When I first got to Ngorongoro, my eyes deceived me.
|The Ngorongoro lions are huge, with big, thick, dark, puffy manes. The darker the mane, the more mates a lion will have.|
I was surprised that the lions appeared totally indifferent to my presence. I couldn’t get as close as I wanted, but seeing them was not disappointing at all. The lions were incredible, just to be near them in person.
The Chief Director told me there are five prides of lions in the Ngorongoro wildlife conservation area. A total of about 100 lions. And these were huge lions.
The biggest lions I’ve ever seen. They looked markedly bigger than any I’d seen in a zoo. Especially this one male we saw. And there was a young male that was also just huge; big-boned, bulky... stocky.
And they’re very well fed there. They looked very nourished. I’d never seen a lions mane like this. Really big, puffy, lustrous mane, and it went all the way down his back. The mane didn’t stop on the back of his neck. It went halfway down his back in a strip.
But it’s not only lions in Ngorongoro. There are almost every kind of African plains animal in there. But they’re kind of trapped in a way. They could walk up the steep hills but they don’t.
The elephants you see are only the big bull rogue elephants. There are no herds of elephants with the mothers and their babies. They’re around the outside of the preserve like the giraffes, but not inside.
And giraffes can’t get in there. Even though there are giraffes outside of the crater, they can’t manage the steepness of the slopes. So there’s everything except giraffes.
Here are some of my thoughts on Ngorongoro...
Notes From My JournalI can hardly believe I’m really here....
Maybe the wildest place on Earth. Untamed. Fierce. Primal.
The jungle rules here, and it is a jungle. I expected a savannah when I went to see the lions. But I’m on a cliff on the side of a mountain in a dense rainforest.
I’m sitting on this mahogany balcony with my leather notepad. My staff gave it to me as a going away present for this trip to Africa. I’m thinking I’m a lucky man.
Jungles sing at night. Every jungle has its own song.
This jungle has rustling of canopy trees in the wind coming up the slope from the crater far below. And I’m surrounded with chirps and hoots and whistles and howls. Signals to something out there somewhere. I don’t know the language. But I could be lulled into thinking that I used to. Then, all of a sudden... What is this round of screeching about?
I stare into the pitch black. Now the jungle grows quiet.
Are there lions looking back at me from the dark? Licking their lips? I reckon they would have to lick their lips delicately. Lions rip the skin off their kill with their tongues.
Ngorongoro has the largest and fiercest lions in the world. Could they have their nocturnal eyes fixed on me? And their feline brains fixed on licking my skin off?
You know, it’s getting late. I’ve got a big day with the Chief Director of Conservation tomorrow. Can’t be dilly-dallying out here all night. And, I’ve got a bottle of Patron on my desk. It will do just fine to hold me over… until my courage comes back.
9:37: One foot on the brake. Stop. Lurch forward. Adam, my driver, eases us down the steep descent into the crater. Today I will have my day with the lions I’ve been waiting to meet.
11:32: The lions are here and I am here, but we do not meet. They have important previous engagements with the sun, the grass, active lion cubs, mates, and their game.
12:45: They totally ignore my arrival on their scene. They’re just doing what they do. Stalking the wildebeests and the zebra. They were interested in them. they’re just lying around in the sun. The most they’ll do is occasionally roll over on their back and put their paws in the air.
Except for the leader of the pride. There was a lioness in heat that he had sex with about five times. Very violent, dominating kind of thing that, like chimpanzee sex, lasted about six seconds. Just turn your head and you miss it.
And I did see one funny sequence ... the lions got chased by another animal. Usually it's the opposite. Remember, these were taken from pretty far off. Here's what I saw:
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD