Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our African Safari - Day Five (An EPIC day on safari wth Cheetahs, Lions mating, watching a kill and so much more!)

This is going to be hard to believe, but this blog post has more photos than I have ever put in one post. And ALL of these photos were taken in one day!

It was our fifth day on safari and it started out pretty nicely, with none of us knowing what amazing things we would witness in the hours that followed.


We drove out from our camp and had to wait for a giraffe crossing. That is not something you see everyday in California.

About 20 minutes into our morning safari, our guides spotted a cheetah in the brush. We drove off road to try and get a good shot of it, but it was pretty elusive. I have to admit, I was a little bummed that we could not get a good clean photo of this amazing cat.

And then...


...we came across this mother cheetah with a bunch of cubs.


Since we were in Ndutu and could drive off the roads, we were able to pull up within 20 feet of these amazing creatures.


We sat there for a long time and just watched the young cubs interacting.


These two were playing non-stop.


Talk about photo opportunities!


I really like this shot.


I should mention that all these photos were taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV with the Canon 200-400mm lens attached. If you have read the other blog posts from this trip, you may recall that I was primarily using the Canon 1DX Mark II for all my long lens shooting. Well...due to the dusty environment and switching lenses at the wrong time, I got some major dust on the sensor of the 1DX Mark II and could not get it clean. We tried numerous sensor cleaners and nothing would get a large piece of dust off the middle of the sensor. At that point, I made the decision to switch to the 5D Mark IV as my primary camera and use the 1DX Mark II as my second camera. As it turns out, this actually worked to my advantage, since the 5D Mark IV has more megapixels than the bigger camera.

I will be doing a blog all about sensor cleaning, since this is so important!

OK...back to the images and stories...


With these next three photos, the one young cheetah stood up and was checking us out. And it was awesome, because it's face was in perfect morning light!


I was very excited to get this shot of the young cheetah.



Mom just looked on as the cubs continued to play with each other.



Even my wife, Annette, who has never held an L series lens was going crazy taking photos. (And I should mention that she came home with 13,000 photos!)


After seeing the cheetahs, everyone on our photo tour said that nothing could top that for the day. But then...


...we found this pride of lions with some adolescent cubs.


A little cleaning time.


And we saw this gorgeous male.


Here is a wide shot of what we were looking at.


We all sat (or stood) in our vehicles and waited to see if anything interesting would happen.



After a short while, the male got up...


...and proceeded to mate with the female.


The whole process lasted no more than 30 seconds and then the male lion gave the lioness a kiss and moved on.



He then walked around and came back.


I was happy when he gave us a big yawn!


And then a couple of minutes later, he went back and repeated the process with the lioness.


The lion actually let out a big sneeze, and as you can tell, it needed a Kleenex.


And so...we drove away from the lions and once again thought that we had seen the highlight of the day. It couldn't get any more dynamic than this could it?



We drove down towards a water hole and saw a large herd of zebras who were running around and sparring.


 It was really interesting to see them kick each other and show dominance.


We drive along for another minute or so and saw this huge grouping of zebras and wildebeest. When we arrived, they were not in the water. I asked Sam, our driver, to stop at this location to see if we could get a reflection shot of the zebras drinking from the water. But then they all come down and disturbed the calm reflective water. That shot was not going to happen.


But, I was able to zoom in and try to isolate a group of zebras in one shot.


So there we were, watching the large group of zebras and wildebeest...


...when we spotted these two lioness in the shade of a nearby tree. One of our other vehicles drove over to them to get a better look. Our guides were radioing back and forth to each other, thinking that the lioness might be on the hunt.


Obviously, the other animals sensed the same thing and started moving away from the water.


But then the younger lioness took off.


At this point, it was mass hysteria as all the zebras and wildebeest ran for their lives!


The lioness had found the most vulnerable wildebeest.


And so the fight was on. (And yes, that is an elephant skull that you see to their left.)


The wildebeest tried to fight off the lioness.


Then the wildebeest tried to make a run for it.


We sat with our cameras pointed at the two animals, in awe of what we were seeing!


The lioness grabbed the wildebeest from underneath...



...and then grabbed the face with it's teeth.


At this point, the fate of the wildebeest was inevitable.


The young lioness then sat with it's mouth over the mouth and nose of the wildebeest to smother it.


This must have lasted for at least 10 minutes, with no help from the other lioness.


You can see that, in this photo, the eyes of the wildebeest have gone cold and there is no life left in the animal.


After the long suffocation, the lioness put the head down and looked up for approval.


Then, surprisingly, the lioness went and laid down for a rest with it's mother, in the nearby grass. Our guides explained to us that the mother was teaching the younger lioness how to hunt, which is why she did not help out.


After a while, the mother lioness came over to congratulate the young female on her accomplishment.


It was so amazing to see this mother and cub in a hug, after everything that we had just witnessed. And yes folks, this is the circle of life!

Last year, we did not see an actual kill. Many of you might wonder what it is like to witness this event. I can tell you this... As difficult as it is to see one animal kill another, it is a spectacular event to witness, and even a couple of the women on the trip who thought they would be sickened by this, found it equally fascinating,

We waited for at least another 30 minutes to see if they would come back and eat the wildebeest, but they were obviously not hungry at the time. We did return to the spot the next morning to see if the carcass was there, but it was not. We were told that a male lion had dragged it into the grass before eating it.


So then it was back to the zebras, and me trying to get some cool photos of these animals all in a line.


The zebras would take turns drinking from the water hole, running up and down a hillside. I saw this one zebra running the opposite direction from the others, and thought it would make a good motion pan shot.


I continued the motion panning and got this artistic photo of the zebra running along the banks of the water.


The last shot of the day was of a tortoise at the edge of the water. Funny that after such an action packed day, we ended the day photographing a really slow moving animal.

All in all, it was an amazing day on safari, and one that none of us will ever forget!

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