly behind them but they were good to watch. Offroading is technically not allowed here, but it is more a case of offroading is not allowed if anyone but your friends is there or if you go too far off road. Lamai Wedge is laxer but technically Babu said the rules are the same - just nobody will mind as long as there is a good reason for it and you are not just taking a shortcut. Anyway, they were nearly finished eating and it was fun to see one of the little ones chase off the vultures who were gathering, and the other one come really close to try to get in the shade of a vehicle - the guide mad a movement to scare it off. After half an hour mother decided they would go and find some real shade and they headed away from the road (not to be seen again while we were in the area). Since we were nearly there already, Babu decide we should drive along the river and maybe find something interesting.





We stopped to view the place where a lot of wildebeest carcasses get washed up (you don't want to see that - it's slightly more agreeable than it sounds, but only slightly) and then crossed back over the bridge, which had more water now but was still very crossable. We also saw a very calm group of Eland, who allowed us quite close for once - lots of Eland here but mostly they run off if you stop; even 70 meters away and more of the usual. But actually this afternoon and the times we spent at Olakira kind of merge into each other... It doesn't matter. I thought we ended up following the Sand River to the Kenyan border but my pictures don't say that - they say we did that another day.


Whatever, in the late afternoon we found two lionesses who weren't doing too much...




But when we followed them when they moved off across a lugga, guess what came out of the bushes to meet them?




So, although they were a little way off, that was us occupied for the rest of the day, until we had to head back off to camp or we wouldn't make it by dark.





We didn't make it back by dark anyway but never mind. The ranger at camp (all the mobile camps in Lamai Wedge have to have an on-site ranger) didn't seem to mind - maybe Babu had brought him something nice from Arusha.

Edited by pault
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Wow, who has ever seen anything like that?

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Awesome update, pault :) catching the hippo turning carnivore proved to be a real trump hand! The crossing was amazing too like.


I recall a documentary showing a hippo carrying off an impala fawn once so it must happen very rarely. Not sure what comes over them. Maybe curiosity.

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to quote you on that day... "Wow!"

... and 'wow' to the great photos too!

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Mmmmm, is that it???



Only kidding. :D

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Wow, oh wow is an understatement! So much for that herbivore/vegetarian hippo theory!


I have such mixed feelings about these silly wildies and their senseless crossing points, but your zebra/wildie images are spectacular. And it looks like such a happy, blue river at first glance.


Quite a day that was - not surprised that so much action is getting all jumbled together in your memories.

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Wow, who has ever seen anything like that?


Pault, I don't mean to hijack your excellent TR, but since there seems to be an interest in herbivores turned carnivores, I thought I would post this picture taken in 2005 at Paradise Crossing on the Mara. This was one of maybe a dozen wildie carcasses left floating after a 10K+ crossing in October.



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AKChui... No hijacking worries - in the unlikely event that it gets too much and people have a lot to say (and that would be great) I'll ask Game Warden to move the relevant posts to a new thread, but I don't have another update ready right now, so there is nothing to "interrupt" for now.


Thanks for the photo. I knew hippos would eat carrion occasionally, even though they don't really have the digestive system to deal with meat,.... but I had never thought they would actually killing something to eat it.Of course the question is why wouldn't they? Since they both kill other animals (especially humans) and eat carrion... why not put the two together? I just didn't think it happened. It's kind of unsettling. :blink:

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Mmmmm, is that it???



Only kidding. :D


That's it twaffle - well for now. I actually didn't mean to pump it up so much at first (I even mentioned it blandly as "killer hippo" in my intro) but I needed to buy time. :P


Since I appear to have got into the habit of selling my trip report like a television series, I have to say the final two episodes include another "don't believe conventional wisdom moment" involving two of the main safari characters.... and don't forget about the dead dog, the offical best place for mongoose watching, and the honey burglar mystery ..... still to come! :lol:

Edited by pault
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Brilliant additions, Paul - both images and text!!!! Haven't read all of it as I just got home from a long week away - will have a proper look tomorrow!

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Surprisingly (not), Bibi was ready for a low-key and slightly lazy couple of days. I haven't been making it very clear but except where mentioned we'd been taking out both breakfast and lunch with us. In any case, Deo and I decided we should spend the rest of the time at Serengeti North Wilderness Camp on the Kenyan side of the river in teh Lamai Wedge, and give it a real chance to produce something special of its own. Since the Kenyan rangers aren't particuarly bothered if you cross over into Kenya here (within reason I guess) you actually have a little bit more than is on the map to explore, and since we would only see 3-4 vehicles over the next two days we could pretty much drive offroad as we wanted to look for things. That's important since there are very few roads near the Kenyan border. So the following sightings are all from these two days - in the evening of the second day we crossed over to Olakira where we were based for the following three nights. There isn't really a need to order them I guess.


On the first day there were considerably fewer wildebeest and there was little hope of a crossing. Our entertaining commentator had to satsfy himself following two male lions, who he assured everyone were "the biggest lions I have ever seen - monsters! So big I am following them to Kenya - and he did, apparently all the way to the Serena hill. I have no idea what his guests think of him, or if they even know what he is talking about on the radio. I am not going to be the one to unmask him in case he doesn't tell them (it's all in Swahili), but those guests pay rather a lot of money and quite a few of them are probably the type who stay in camp more than you or I would, so I do wonder. i suspect he is a very charming man and able to read just how much he can indulge his obsession with crossing commentaries with each group.


