Strolling through the Serengeti on a fine day. The sky darkens as the short rains arrive and flush the lowlands. Common Ostrich seem uncommonly hurried as they strut in formation across the plains.
They aren’t the only ones. In the distant grass, moving, searching, a Cheetah lopes along with purpose.
There have been records of a band of Cheetah brothers hunting together and taking down Ostrich… but the odds aren’t anywhere close to even today. Still, it pays to listen to that little instinct that moves you further away from predators.
Strutting becomes running and then the Ostrich take full flight, as only they can.
Well my internet connection has finally returned and I can start sharing the fruits of last month’s journey to Tanzania. It took me three trips before I ever got to see a Cheetah but thankfully they have been less elusive lately. This one was lounging on the crater floor waiting out the rain. It seemed to be considering whether it was worth the effort to amble toward a nearby herd of Thompson’s Gazelle.
Ngorongoro Crater is one of my favorite places to spend a day. Looking into it from the rim you might see a few specks which later turn out to be Elephants or Cape Buffalo, but only if you are looking hard for them. It just seems like a vast, beautiful, calm, cauldron of green and the animals don’t really appear until you take the long drive down the entrance road 2000 feet to the crater floor.
Once at the bottom you beging to see Zebra, Warthogs, Gazelle, Jackals, Flamingos, Kori Bustards, Lapwings, Falcons, Harriers, and in between wandering bundles of grazing Wildebeest you spy a slender tawny creature slinking through the grass and see the first big cat of your trip… a Cheetah.
It is a truly special feeling to visit them in their natural habitat.
That flexible spine is one of the keys to the tremendous speeds they can achieve. The vegetation is hiding a small pool of water and the Cheetah is slaking its thirst.
This guy has had a rough week. He sustained an injury to his snout. It might have been a confrontation with feisty prey or a tussle with a competitor for food. Their are plenty of Hyenas about and they seem happy to forego any social niceties. He looked like he was on the mend though. In the video below you might see him breathing heavily but it turns out that’s a feature of big cats, rapid, heavy, body-pulsing, respiration.
Dust devils parade across the distant shore of Lake Magadi and the rain clouds begin to darken the crater once more.
The Cheetah decides to move on and displays none of its reputed speed as it carefully and silently steps away.
Maasai still bring their cattle and goats to the crater floor to drink and are comfortable with the hard won mutual respect they have established with the big cats over the generations.
Meanwhile a Banded Martin takes a break near the crater wall.
On the fog lined crater rim a Common Buzzard surveys the whiteout below and waits for the sun to emerge.
Here is a view looking toward the Serengeti Plains from the crater rim.
There will be more photos from Ngorongoro Crater over the next few days and we’ll head toward the Serengeti after that.
I’m going to start a multi-part series on the Ngorongoro Crater soon… but I’m working on another big project now and my internet is… you guessed it, down for the count. So in a few days, once the dust settles, I’ll start the series. For now here’s a snarling preview. A young male Cheetah.
A baby Baboon looks up from the security of its mothers arms.
With any luck, that little baboon will transform into this someday.
This baby Zebra is so young its stripes are still wrinkled.
I thought someone had left a plastic toy tortoise in my parents backyard… until it started walking toward me.
A Blue Monkey in the canopy near Lake Manyara.
Cape Buffalo at the water’s edge. Early morning at Lake Manyara.
A closer look at a Cape Buffalo.
A Cheetah waits out the rain in Ngorongoro Crater.
In the Serengeti, afternoon sunlight and a Cheetah at rest.
Our tiniest antelope, the Dik Dik. They are often seen in pairs near the roadside where good cover is plentiful.
Elephants are thrilling to encounter. Sometimes peaceful, sometimes dangerous, always astounding.
A Giraffe feeds in Mikumi National Park.
In Zanzibar glowing worms pulse and crawl across rocks as the Indian Ocean rumbles in the darkness.
Hyenas are the definition of tough. They have immense jaw strength and can snap bones like toothpicks.
Closing out the Tanzania series, a Hyrax (related to the elephant) seeks relief from the blazing sun under our car.