Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
Tanzania Trip July 2015

3 hours in a small Cessna is a long time! Ruaha's baobabs stood out, then there was a long uninhabited dry stretch with some fires, then towns & villages were more common, then we reached Ndutu and the Serengeti. It got greener as we went north, and then we reached the Mara River and landed at Kogatende. Michael from Shah Tours was there to meet us, I guess Authentic Tanzania subcontracted us out. We took a short drive near the river and then just headed to our lodge, Lemala Kuria Hills. This is a luxury place with large individual villas with indoor & outdoor shower and big tub and plunge pool, very nice after a week of chemical toilets and bucket showers! Dinners were fabulous and drinks around the fire pit were nice. Wednesday we found the wildebeest herds - several of them, from hundreds to thousands of animals. About 20 vehicles were waiting at the river with one herd hoping to see a crossing; that wasn't something we were interested in sitting around for hours for. We went off across the plains, but only 2 lions were found for our cat count. Unfortunately we also found some tsetse fly areas, plus our first klipspringer of the trip and a nice waterbuck. The camp manager saw some leopards around camp, but not us. We set off early Thursday heading to the central Serengeti, where there aren't as many tsetses. Lots more wildebeest and zebra herds, plus topi steenbok and giraffe. At least 3 wildebeest carcasses, some with vultures, but no predators seen. More hartebeest and gazelle (Grant's and Thompson's) as we headed south. We took the Lobo wildlife circuit, saw several herds of eland. Up on the rocks near the lodge we saw a few of the resident lions - one young male ran away to hide, while another posed proudly. A female or two were nearby. Back on the main road we continued to the Central Serengeti, with many more tourist vehicles. But that helps you find things - two female lions under a tree, and a bigger car jam led to leopards in a tree - at first we saw Momma in the far tree, then Michael pointed out the cub (5-6 months) in the closer tree. Momma was a great huntress, with at least 4 Thompson's gazelles stashed in the same tree! It was amusing to listen to new cars come up and notice all the kills, and sometimes they never saw the cub. We were waiting for the cub to wake up and climb down, and were about ready to leave when Michael saw a SECOND cub climbing Mom's tree. We watched him feed but had to take off, it was an hour to Sopa lodge. Friday we searched for cheetah with no luck, then ended up at the leopard tree. All 3 were in the same tree, we enjoyed watching for over an hour as the cubs fed or repositioned kills while playing, with Mom making sure they didn't drop the kill with two hyenas nearby. They must have left at some point because one cub climbed down that tree and then up the other one, returning to the same position it was in last night. We left then, going to a flat lion pile of about 10 cats, with 3 more females coming over to join in. We heard of a cheetah sighting and headed north, a mom with 2 large cubs (a year old maybe) under a large acacia. We watched some interactions before Mom headed off into the tall grass with the cubs following. Under another tree Mom decided to climb to look for trouble, but she ended up falling out of the tree. She was fine. It was time to leave, the drive to Naabi Hill and the gate were uneventful, as was the drive to Ngorongoro Crater. We saw plenty more gazelle, as well as zebra, giraffe, buffalo, and ostrich. And Masaii villages and herders. We stayed at Sopa Lodge here too, because of their access road to the crater.

Page 1 - Mkumi and Ruaha part 1
Page 2 - Ruaha part 2
Page 3 - Serengeti
Page 4 - Ngorongoro