Life in Ndutu During the Great Migration

Trip Start Jan 21, 2014
Trip End Feb 01, 2014

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We are up before dawn - as usual - but everyone is dragging a little today. Either fatigue or minor illness is affecting nearly everyone. The effects of anti-malaria medication (Malarone) are being felt. Several of us, including Beth & I, have stopped taking the Malarone. Regardless, we load into the Land Cruisers and head into the bush.

We drive slowly along the creek headed for the marsh. We pass two hyena eating bone from the carcass of a long dead kill. Whether one appreciates hyena or not, it is difficult not to be impressed with their powerful jaw that snaps bone with the ease of a hot knife going through butter.

We next encounter eleven members of the Marsh Pride. They are lounging after gorging themselves all night. The youngsters, in particular, have stomachs so swollen they nearly drag the ground. For Ndutu, this is pretty routine stuff. We are spoiled to expect the incredible. So, when one of our group asks to use the facilities (i.e. find a bush) no one objects. We are ready for the next adventure.

We drive into the privacy of the woods. As we move deeper into the forest, we are treated to glimpses of huge concentrations of wildebeest through the trees. As we move into the open plains, our vehicle is immediately surrounded by wildebeest and zebra. We are in the middle of the Great Migration!

I've seen the Migration before but have never been surrounded by it. What an awesome feeling. We drive slowly and are soon absorbed into the Migration. None of the animals seems a bit concerned over our presence. We remain with the animals for well over an hour.

The afternoon begins with the location of two previously unseen male cheetahs. They had taken down a full sized wildebeest and are feeding on their conquest when we arrive on the scene.

Later, we drive back to the river and find wall-to-wall wildebeest on both banks. On the far bank, ten Marsh Pride lions come out of the brush and panic the wildebeest. Meanwhile, there are two lions hiding on our side of the river. They are preparing to attack the wildebeest when a safari vehicle stops in front of the lions’ position. The younger of the two cats is unnerved by the vehicle. He breaks cover prematurely and attacks. He realizes he is alone and breaks off the attack. During our stay in Ndutu, we witness a number of bone headed human errors that ruin carefully planned predator attacks.

Two other kills are made on the Ndutu Plain this afternoon. The first is a gazelle that falls to the brother and sister cheetahs that we first saw sitting on the NatGeo film crew Jeep.

The second is a full grown wildebeest taken by the two females that split from the Marsh Pride and are raising their four cubs very close to the Wild Source Research Camp. The camp biologists decide to name this new independent group the Olasiti pride. Olasiti is a Maasai word for one of the species of acacia trees that are prevalent in the area near the camp.

Tonight is our final night at Ndutu. The Wild Source staff makes it memorable. Prior to dinner, we are entertained by the staff band (guitar, drums, flute, etc.) playing and singing African songs. A fabulous dinner of Bar-B-Q beef, chicken and sausage along with fresh baked bread, baked potatoes, polenta, rice and several fresh vegetables followed.              

The conversational centerpiece for our final dinner in Ndutu was provided by Marianne. She noted we had likely seen half a million wildebeest since we arrived. After due consideration, she believes some wildebeest, also known as gnus, are more attractive than others. The pros and cons of Marianne’s position are debated back and forth until tears are streaming down the faces of everyone at the table.

The poor wildebeest has quite a reputation. It is rumored God created the gnu out of spare parts left over after all the other animals were created. The poor gnu must also overcome its position as the ugliest of Africa’s UGLY FIVE. The ugly five also includes the warthog, hyena, marabou stork and lappet faced vulture.

The staff has one final surprise for all of us – dessert. The cooks prepare a beautifully decorated cake featuring The Wild Source logo in colored frosting. They announce dessert by creating highly realistic lion calls (using a bucket and cardboard tube) that precedes their dancing entrance. Great fun is had by all.   
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