The Serengeti: Animals at Dinner, A Balloon Ride and Lunch With the Lions

I am going to combine two days, as they were spent in the Serengeti.  We are staying in a beautiful lodge in the bush of Serengeti, which is not fenced in at all.  Once again, we must call for an escort to move around after dark, as the animals come into the lodge area at any time. Some of the escorts are Maasai and carry an actual spear.  We definitely feel safe when walking at night!

Our day began at 4:30 am to be taken to the balloon launch area.  Let me say that I was extremely apprehensive about this, as I really have a problem with heights, not to mention that I’m not an early riser!  Upon arriving at the launch site, we watched them inflate the balloons, and received a briefing on how to hook in for takeoff, which was done with the basket on its side.  Our pilot was Shawn from Canada, and he was funny and reassuring, so I felt better, even lying in a small basket on my back in a small cubicle with 15 other people.

Just before lift off we are finally vertical after being horizontal for what seemed like a long time!
Just before lift off we are finally vertical after being horizontal for what seemed like a long time!

Shawn fired up the propane, the basket tilted to upright, and slowly we lifted off.  It was very quiet, smooth and non-threatening to me.  We watched a beautiful sunrise as we sailed quietly over the Serengeti, which means “endless plain”.

Beautiful sunrise over the Serengeti from the balloon
Beautiful sunrise over the Serengeti from the balloon

And indeed it appeared to be endless when viewed from up there.  Unfortunately, the migration has moved farther south, so we did not witness that, though we saw elephants, assorted gazelles, hippos, and even flew right over a vulture nest.

We  passed right over this vulture nest
We passed right over this vulture nest

After about an hour, we landed to champagne and a traditional English breakfast set up in the middle of the Serengeti. Great experience overall. And another “height” experience that I’m pleased to say that I completed! I felt that the champagne was appropriate.

Traditional English breakfast with champagne is served in the bush after the ride.
Traditional English breakfast with champagne is served in the bush after the ride.

George met us with our home sweet home  Land Rover for a game drive to look for the big cats.  He is very knowledgable about the animals, their habits, and their territories, so we were immensely successful in seeing all three at different times, in different settings, and doing different activities.  Our first experience was a pride that was moving in the grass, with adults play-fighting with each other and three babies running along. lion fight-1 

They crossed the road right in front of us!

The next spotting was two lions resting in a tree, with several more resting below it, as well as on the ground.

The next spotting was two lions resting in a tree, with several more resting below it. We came upon a leopard sleeping in a tree on several occasions, which is where they prefer to sleep. They are hard to spot, as their fur makes a perfect camoflage.

Leopards sleep in trees.  They can drag prey up trees as well.
Leopards sleep in trees. They can drag prey up trees as well.

We saw a female cheetah walking and running in the grass with three babies trailing along, and cheeta pairs and families on several other occasions. K was very happy about that, as the cheetah is her favorite animal. Sightings are not that common, as they are solitary cats.  cheetah cubs-1We found a spot with several lions resting on a large rock, and more below in the lower bushes, and had a nice “lunch with the lions”, quietly eating our food not more than 50’ away from them.  cheetah pair-1Most animals are used to the vehicles, and don’t react badly.  George did caution us not to go out to “check the tires”, his term for relieving yourself  at that particular spot!  Returning to the lodge, we spotted a female cheetah with two absolutely precious babies resting under a tree, not 50’ from us.  The babies were not quite sure of us, so they looked at us frequently with curious faces, giving great opportunities for photos.

Of course we also saw many types of gazelles and antelopes,

Grand Gazelle.  They do not need watering holes, as they lick the dew off the grass.
Gazelles and impalas do not need watering holes, as they lick the dew off the grass. They do not have to migrate as a result.

warthogs and giraffes, though not in great numbers as George took us to areas primarily inhabited by cats.

Giraffes eat the acacia trees
Giraffes eat the acacia trees

Having seen and taken many pictures of most of the animals in Ngorogoro and Taranguire, we are at the point now where we just observe in passing rather than stop to photograph them again.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this blog in the Land Rover (“jeep”) instead of looking around.  K is very good at letting me know when something worthwhile is seen.

I didn’t feel well, so I did not go to dinner that night, but K came back very excited to tell me that a cape buffalo was chasing a leopard through the grounds as people ate and watched.  Guess they weren’t kidding when they said that dangerous animals came around!  The next night, as we were eating at an outside table, two cape buffalo wandered through.  It was a little disconcerting to us; our server asked us to get out of our seats and move back until they passed. Always an adventure here!

Until next time, hope you’re enjoying sharing our adventure.

Cape buffalo toothbrush
Cape buffalo toothbrush
The king of beasts, for sure.  Lions can kill any other of the Big 5
The king of beasts, for sure. Lions can kill any other of the Big 5
Grant and Thomposns gazelles are great food for lions.
Grant and Thomposns gazelles are great food for lions.
Cheetah pair
Cheetah pair
Mama cheeta runs with cubs
Mama cheeta runs with cubs

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3 thoughts on “The Serengeti: Animals at Dinner, A Balloon Ride and Lunch With the Lions

  1. Awesome photos The cheetah pair and the leopard in the tree are fantastic. What fun!
    Congrats on the balloon trip. Was it a difficult landing?

    Greta

    Like

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