-I'm not sure what time it is though my best guess is around 5:30. The campsite is awake and people have fires going. I am jealous as a toasty fire would be nice. We haven't had a fire at any of our camps. I'm going to ask Swalehh if we can make one tonight.
I had an odd dream that a City Counsel Woman woke me up in my tent and tried to get my vote. Very unusual. It has been an extremely cold night and hasn't shown any signs of warming up.
-The drive started a bit slow. Before the sun came up I think we only saw a rabbit and a hippo in a field. The sunrise was beautiful. A bright, orange ball of fire. It does not look like that at home (though I'm rarely awake in time to watch the sunrise...I should do that more often). Moments after the sun appeared, the two Hot Air Balloons drifted by. It looks like an amazing ride. I hope an opening comes available.
A while later we found a pride of 4 Lionesses including one with a collar on. We stayed with them for around 2 hours as they were fairly active. A large herd of Gazelles started walking in the general direction of the Lionesses and the hunt was on. The Lionesses spread out and slowly approached from different angles. I was shooting handheld at 800mm f/5.6 which is not an easy task. I picked the lioness I thought had the best chance of making the kill and followed her with my lens. Alas, it was another that grabbed the prize but I am very excited about the photo's in general. I didn't get that "gore" shot I wanted but it was still very exciting to watch.
We drove on another 15 minutes or so and have discovered another pride of Lions. As I am writing this I can see the big male lying comfortably on his back. There are two females and at least one cub too. We've been sitting here around a half hour or so and they haven't moved yet. Soon I hope.
-We waited a long time. The big male finally stood up and gave me a shot. He had a huge gash on his nose I'm assuming from a fight with another lion but who knows. The cut stood up too but was camouflaged by some brush so I don't think I got anything usable there. I shot too many pics today. I need to be more conservative as I expect Ngorongoro to be the best park of all and it makes me nervous to dump memory cards on my Wolverine portable drive (for the record, I only needed to dump one card by the time the trip was over.)
-I learned some new Swahili Slang..."Vipi Mambo?" means "What's up dude?" The appropriate response is "Poa" which means "cool."
-Most of the tents that were here last night have been packed up. I met a couple from Salt Lake City that are with a huge group that stayed here last night. I realize now what a distinct advantage I have to being on safari solo. I mentioned to them when they were back in Arusha they should visit the market. The woman in charge of the safari aggressively interrupted and said "No! We are on a tight schedule! No time for the Arusha Market!" I think their safari runs are brief too as they left after us this morning and were back with camp packed before we even returned. The way I have it set up I am able to stay out as long as I want. It's cool (poa) too because Nickson seems to enjoy the safari's as much as I do. When a nice animal is giving a good pose Nickson grabs his camera for a shot too.
-Great success with the flushing hole in the ground! It requires balance, aim and a bit of luck but I perservered! :)
-Just made a bit of a spectacle of myself at camp. I loaded up the 400mm lens (it's huge), hooked up a couple of Pocket Wizards (Remote Flash Triggers) and set up a remote flash at the opening to a Mongoose Den. While setting up I managed to step in and slip in a pool of slimy, stinky, black and green muck. I don't know what it is, I don't want to know. Wouldn't have been too big a deal except being the genius I am I wasn't wearing any shoes..just thongs. Blech.
I did get the shot though and that's what counts right? I chimped (viewed through the camera screen) and I am thrilled with them! Beautiful, golden light with tall grass. I can't wait to play with them on the computer.
-The evening safari was quite nice. Almost immediately we saw a Lioness who politely gave some perfect poses. I can't believe how many awesome lion photo's I've shot today. We also found a new grazer and lots of them...Topi. There was also one Hartebeest. It's really something that we've gone this long without seeing any and tonight we see so many. We also so the first Zebra's in Serengeti tonight (there are tens of thousands further north in Kenya migrating with the Wildebeests following the rain). We drove quite a way tonight. I've been on so many bumpy rides I'm not entirely convinced my colon hasn't somehow separated itself from my body! Nickson had a plan though. We arrived at the Serengeti Hippo Pool. The best hippo pool so far! It is clearly a popular destination as there were picnic tables and a bathroom. You can get out of your car here. There may have been a hundred or more hippos. Massive beasts passive large quantities of gas spraying brown, murky water into each others faces. It was great fun! I got a bit adventurous and wandered off alone into the brush to see what I could see. I ended up going farther than I should I know but it paid off. I found the channel of water feeding the hippo pool and in it was a dead crocodile floating on it's back. His abdomen was clearly crushed by the massive jaws of a hippo. There to the left was what must have been the culprit. A lone hippo in his own pool and he was not happy to see me. He was flat out mad that I was there! He made a huge grumbling sound and started thrashing in the water. There is not a doubt in my mind he would have killed me in a second if given the opportunity. I was feeling particularly adventurous so I climbed a couple of rocks to get closer and squatted to eye level. It still wasn't the right angle so I got precariously close to the waters edge. Thankfully, I have good peripheral vision and noticed a slight ripple in the water to my left and some small bubbles moving towards me at a slow and steady pace. It was I am sure a huge crocodile looking to make a meal out of me...Yowza!
