We 'slept in' today and heard our camp staff wake us up with "Jambo Jambo" with jugs of hot water. We quickly ate breakfast, said goodbye to our camp staff and headed east towards mawe ya Maasai and vilima saba. Our goal was to get out onto the open plains and see something slightly different than the past 2 days. My heart, from a photographic sense, is soft for the open savannah. I find it much easier to compose with than the acacia woodland for the types of wildlife that I like to shoot.
We encountered great wildlife, and spent time with multiple elephant herds, topi, hartebeest, zebra, grant's gazelle and finished up with a mating pair of lions. The wind out on the plains was at least a 15mph, and that makes shooting with a long lens quite difficult. The lens hood on a 500mm or 600mm lens acts like a sail in the wind, as wind gets trapped and oves the lens. A good technique to offset the wind is to shoot from a lower position in the vehicle and block the wind. One thing you cannot eliminate is the wind's effect on the vehicle itself.
After our 'coitus interruptus' with the lions, we spotted a mother cheetah and her 3 year-old cubs. Gosh, what a beautiful and magnificent animal. We watched her from a comfortable 75 feet, even though we could have approached closer. Cheetahs are the only cat that actively hunts in the middle of the day, and we didn't want to interfere with her hunting.
We did notice her looking in one particular direction, and we quickly determined that there were more cheetahs around. We saw another mother with a very very young cub within binocular distance. This was definitely the highlight of my morning! We moved to watch mother #2, and within a few minutes she picked up her week old cub in her mouth and moved her out of sight. We didn't follow, but we did notice that she had another cub that she had not moved yet. Or was is 2? Well, we waited to find out. This may be the wildlife highlight of my year. The original cheetah mother could still be seen in the distance, and how the heck did we miss that she had *four*, not three cubs! So now we had visual confirmation of 8 cheetahs, perhaps 9 or 10. So we waited for mother #2 to come back to find out just how many more cubs were left. She looked nervous when she came back, so we left her alone to complete her moving of her cubs. We don't know how many she had in total, but our cheetah count for the day was 8 with at least one more unseen.
After lunch we headed back to the visitor center to get checked in for tomorrow's hot air balloon ride. For some reason they don't just accept that you have already paid and that you are going to show up. I guess that they would rather force you to show up the day before, and if you don't show up they can resell you spots and make double the money. It kind of frustrates me, but it is what it is and you have to learn the right attitude when working in Africa. Just smile, make friends and your blood pressure will benefit. Beer also helps. :-)
We drove the road towards mawe meupe (white rocks) and....ding! Another leopard. Not the best view, but that was leopard #2 for the safari. We didn't stick around for long and drove another 300 yards and ding! Another leopard in a tree. These guys must be mating, as both are full grown. We sat for a while until the sun started to set and then it was tim to head back to camp. No good views of either, however we had a great time watching both of them lounge around.
Whew. What a day. Time for a shower, dinner and bed. I still have tons of energy, however I have another 8 days to go so I have to conserve my energy.