Day 4: M-DAY – MATINGS AND MIGRATION
It was 8:30am when we left the Serengeti Serena Lodge. Since the lodge was sold out the next two nights, we actually had to pack our bags and stay at the Ikoma Bush Camp instead. So we had a feeling that we had long day ahead of us due to the extra driving anticipated.
Contrasting the rains from yesterday, this morning was partly cloudy, but the ground remained damp.
About a half hour after our game drive towards the Western Corridor started, we saw a safari vehicle parked off a spur road heading north leading away from the Western Corridor.
“Looks like there is something over there,” said Salim.
And soon thereafter, we pulled up to the other safari vehicle and saw a male and female lion in the fairly tall grass.
This was the first male lion we’ve seen on this trip. We could tell because male lions tended to have a mane around its face while females didn’t. But we understood that females tended to do most of the work, apparently.
So after snapping photos enthusiastically, we just sat there and watched the lions – seeing what they’re doing next. We hoped that they’d get in better more photographable positions.
What ensued was perhaps a bit more than we bargained for.
“Look at that! They’re mating!” said Julie.
This got both Julie and I laughing, especially since it didn’t take long before the male lion pulled away (maybe less than a minute).
One thing that got our attention was that when the male lion pulled away, the female lion was very upset and even took a swipe at him with her big paws. Salim explained that the male lion’s penis has some something jagged like barbs and is quite painful for the female when he withdraws.
Salim also said that lions usually mate after resting in roughly 10-minute intervals (give or take a few minutes), and apparently this intercourse and resting cycle goes on for a pretty long time. The shorter the intervals, the earlier in their mating ritual they are. The longer the intervals, the later in their mating ritual they are. This usually goes on for apparently a couple of days…
Anyways, just as Salim said, just under ten minutes after seeing the male lion do his thing, he was ready and approached the female lion again. And once again, they were at it. But before you got comfortable taking photos of the scene, the male lion pulled out and the female lion swiped at the male in anger.
It was quite comical seeing the lions in this situation. It’s surely something you won’t see in the Lion King or any other glorified fictional piece on the wildlife in the Serengeti.
Trying to apply some of my learned Swahili into the situation, I asked Salim hesitatingly, “Simba wanapandana?”
Salim smiled and nodded, “Yes.”
“Seriously? That’s how you’d say it?” I replied back completely surprised.
“Yes. That’s the polite way of saying it.”
Well that piqued my interest. So I asked him what’s the other way of saying it?
“If I tell you, you have to promise me not to use it,” he said. “You want to know what it is?”
I nodded approvingly.
“Waxxxxxxana,” he said.
“It means xxxxing.” (sorry about the censorship; I have to keep the blog at a relatively clean level)
After watching the lions resting and going at it a couple more times (with a few more safari vehicles playing the role of the paparazzi), Salim started the long drive to the Western Corridor of the Serengeti. But while we were still in the spirit of what’s turning out to be “M-Day (Matings day)”, we saw a safari vehicle with a woman in a wedding dress in the back seat.
Out in these parts of the park, the Serengeti went from long, nearly treeless plains to more forest. We started seeing more impalas as opposed to gazelles. The wildebeest and zebra numbers also were increasing. It looked like there were already some big herds here the further west we went.
What was funny was that half an hour later, we caught a glimpse of a male impala controlling a pretty large harem of female impalas. And as Salim mentioned that this time of year was mating season, it seemed that right on que, the male impala chased and mounted one of the females in his harem.
Anyways, at about 11:30am, we witnessed the wildebeest migration – in the wrong direction!
The Western Corridor was Salim’s pride and joy. Before doing our safari with a new company, he actually led tours and worked in the Western Corridor. It’s a part of the park that he says he knows very well.
So for the next couple of hours, Salim took us to the river where we saw both hippos and crocodiles. But more importantly, he spotted a colobus monkey that was apparently quite rare. It was definitely not one of the monkeys we’ve seen before.
At 2pm, it was time to keep moving. So Salim drove us back the way we came (even cutting through the path of the ongoing wildebeest migration; it was interesting to see them change their line to go around us) and eventually out to where we had seen the lions mating earlier this morning. Along the way, we stopped by another hippo pool by ourselves.
“Looks likes the lions took their honeymoon elsewhere,” said Salim.
Near the spot where the lions were, there were now a pair of ostriches – a male and female. When Salim said the female ostrich usually flaps both wings to present to the male that she’s ready. Meanwhile, the pinker the male’s neck, the more ready he is.
Well we definitely saw the male’s neck being a bold pink. The female was busy flapping on wing at a time. So with this day shaping up to be “M-Day” (for both matings and the migration), Salim stopped the car in the hope that these ostriches would perform for us.
After maybe 15 minutes, it didn’t happen.
At about 3:30pm, I also managed to figure out the puzzle of putting up the tarp canopy on his vehicle (which was currently incorrectly placed). I managed to tell Salim who promptly stopped the car and let me test out my theory, which was successful.
By 5:15pm, we finally made it to the North Entrance Gate of the park.
It was a rather long drive from the Western Corridor up to this side of the park.
Half an hour later, we finally arrived that the Ikoma Bush Tent Camp. It wasn’t the Serena Lodge, but it was nice and comfortable in its own right – and perhaps more authentic.
Anyways after dinner (and hearing some of Salim’s most memorable safari stories), we went to bed at 9pm. But not before being escorted by a guy with a bow and arrow between the tented restaurant and our tented room.