On a side note...when I die, if given the opportunity to look back on key moments in my life and see the unseen there are at least 3 moments I really want to know about. One was a few years ago when I was playing in the World Series of Poker I folded a pocket pair of Jacks face up before the flop after a player reraised me. I later learned that player was ranked about #40 in the world...I really want to know what I folded to. The next would be to see the fish that broke away after our brutal fight in Alaska and the third would be to see what was making those bubbles and moving towards me....sorry to get distracted there..back to the story :)
I hastily made my retreat back to where people were. I told a man from Switzerland about the dead croc so he went with me to have a look. I gave him my memory card and asked him to take a picture of me with his camera. Every near-death experience should be documented with a photo I always say :)
So the sun was visible on the horizon. We had been there probably 45 minutes or so and I asked Nickson to go so we could find some Twiga for the impending sunset. In hindsight, we should have stayed as the photo op never materialized and we missed another sunset..c'est lavie.
-I asked Swalehh to take a break from cooking tonight and invited him and Nickson to have dinner with me at the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. It is a nice place to have dinner. Wouldn't you know it? Nickson knew everyone working there! Bellman, front desk, servers, cooks..everyone knows Nickson! It was a a buffet style dinner and was pretty good. I had a glass of red wine..the 1st in a long time. To get to the restaurant you climb many stairs and walk through a narrow passageway created by massive boulders. There were 3 people playing traditional African beats while we dined. It wasn't cheap (around $120 American) but it was well worth it just to be back in civilization for a bit. There was a TV on in the bar and it seemed like forever since I had seen one. I was reminded how acclimated I've become to being without my "normal" lifestyle. While Nickson went to get ice, Swalehh and I waited in the lounge where African Dancers were performing. They made Beyonce look like she learned how to dance from me! Literally, their booties were shaking so fast but they legs, back and head weren't moving or at times were keeping their own beat totally separate from the booty! It was some serious dancing I kid you not.
It's pretty late now so I am off to bed.
A stork waiting for the sunrise.
One of the Hot Air Balloons floating past the sunrise.
Looking for food.
It was still early enough when we found this pride to catch the beautiful Serengeti side light.
When Lions lay down in this grass it is very difficult to see them.
The hunt is on!
A cool breeze blowing on a beautiful lioness. I love this photo.
Two of the Four Lionesses hunting. If you look closely at the top lioness you can see she is wearing a collar.
Looking for Gazelle's.
It's tough to narrow it down, but if forced to choose today I think I would say this is my favorite photo from the entire trip.
A large Male Lion from a different pride we found later in the day. Check out the gash on his nose!
A mongoose poking his head out of his den. I used a remote flash triggered by Pocket Wizards at the opening of the hole to get this shot.
A Handsome Topi
Another Lioness from a different pride. She must've gotten a bad piece of Warthog here or something.
What a pose she gave here.
A giraffe getting up close and personal showing off his black tongue.
Hippo Toots are explosive! Every time they'd let one of these methane bombs blast I would give a Beevis and Butthead chuckle that earned me some dirty looks from the other onlookers :)
A young hippo showing off his black teeth.
Nasty Hippo Water
Out of nowhere, this hippo started attacking the back of another.
The violence in hippo's happens fast and furious.
A baby hippo giving his jaw a stretch.
I love it when they do this.
A Mother Hippo and her Baby
A beautiful hippo pool in Serengeti.
After hiking through the brush away from the main hippo pool I cam across this dead crocodile. Notice how his abdomen has been crushed by the powerful jaws of a hippo.
Here is the Croc Crusher hanging out by himself away from everything else in the area.
He was thrashing his head back and forth attempting to frighten me away.
I had moved in closer at this point.
He was so mad I was there!
It was right about at this point I realized the croc was swimming under the water towards me...time to back away.
I love all the serene pools of water in Serengeti.