Seventy-eight is the number of lions we have seen on our tour as we leave the Ngorongoro Crater. Not seventy-eight sightings, of these there have been many more, for we have seen three prides twice: but seventy-eight individual lions whose paths have crossed ours in the past two weeks. Each has been a joy to us.
Today's lions were numerous, as were the many other creatures of the grasslands of Ngorongoro. We saw cubs, we saw lionesses, we saw superb adult males. The lions which most amazed us were those which late in the morning came to rest in the shade of our vehicles. In such circumstances it is difficult to explain to clients that these perfectly wild animals have a huge landscape in which to rest, to hunt, to drink and to play. However, comfortable with vehicles in their landscape since cubhood, these lions, and tigers in India too, use our jeeps, for shade, for cover and even in the case of Ngorongoro's lions as perches from which to watch. Our jeeps are but another inert, potentially useful feature of their landscape.
Once I'm back in the UK, from my long trip to Asia which begins in two weeks, much more will follow here on lions in Africa and their future. For now, here are this morning's photos of lions using our jeeps to their advantage.
|George with lions behind him|
There were also extraordinary black rhinos along our way this morning: the sort of encounter of which local guides dream. A mother and her well-grown youngster wandered gently across the plain, towards the track on which jeeps were lined watching. Generally in Ngorongoro rhinos are seen in a distant heat haze, but today they walked alongside our jeeps and crossed the road behind us, allowing each heart present to be touched by the power and tragic fragility of these awesome animals. As with lions, more will follow on black rhinos in Tanzania from the UK soon.
I leave these lions, these rhinos and all the hoofed, feathered and clawed inhabitants of Ngorongoro, feeling richly privileged to have been here. Tomorrow we travel back to Arusha, and from there to the UK.