It is interesting how your perspective for photography changes with subsequent trips to a game park. Our first trip in 2017 to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania was so overwhelming with all the animal life that our cameras never stopped shooting and we took over 6,000 photographs. In 2018, we took half that number and began to focus more on interesting situations. This lion cub entertained us for a long time.
There are many prides of lions scattered throughout the Serengeti. We were traveling in a more remote area of the park when we came across a very small pride. It was unusual in that there were two males (brothers) instead of one, just two females and only a single cub.
There are advantages to having two males as the head of the pride. If another male attempts to challenge the pride to become the dominant male then he would have to fight two males instead of one. Therefore, his chance of being successful would be severely reduced. However, according to our guide, only one male will mate with the females and the other brother is subordinate.
It is not uncommon for a new male or males, in this case, to kill cubs that they have not fathered. This causes the female to come back in heat and therefore he can mate with her. This female had only one cub. We assume that it was his offspring because why kill some cubs but leave one. Therefore, this female either had only one cub or some tragedy occurred that killed the other cubs if she had given birth to a few babies.
Having no brothers or sisters to play with meant that this little cub easily got bored and continuously harassed its mother. She was attempting to sleep but on numerous occasions when it would look to play with her she would growl at the pesky little cub. It would role in the grass, chew on sticks and feed. All this was very entertaining.
We arrived at this dry riverbed at just the right time to see this small herd of elephants. The rains were late and had not arrived in the Serengeti yet. After a few minutes, it became apparent why they were here. In the photo below you will notice a small hole in the sand about the width of their foot. Inside there is water.
We assume that the elephants have dug this hole themselves into the dry riverbed. The Serengeti can be a tough place to live in and animals must be innovative to survive. The adults will pass these skills onto the young calves.
Elephants have a wonderful group dynamic. They work collectively for the survival of the herd. As large as they are they are amazing coordinated and use their feet and trunks to perform tasks that you would think they would be incapable of. However, if you are a young calf, drinking all that water can be exhausting and sometimes you just need to get off your feet.
Fortunately, we were able to spend about 20 minutes with this herd before they had all drank from the water hole and began moving on. This group of seven consisted of 2 calves, juveniles (male and female) and adults. We never get tired of seeing and photographing elephants.
There is so much expression in the eyes of a primate and you have to wonder what is going through his mind. This male Olive baboon was beginning to tire and was looking to get some sleep. With us nearby he was unwilling to close his eyes. We assume as soon as we left he closed those expressive eyes and got some deserved sleep.
Of course, if you have recently been born into this wonderful world then you have little use for sleep and would rather explore this new and curious planet. Everything is new, exciting and interesting so why sleep? This young Olive baboon was fascinating to observe and proved to be very photogenic and interested in us. Mom, however, is never far away. She is allowing her baby to explore and learn about this new environment but within limits. Should this calm situation change then she will immediately intervene to protect her baby.
Of course, the male baboon is really in charge of the entire encounter. Here he is grooming the female and picking off insects and parasites. Just below his eye is a wound probably received from a fight with another male baboon. It is a tough job being a male baboon and protecting your status as the dominant male.
When compared to animals that we are familiar with in North America, it is safe to say that there are some unusual animals on the African continent. During our 4 day safari in the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater we came across numerous examples of odd looking birds and animals including some downright ugly ones. It seems however, that every species, regardless of looks, always produce cute babies. Perhaps it is their size & shape, their looks or their playful nature that draw us to this conclusion. Just like the female leopard we saw whose small cub eventually made an appearance, so did two small hyena cubs eventually come out of the den. The pups are very dark and I may not have identified them as hyenas if I saw them without the mother as a reference. Very cute however!
Hyenas are scavengers and predators. They will often steal the prey from other hunters like cheetahs or come in after big predators like lions have had there fill and moved on. However, they are capable of killing larger prey such as wildebeest and antelope but will resort to eating insects. We came across this group that were getting away from the heat and flies by laying in the mud puddles created by the recent rain. They didn’t mind our vehicle but eventually decided to get up and move on. Notice one carrying the skull!
This last photo captures the more classic look of a hyena on the Serengeti with its typical grasslands and sparsely scattered trees. This is how we think of the African plains – vast & beautiful!
The wildebeest are famous for their epic migrations from the Maasai Mara in Kenya into the Serengeti in Tanzania. The migration had started while we were there and we saw 10,000 plus wildebeest at times: sometimes as far as the eye could see! There are an estimated 1.5 million that follow the rains with each migration and this produces new grass growth for food and a source of drinking water. However, other animals are part of this great migration including 200,000 zebra and 500,000 Thompson’s gazelle. The zebra and wildebeest are commonly found in mixed groups.
Wildebeest, also known as gnus, are interesting looking. They are a type of antelope but their body proportions seem odd compared to other antelope.
Zebras look like a horse with black and white stripes and each pattern is unique to that zebra similar to a fingerprint. Although the reason for the pattern is unknown most believe that in relates to camouflage against predators, helps with temperature control and repels insects.
This group of wildebeest interrupted their migration for a quick drink. They are a bit skittish during these times as they are vulnerable to lions when they put their heads down to drink. However, the need to drink outweighs their fear.
Many of the zebra had small foals with them. We noticed that many were still nursing from their mothers. The younger the foals, the more brown they have in their coats.
While driving we came across a cheetah mother and her single cub. Probably she had more cubs but as so often the case, cubs get killed by predators such as hyena, lions and leopards. Without siblings the mother has to interact more with her cub and of course the cub, who is wanting to always play, keeps jumping on the mom. We have 150-600mm telephoto lenses on our cameras so it makes the photos look like we are relatively close to them even though we are a long distance away from them. Because of the extreme distance the quality of the shots is not great but it was such a touching series that we decided to include them anyway. You can view our earlier cheetah post to see quality images of cheetahs. Enjoy this mother and cub interaction.
After a bit of play time and some tender moments the mother cheetah moves to a termite mound where she can look over the savannah to keep an eye out for danger.
Okay, we think we got these names all correct. There are Dik-Dik, Klipspringer, Topi, Reedbuck, Impala, Thompson’s Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Waterbuck and Bushbuck. That makes 9 different species we photographed. A few others were too far away to get good pictures. We are not counting Wildebeest as they doing their great migration and were on a previous post. So here it goes:
The Dik-Dik is the smallest antelope we photographed and weighs 3-6 kg: smaller than most dogs. They are monogamous and are found in pairs. Very small and very cute.
The Klipspringer is slightly bigger than the Dik-Dik at 8-18 kg. They are nocturnal and prefer rocky terrain which they navigate quite easily.
The Impala is a very abundant medium sized antelope. They can be found in large herds when food is plentiful.
The Waterbuck is a large antelope with the males reaching 300 kg. They always live near water and use it to escape from predators.
The Thompson’s Gazelles is one of the smaller gazelles and are very fast. They will run in a zig-zag pattern when pursued by a predator like a cheetah.
The Reedbuck is a very plain coloured antelope that has a distinct dark circle under it’s ear. We found these along the river in the reeds so hence the name.
The Topi has very unique colouring and are a medium sized antelope. The males can weigh up to 155 kg. This female has calves with her.
The Grant’s Gazelle looks very similar to the Thompson’s Gazelle but is much larger. They are often seems together which makes identification much easier.
Finally, The Bushbuck which we think is the most beautiful of the 9 we photographed. These antelope live in pairs but we did not see the female.