6th to 8th April: Gol Kopjes, my dream safari – the sunshine, the migration, lion kings galore, and best of all, not another vehicle for 3 days!
Probably the best value “private” safari on the planet. Over 200 sq. kms of prime Serengeti all to ourselves for the princely sum of $100 p/n. There are no lodges in this area, the closest being about an hour away, which allowed us exclusive access to this huge area. I think the weather conditions had scared everyone away, word on the street being that it’s off limits. They could not have been more wrong! Not only that but the rain has now disappeared, giving way to blue skies and wispy clouds.
We camped at Naabi Gate, which overlooks the plains and is the entrance to Gol. It’s a stunning setting, high above the plains below with views almost to the horizon. The first afternoon drive got us close up and personal to the huge herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle and provided more lion sightings. There were also plenty of hyenae, always on the prowl.
Got up at first light and at the bottom of the hill, about 300m from camp is a male lion on a kill (see px). It’s barely breaking dawn, still quite dark and he’s no more than 5m from the road. Shortly afterwards, he’s joined by his coalition partner. But there’s no sharing the spoils, the threatening grunts are a fair warning to keep away. Eventually, the second guy gets the scraps, the innards and entrails…ugh! This is the beginning of a morning not to forget. I still don’t know whether we got really lucky or that the sightings we had are the norm. I suspect the former.
As we weave our way through the Kopjes, there is a lioness, with her back to us, strolling along the dirt road towards a Kopje. It reminds me of the Wizard Of Oz (I know, yes, I need help!) as the bunch of Kopjes ahead look the Emerald City and she’s making her way on the yellow brick road towards it…….”put ‘em up, put ‘em up!”
Emma reckons she’s got cubs. She zones in on the teats and exclaims, they’re full of milk. OK, let’s see. We track her to the Kopjes and the lioness gingerly makes her way toward the centre of the kopjes, one eye on us and one eye ahead. Then we hear the excited sounds of a lion cub. She’s only got one cub (unusual) but it’s well tucked away from other predators and being the only one, should stand a very good chance of survival. Mum and cub play together for some time in the rocks, giving us a great show.
Then disaster almost strikes! I’ve been concentrating too much on the lions and not on the road. I somehow manage to go over a huge rock and we’re seriously stuck. On inspection underneath, it’s lodged right under the belly of the car, one more wrong move and it’s curtains. I eventually manage to get out but not without damaging the cross member (a dent) and wrecking the protective guard that surrounds the steering rod. I reckon an inch or more and the steering rod would have been history. I’m doing my best to wreck the Landy, she’s just not playing ball!
A little bit further along we pick up a cheetah. As we drive over to see him, he hides in the grass. We just can’t find him 😦 There are not so many cheetah around, even though this is perfect territory for them i.e. open plains, short grasses, plenty of game. It can only be the large lion population and their ability to view their kingdom below from on high. If a cheetah made a kill, it would likely be spotted by a lion and they’d be there to steal it away in no time at all. Shame, I was looking forward to more cheetahs!
The rest of the morning is filled with lion sightings. There are lions atop just about every Kopje outcrop we come to. A total of 11 different sightings. Sometimes it was a single male, then two females, a mixture, male and female etc. We also had a great sighting of mating lions in the plains area, with the wind blowing the male’s mane in classic fashion (see px).
The night air was filled with the sound of the lions just below us (the same ones that had made the kill). Then, as we are tucked away in the tent, a lion walks up and vomits about 6 foot from the tent! I examined it in the morning……..it looked like entrails mixed with lots of grass. That’s a first! A lion puking outside your tent, didn’t even clean it up!!
First thing in the morning I got up early to fill the 40-litre water tank, fitted on the Landy. I had to use two 5 litre plastic bottles. Think about it; takes a little time eh?. When I got back, Emma was furious “where the X*@! have you been?”. Apparently, shortly after I’d left a lioness strolled right past the camp. All my fault, of course 🙂 I was going to come out with the oft-used cliche “Africa’s not for sissies” but thought better of it!
Just another day in the bush!