Outdoors: Adventure, wildlife abundant on African photo safari

A pride of lions in Serengeti grasslands soak up the sun during San Marcos Daily Record outdoors columnist Jim Darnell’s recent African photo Safari. Darnell spent 13 days visiting the East African countries of Kenya and Tanzania (Photo by Jim Darnell).

My wife Beth and I have just returned from a storybook, trip-of-a lifetime, in the Equatorial East African nations of Kenya and Tanzania. Thirteen days on a photo safari resulted in the viewing of unbelievable numbers of species of African wildlife, as well as some very unique experiences.

Central to our purpose for the trip were three days on the Serengeti Plains to see almost 1.5 million wildebeests grazing and birthing their young.

These vast herds of wildebeests and zebras will begin their migration to the grasslands of the Masai Mara in Kenya in late May. By the time of their arrival the Masai Mara plains will be lush due to the rainy season in March, April and May. We photographed several of the massive Nile crocodiles on the Mara River that will be waiting to devour some of the migration at the famous river crossings.

One morning on the Serengeti, we filmed two impala bucks engaged in a violent fight. One of the males had a harem of about 15 females and he was defending against an aggressive challenger. It was like a South Texas buck battle.
At one point they got their horns locked together, finally breaking free to fight some more. The battle ended when a third buck, attracted by the sound of the clashing horns, moved on the scene. Both males in the fight stopped and chased away the invader. The fight illustrated to me how using ‘rattlin’ antlers’ during the rut can really produce results.

Out on the open Serengeti grasslands one morning we spotted three cheetahs hunting. The mother was obviously teaching her two male cubs how to hunt. Her patience was without limits, creeping closer and closer to a pair of Thompson gazelles.

Large numbers of safari vehicles were circled around the cheetahs eager to see a kill. Suddenly, she burst from her hiding place at unbelievable speed. Both youngsters were blazing across the plain right behind her. At almost 70 mph, it didn’t take but a split second for her to cover the 125 yards to her prey.

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