“We were in the short-grass plains of Ndutu when the clouds turned grey. At the crack of thunder she began to move. The sudden change of weather had sparked more than just raindrops in the air. A palpable tension soaked up the atmosphere and then, one lesser noticeable black patch seemed to loom over a lone wildebeest.
Little did we know he was destined to die under it!
They called her Kifo, meaning ‘death’ in Swahili for, like her ilk, she was a lioness that took life with ease. But Kifo had a secret. In the tall grass, known as the ‘Marshlands of Death’, she had a litter of three and to keep them alive she needed to hunt regularly. The cubs were four months old and their diet was now meat. Though she was part of the Marsh Pride, she had to kill on a daily basis to ensure that there was enough food left to filter down to her cubs.
Guaranteed action, we decided to spend the next few days with her pride. Patience is the virtue of the hunter, and on the third day as we waited for the wildebeest to descend into the marshlands for water, Kifo too hid in the grass and waited. That’s when we saw the lonely wandering calf. He was very young, not more than five weeks and maybe in the scramble of the migration or in a bid to escape predators, the lone wildebeest had lost his way and was now walking alone, straight into the waiting jaws of death. We saw Kifo lift her head, the ears flicker and a set of ever-watchful eyes peered straight at the calf from the swaying grass. Then, with a blink of an eye, the blades of grass parted silently and Kifo was on the move, a blur against the rain soaked ground. The calf stood still completely oblivious to what lurked behind him, intent on finding its mother, bleating every few minutes.
The lioness was out in the open and moving like the wind. Effortless and without a sound she was within striking distance. One false sound, a misplaced step would cost her and her cubs dear, they would go hungry for another day if her prey spooked. That’s when she made the cardinal error and stepped on a fallen log weakened by the rain, the crack of dead bark sent the calf into a frenzied gallop. Within a second he was at full gallop, running straight for our vehicle. He came within touching distance of us and then, barely an inch from the safari vehicle, stood trembling looking at us with those large innocent eyes, begging us to save him from the jaws of certain death. The lioness wasn’t willing to come that close to humanity to make the kill and retreated back into the eerie grass to become yet again, another ghost of the marsh.
That’s when we saw another safari vehicle driving towards us. The calf thinking it was the mother, rushed to meet the dust. The lioness rose from the grass and descended on it again. The calf turned back to get to us but it was too late. She picked him up effortlessly and carried him into the grass.
A small stream of water trickled from the scene of the hunt to our jeep. It’s transparency lost to a varying hue of red. That day in the Serengeti, blood flowed as freely as water. That’s when our guests realised that in the deepest of Africa, when they safari with us in the endless lands of the great migration, they would more often than not, have a lot more than just the rain to soak in.
Africa never ceases to amaze us!
Africa, that majestic land of endless horizons, where each setting sun merits its own painting, simply has no parallel. A plethora of tribes, traders, explorers, colonists, bounty hunters, white hunters and incredible wildlife have blessed this land with a unique character of its own. It is the land of adventure; raw, savage yet sensitive and extremely gentle. In this land seeped in tribal traditions and warfare the earth is torn apart by cataclysmic forces creating a geographical magnificence unparalleled by any other in the world. Great mountains with snow on the equator and greater mountain ranges still, the majestic Great Rift Valley with its immense salt and fresh water lakes, great deserts in both the hemispheres and incredible rivers laden with diamonds and gold feed the human eye with sights beyond belief.
Here lies the source of the Nile, which has fascinated the world since centuries, a fascination which led to the very destruction of the continent. Explorations precede colonization and though Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (to name a few) are independent today, they have retained the grandeur and romance of their colonial past. Tanzania and Botswana especially have mastered the art of taking you back in time and keeping you there, all with present day comforts. If you have the heart for adventure and if you want to feel, engage and thrill in the sheer ecstasy of being amidst the very last wilderness havens on earth then come on safari with us.
‘Africa Under Canvas’ is an Expedition & Safari company with its own mobile camps where we revolutionize the stereotypical views on travel within the Dark Continent. We retrace the rawness and the inner beauty of an era forgotten with personalized expeditions and safaris into the heart of the continent, offering both an inner glimpse into the savage yet gentle wilderness and the culture and traditions of the beautiful people that coexist with it. We take you to this extraordinary world of a pristine wilderness ruled by the still superstitious tribals, yet pamper and spoil you like no other.
Our camps are what both the guests and the wilderness need. They are temporary yet extremely comfortable, spacious tents that move after you have left, without leaving a footprint behind – exactly like my family did a hundred years ago, a reminiscence of the golden days of the royals of Bhopal and the Paigah of Hyderabad.
Africa needs to be touched, caressed and enjoyed and a safari with us is one of the best ways to experience the contrasts of this extremely diverse and stunning continent.