Monday, November 19, 2007

Cheetah and babies, whoa!

Note: All future dispatches from Shawn's Kilimanjaro trip will be posted on AAI's Current News and Dispatch page located here:

Today was our last at Ndutu Lodge, and it was a great one. We took three safaris. In the morning, we returned to the site of the buffalo kill and actually got to witness the lioness eating....kinda gorey. She was really working hard tearing the meat and abdominal lining and was visibly tired and panting hard. She kept looking around for the other lionesses to help her eat this massive beast before the hyenas and vultures helped themselves.

Lake Ndutu with Mt. Lemagrut in the distance

The next safari was probably the highlight and was unplanned. Our guide Steven heard that there had been a cheetah sighting and came and found us to ask if we wanted to go try our luck locating it. We did try. And we were lucky. After driving around for about a half hour, Steven suddenly stopped the Land Cruiser and said, 'there they are!' We saw a mother cheetah lying in the grass with her three cubs. We watched them for quite a while as one of the cubs tried to climb a tree and wrestled with his buddies - so cute. Cheetahs are incredibly beautiful up close (we were about 15 feet away), and it’s rare to see, them, so we felt super lucky. On this drive we also saw another new animal for us: the bat-eared fox. They were very skittish, so we didn't get photos but got a good look. 

A genet living at the lodge

We just came back from the third drive, and the hit of this one was the lilac-breasted roller. I know, this sounds like a fancy car-hop (waitress on roller skates), but actually it's a bird, and a quite beautiful one at that. It's about ten inches long, with bright turquoise feathers and a lilac-colored breast. Wow. It was a startling sight to see against the dry, tan bush landscape. We also saw an elephant break a tree.

We saw a group of three young Masai boys who were tending their family's cattle at a seasonal camp. Young Masai boys are sent with the cattle to the lowlands to graze in the dry season when there is no water in the highlands. Masai are the only people who are legally allowed to walk and live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (all others must be in a vehicle or accompanied by an armed ranger). Life is very hard for these young boys who are charged with fending off the lions, buffalo, and elephants from their cattle. If they are brave in the performance of their duties, we were told they will be rewarded with the best wives. It is startling to see such young boys with such serious responsibilities.

Lovebirds are very plentiful around the lodge.

Tomorrow, we drive back to Gibb's Farm and from there I will drive north to meet my guides for Kilimanjaro while my mother (a pediatrician) begins her health assessments of children in the bush. This is probably our last emailed message for a while, but tomorrow or the next day I will start phoning in dispatches on the sat phone.

Talk to you soon,

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