The two cheetahs exploded with speed and our jeep chased after them. Moments later the mother stalked back, a gazelle dangling from her mouth, its lifeless body smaller in death than in its last race for survival only seconds ago. Partway through their meal the younger cheetah raises a blood stained face and sniffs the air. She creeps forward, and runs. I watch her make a second kill. The two cheetahs tear up the body as we look on.
Two lions lie exhausted beside a strip of water just a few feet from our vehicle. The female stretches and with a look at her mate strolls a few steps along the shore. He follows. She lies down and he covers her. It’s all over in seconds and they collapse apart. They will start again – every fifteen minutes for a week, night and day, over 600 times. By the end of the week, lionesses from the pride bring them food – they are both too exhausted to hunt.
Two week old cheetah cubs climb on top of their mum, babboons squabble and blue monkeys groom each other; a million wildebeest roam the Serengeti, pelicans flare into the air and flamingoes back off in fright as hyenas play in the water; hippoes wallow in shallow pools with their young, birds with startling colours and stranger names flash past or sit on the necks of larger animals, vultures tear at abandoned carcases. It is the birthing season and the young are everywhere: zebras, elephants, lion cubs, jackals, gazelles, wildebeest, warthogs, hippoes, babboons, leopards – and every parent protecting or feeding their little ones.
Savagery, beauty, destruction and love all on display during our Tanzanian safari. The booms and calls of animals in the night, the smells of flowers and dung, the chomping of buffalo around our tent, the spectrum of breeds grazing together in a muddle of herds: zebras, gazelles, wildebeest, buffalo, ostriches and hyenas, a lone elephant presiding.
And the beast:
All of this in scenery that takes your breath away. The scrub of the Serengeti yes, but before that the drama of a rift valley, the cascading sides of a crater formed by a volcano collapsing upon itself, the green of Masai meadows, the lushness of forest and then the dryness of trees destroyed by elephants, the neat ranks of coffee plantations and scarlet of the bougainvillea. Memories that will stay with us forever.