When we left our heroes, they had just completed their adventures in the Ngorongoro Crater and were on their way to the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation area (adjacent to the Serengeti National Park). There they would spend 5 nights with the wonderful people at the Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp. It must seem like a lot of time in one area, but it really isn't. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is just over 3 times the size of Rhode Island. While the Ndutu region in the Northwest corner is just a piece of the entire Conservation Area, it's still a big piece of land with many opportunities for viewing all different kinds of wildlife...
One of the indicators of the prosperity of a Maasai is the number of cattle they have. Their cattle are the most important and valuable thing they own, it is a primary source of food, and they are used as a form of currency. For a Maasai warrior to marry he must give the bride price in cattle. According to our driver, who was a Maasai, the Maasai god gave the Maasai cattle and because of that all cattle (in the world!) belong to the Maasai. In the past it used to mean there was a lot of cattle rustling going on as Maasai would steal cattle from neighboring tribes and ranches, with the reasoning that it belonged to them in the first place! That doesn't happen as much now. Along with cattle Maasai also keep other livestock such as sheep and goats, but neither are as important as their cattle. (Hali | iPhone 10XR)
And while waiting for the leopard to come down the tree...
If all those wonderful sightings weren't enough, as we got close to the Nasikia mobile camp in Ndutu we were introduced to 2 lionesses and their 8 cubs in the marshy area near the camp. We took literally thousands of pictures of these adorable cubs and their playful, loving and protective mothers. We also took quite a few videos. This first one was right when we got there, the mommas were sleeping and the cubs just waking up and starting to play. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)
A pride of lions is made up of multiple lionesses and usually 3 males. Often times the males are related. The care and raising of the cubs is a joint effort by the females, they are fed by any of the females. Young male lions stay with the pride until three years of age, after which they are expelled and usually join or form bachelor prides until they grow large enough to try to take over a pride or start one on their own. Adult male lions have a shorter lifespan than females, and they are in their prime usually from ages 5-10. An adult male lion who can no longer father cubs is usually run off from the pride. A pride with an old male at its head can be taken over by a bachelor male which could mean all the cubs being killed. The pride will hunt in a group which allows them to take down large prey. Although these groups are often led by the lionesses, male lions are also skilled hunters, they don't usually go for the large prey animals the lionesses do, but they often hunt and take down the smaller, more swift game.
One of the greatest joys of this trip was watching the two lioness mothers and eight cubs interacting. When the cubs were awake, they were constantly attacking each other, their mothers, and any nearby foliage. The moms took it all in stride with an amazing amount of patience and love. The two videos that Mike shot (below) may give you some small insight as to why it was such a joy to watch this family (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).
The food was simple but delicious in camp, a wonderful butternut squash soup and lamb for the main course on our first night. We went back to our tent and fell asleep to the sounds of hyenas calling and lions chuffing.
Mike's video below shows a scene that may be hard for some people to watch. It was still before sunrise when a stray wildebeest calf was set down as a lesson for the lion cubs. We think that the lionesses were trying the teach to cubs to make a kill. Although the cubs nibbled on this calf for a little while, they really didn't harm it. The calf must have been terrified, but lay there for some time before it mustered the nerve to get up (Mike | Nikon D810 | 270mm).
One of the cubs having a drink in the marsh with one of the lionesses. Another cub watches on but didn't quite get close enough to the water for a drink. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)
In the short video below you can hear the strange sound of the cheetah call. In this case, calling to his brother (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).
Below is a phone video that Mike shot while we were waiting for a lioness to come down from a tree...
After we left the area where were shooting the flamingo's in the early light we came upon another orphan wildebeest calf. It hid behind our other safari vehicle for a short time then headed out towards the lake, not seeing the lioness that was lurking nearby. The lioness had obviously fed very well during the night, her belly was huge, but that wasn't going to stop her from trying for a wildebeest snack. As Hali's video shows, the wildebeest calf had other ideas... (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 200mm)
Mike was able to get his camera up quickly enough to get this short video of impalas playing around a bit (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).
Below is yet one more video of the lion cubs playing around. As you can tell, we were loving these moments (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).
I promise -- the video below is the last video of the cubs playing with mom (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).
As you can see from the photos and video above, there was a tremendous amount of dust we had to deal with. Our driver, Boko, gave us Maasai wraps at the beginning of the trip. We used them to cover our cameras when on the move, but our gear got covered in dust anyhow. We spent a good amount of time every night cleaning our lenses and cameras trying to keep the dust down to a minimum.
A video by Hali that shows the immensity of the herd of zebra and wildebeest that were migrating through this area on their way to the Maasai Mara. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)
Hali Sowle and Jim Sowle