Arriving at the Ndutu Plains on the afternoon of 3rd February, we had bookings for two nights at the Serengeti Savannah Camp and two nights at the Ndutu Safari Lodge. The wildebeest migration during January to March is in the Ndutu Plains, when the rainy season begins. This is the period when the pregnant Wildebeest cows in hundreds of thousands, give birth to calves.
On the way to the Serengeti Savannah Camp in Ndutu, we saw some Lions on the grasslands and closer to the camp, much to our delight, a number of Bat-eared Foxes on the road side, greeted us. They have distinctive bat wing shaped ears from which they derive their name. We were at the camp by sunset. The camp was a mobile one, which limited the availability of water and power there.
At sunrise the next day, with a packed picnic breakfast, Pala and I were on the road passing the wooded area towards the grassland in search of the Wildebeest. We came across two Lions on the move in the mud flat area of Lake Ndutu. One major advantage at Ndutu especially for photographers, is that off road driving is permitted.
In the grassy plains of Ndutu, we could see Wildebeest in their thousands. At a distance they appear in the form of black curved lines. After getting closer to the herds, contrary to expectations we did not find any new born calves among them. We could see many pregnant cows, and it was our driver cum guide Wilson’s opinion that giving birth to their young had been delayed due to belated rains. We spent almost an hour moving around the herds of Wildebeest on the plains and did eventually locate some new born calves, but they were well hidden between the adults to protect them from the Hyenas.
After having our picnic breakfast, we once again moved in search of a Wildebeest cow in the act of delivery. There were Hyenas roaming around the plains looking for an opportunity to grab a calf for a hearty meal. They are sometimes named as the pirates of the plains. We were at the camp for lunch by 1230 hours.
The afternoon safari was confined to the woods in the area around the camp. When a jeep passing by informed us of a Cheetah sighting, Wilson made a quick beeline to that location. There were five of them, a mother with four cubs of about 2 years of age. We spent the rest of the evening with the Cheetahs and returned to the camp at dusk.
On the 5th of February, as usual we left early with a packeted picnic breakfast, and went in search of the Cheetah family. We located them after driving for about 30 minutes. They appeared to be hungry and desperate for a meal. The Wildebeest were grazing nearby but Wilson suddenly exclaimed ‘There! There! CHEETAHS CHASING BAT-EARED FOX’.
Immediately my camera went in to action. Three of the Cheetah cubs were trying to catch the Fox but it was agile enough to escape into its den in spite of being chased for about 50 meters by one Cheetah. What a Drama!
The Cheetahs moved on and came to a point where they spotted a Thomson Gazelle, its favorite prey. As we waited the parent Cheetah gradually closed in on her target. We had our picnic breakfast inside the vehicle while anxiously watching the Cheetah. And then, before I could react with my camera, the Cheetah made a high speed dash towards her prey. But she gave up the chase after a short burst, which was somewhat strange. But then we realized why she had to abort the hunt, as she had a limp as she walked back dejectedly towards her cubs. She seemed to have hurt herself during the run. The Gazelle she had pursued was looking back in surprise, wondering what had saved it from becoming breakfast for the Cheetah.
By noon, we were back at the camp. After lunch, our bags were loaded into the jeep and we moved to the Ndutu Safari Lodge where we had planned to stay for the next two nights. It was not far from the Savannah Camp.