The King of Beasts

How many are a million?

Say, "Ahhhhhh!"

Cheetahs chowing


SERENGETI xxxxxxxxx The name "Serengeti" came from the Maasai word for "endless plains". It really fit. It was Tanzania's largest park and I was so glad people had the foresight to protect it.

Seated on top of the 4 wheel drive (as long as no park rangers were around) we saw lions, zebra, elephants, hippos, wildebeest, impala, hyena, jackals, bat-eared foxes, mongoose, and many kinds of antelope. However, that didn't begin to adequately describe the Serengeti.

One of the first sitings was a mother cheetah and her four young. The young cheetahs found a day old impala and really didn't know what to do. They toyed with it a long while before their mother showed them what was supposed to be done. It was nature at work and survival of the fittest.

The cheetahs were unique, but the wildebeests were astounding. What I saw was impossible to imagine -- or count. Still somebody estimated it, and there were over a million wildebeests! From a distance the horizon looked black. As we drove closer, it became speckled. As far as the eye could see -- and then farther -- were the wildebeests. We drove right up to them, and then just like parting the Red Sea, we drove in among them. Photos couldn't do it justice, but I took them anyway.

Along with a million wildebeests came the predators lurking along the edges, waiting to find a sick, young, or old meal. We first saw the hyenas, at least a dozen of them. We continued searching the perimeter to maybe glimpse the hunt in action. When we came upon the lions, they had already found their prey. We pulled up within 30 feet, stuck our heads out of the rooftop opening, and started snapping photos.

The male decided he didn't want to be photographed. I snapped a picture just as he charged. It didn't take any time for 30 feet to shrink to ten or to raise my heart rate much higher than that. We ducked into the 4-wheel drive as Lyimo, our driver, quickly started the vehicle. Doors and windows were shut and we just prayed the king of beasts didn't feel like jumping on top of the vehicle to enter it. Our driver said if he hadn't started the vehicle, the lion probably would have rammed us - and that could have broken the windows. I didn't need that much of an African adventure.


Copyright 2001 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.