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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Africa: Meiza (From Our Archives)

Even in Africa, Mother Knows Best
David Russell

"We’ll stop here", whispered our driver, Meiza. Here, being the side of a dirt road late one afternoon while returning to camp from an afternoon game drive on the Serengeti. Ahead of us right on the road sat a pride of lions: a male, 2 females and 3 cubs. Directly ahead of them, an open plain with hundreds of grazing gazelles.

As if rehearsed, both lioness’ suddenly rose and padded slowly towards a 10 foot high growth of reeds aside the road. One lioness turned into them, disappearing immediately. The other brazenly continued straight towards the gazelles.
As soon as the gazelles spotted or caught her scent off they tore in panicky, helter-skelter, some heading directly into the reeds. That’s when the lioness on the road, sprinting hard, driving them on into those reeds.

Each lioness’ succeeded in making a kill. Huddling together, gazelles in mouth, they seemed to be agreeing on a strategy. With her gazelle, one lioness walked towards the pride while the other disappeared back into the reeds. Lazily, the male rose, trotted out to meet his lioness mate. With loving gratitude? Not! With a swat of his massive paw, he hit her so hard she dropped her prey right at his feet. Without so much as a thank you, the male began to feed. For him it was just an appetizer since a grown male consumes about 40 kilos of meat at a single feed, which happens every third or fourth day. All the while, the other lioness remained hidden with her catch. Finished with his snack (we think we heard a polite burp), the male ambled off to meet the guys.

When certain he was gone, the second Lioness emerged and at the exact spot where the male had fed, added her hard-won prize. Soon, cubs and moms where also feasting. Obviously, even in the lion kingdom, mother knows best.

That specific "kill" consumed 2 hours out of our 21 Kenya – Tanzania Safari days. But there were many other adventures and surprises as we marveled at thousands of animals roaming free, from giant giraffes to mini dik-diks, while we humans viewed Bird, Beast and Serpent from the safety of our motorized "cage."

Some other highlights were… being one of a half dozen Rover Wagons crammed with gawking tourists all busily picture snapping (as we were) of a sleeping, completely unperturbed leopard stretched on a tree limb. Next to him the remains of his just partially devoured meal hanging from a nearby branch On the opposite shore at a Night camp beside a fast running river, hearing Elephants tearing bark from trees, while In the river, Hippos barked or whatever you call that atrocious noise they make, is, Another evening show was watching Crocs slip in and out of the river to feast on left over dinner bones tossed by the camp cooks.

One afternoon, our vehicle stopped right alongside a boulder where a lioness and her cubs were sleeping an arm’s reach away. But, we didn’t touch. In the Ngornongoron Crater (Means "Hole Where Land Fell In"), we viewed a world that for centuries has been contained in its 12 to 20 mile circumference, Millions of animals had been born, lived and died without ever leaving the Ngornongoron.

We saw a Black Rhino walk her 3 day old cub, while Monkey’s cavorted to their heart’s content and to our delight.
At the Leaky dig, displayed was the skeletal remains of the Earth’s earliest human inhabitants. And, to a photographer, equal to everything is the special uniqueness of African light; a soft, perfectly balanced light, as if you had the world’s greatest gaffer with you.. I hate to say it, because someplace, somewhere, someone will have left a lens cap on, but it is really difficult to take a badly lit picture under the African sky, where sunsets are to die for.

Tribal people, friendly in their way, shared their customs and lore with us while offering for purchase at a pittance. magnificent hand woven crafts, all the while allowing our guides to go about their work with no hassle. In summation, it was a trip deserving of an encore. Soon.
David Russell November 2009

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