The plains filled up again slowly over that day and in after that there were good-sized crossings every day near Olakira. the number of wildebeest coming seemed infinite and in fact while writing this I have read something suggesting that there were crossings in Kenya until at least the end of Novermber - although some of these may be the wildebeest that crossed back into the Lamai Wedge after we left and when it was raining in Kenya but not yet in the Southern Serengeti.


Good morning, Lamai Wedge!




Generally of course the wildlife in the Lamai Wedge was very similar to what you would see in the mara, especially the Mara Triangle - you could likely even see the same individuals. Definitely a case of the usual suspects. South of the river is much the same but there are many more Eland as well as Kilpspringer (we didn't see any to my disappointment - almost as bad as missing Honey Badgers in the CKGR two years ago).








We would generally see one family of elephants passing through heading the same direction every time we went up near the Kenyan border - just coincidence but it seemed to suggest either the border grass was particuarly good or there was a salt lick or something equally irresistable the way they were heading.




Sometimes the view is eerily similar - yes that is the same escarpment in the background.






We watched a fairly young hyena defending a wildebeest carcass from a group of vultures one morning. It was a very energetic defence, but as the hyena was full in the end the vultures got their prize.





This Egyptian Vulture was meanwhile wasting time with this old carcass... plenty of fresher ones around.





Hyenas sharing one of their vulture jokes... the one about how many vultures it takes to change a lightbulb I think.




Emptier plains......




But the flow towards the river soon resumed.....




We had sundowners at the Kenyan border marker - actually no reason for it to be there, but it was a nice spot and proof for Bibi that she was actually standing in Kenya. It is very windy there and you see the occasional vehicle over near Serena, but it really does feel very isolated and with the great view you can nearly always find something with your binoculars. Cheers!




Lamai Wedge picnic




Bibi: Is he taking a picture? Have I got to pose?

Wife and Babu: I think he might be taking a picture, Bibi, but no need to pose.





We didn't see as many predators as we had hoped, but it wasn't bad, We found yet another lion pride and one of the lionesses started stalking a Reedbuck, but without any success.



Spotted! A pretty weak effort offering further fuel for those who theorise that lions actually only ever catch anything by accident.




I think part of the problem with the hunting was that all the lions had had it so easy for so long that they really couldn't be bothered with something that required any effort. The crocodiles in the river were pretty much the same way - token efforts to be in the water during crossings, but no real effort to get to where the wildebeest actually were or to fight for a catch if one did actually swim into their mouth. :rolleyes:


Strangely we would regualarly see elephant near camp in the very early morning, but almost never at other times.






On the day we were due to move to Olakira Deo and I decided to go out with breakfast and let the others have a fried egg day in camp. We promised to come and get them by 10 but found two cheetahs under a tree near the Kenya border. Since our vehicle barely raised an eyelash, we surmised they were true Mara cheetahs. That was confirmed when they actually permitted us to share their shade - it was a very hot day. We thought they might hunt as they looked hungry, so since we hadn't much better to do we waited with them, occasionally (us - they stayed) making a foray into Kenya, where we found two Bat-eared Foxes sharing a den (for some reason I don't have a picture in my gallery - I was sure I had put one in there). However, it was hot and the foxes weren't much more active than the cheetahs.


Sweet dreams but no sweet action.........




A moment of alertness, but untortunately the gazelle of interest was in the sun and that was looking much too hot for these boys who were apparently hoping a gazelle would join us in the shade.




Plenty of time to study the cheetah in detail while sharing their shade...... maybe too much time!




Furry tongue




We returned to our vigil after picking up the ladies, but after two hours Bibi decided that the boys didn't know what they were doing and ordered us to do something more interesting. We took her to see the Bat-eared Foxes, found her some mongooses and buffalos and fed her lunch, but she wasn't satisfied and we actually had our first moment of real group discomfort. She was not happy with waiting for cheetahs to move (watching paint dry she said). She got quite angry. I was as puzzled as Babu but assured him everything would be okay - but in the meantime there was no choice but to get Bibi to Olakira. On the way the real reason popped out "There was a crossing on today." - Babu had relayed the live commentary- "I'd rather wait by the river than wait with those cheetahs." The terrible truth was out. Bibi has been transformed into a crossing addict. I've met these sad creatures (only happy when waiting by the water where there is no chance the animals can cross before they can get to the river banks) in the Mara before, but this brought home that it could happen to anyone! We had a potential problem here, and thank goodness we'd be at Olakira the next three days where, if there was a large gathering, we could leave the junky in camp, so that she could keep an eye on them massing from in front of camp and jump into one of the camp vehicles if they actually did start to cross, safe in the knowledge that she'd be "in time".

Edited by pault
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Some fabulous pictures here. I love the front end of the sleeping cheetah.

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Amazing pics and trip report. When I glanced at the elephant at sunset I wondered how a pic from Australia snuck in...thought it was Uluru (Ayers Rock)! The sweet dreams cheetah pic certainly is sweet and what perfect lighting.

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I am enjoying travels with Bibi so much - and the cheetahs that I could observe all day. Love the lighting on sleeping cat.

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