Serengeti – The Cycle OF Life

The ‘endless plains’ stretched ahead of us. Tranquil. Seemingly light years from the stressful demands of our life in the big city. The passage of time marked only by the movement of the sun.

We were aware by now, after our dawn to dusk game drives in Tarangire and Ngorongoro, that the tranquility conceals a dynamic eco system where the pressures of survival outweigh a placid existence. Where life is hard. Where letting one’s guard down can only mean certain death. Swift, only for the more fortunate.

Lioness stalking Zebra - Serengeti National Park
Lurking danger!! (I hadn’t realised I had the lioness in my frame until I cropped this image!)

My whispered “Please God!”, as we watched an unsuspecting zebra approach a stealthy lioness and her four trainee cubs camouflaged in the tall grass, was met by George’s impatient “But those cubs need to be fed!”

That is a fact. Life depends on death. And the predator-prey tango is a necessity. But it isn’t easy to watch. Fascinating, awe inspiring even, but not easy.

The rest of the herd kicked up such a ruckus that the young stray rushed back into their fold, and my heartbeat returned to normal. The lions, it seems, were just doing a trial run! I wondered for a moment about the heart health of these poor creatures.__

Zebra herd on alert
A zeal of zebras on full alert mode!!

Including sound effects for good measure:

Midway through our safari we had begun discussing a (future) return to Southern Serengeti in the lean months of Feb/March, to witness the spectacle of synchronised birthing by tens of thousands of wildebeest. An evolutionary adaptation perfected over countless generations, that utilizes massive numbers to counter predation. There is no denying that the big cats get treated to effortless ‘buffet’ spreads over the three week period, but still, more calves apparently survive in this collective process, than they would with staggered year round calving.

On our last evening at our camp in Northern Serengeti, conversation veered to the amazing predator action during the calving season, with graphic descriptions of new born calves attaching themselves to lions still feeding off the fresh carcasses of their mothers.

“You still want to go?” R laughed. I really do. But I think I might end up testing God’s patience along with that of our dear guide George.

 –

PS: Our eight night Tanzanian safari across three national parks was efficiently organised by The Wild Source. And we have only good things to say about the abilities and sensitivity of our guide and driver George.

 

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

101 thoughts on “Serengeti – The Cycle OF Life

  1. Zebras are amazing, and so are your photos. What a challenge to observe ‘nature red in tooth and claw’. I think I’d be hiding my eyes. Thank you again for a journey beyond where I’d go!

    1. Tennyson captures and conveys the essence of the experience in far fewer words 🙂 Thank YOU for your visit and comment Meg.

      1. There doesn’t seem to have been much activity of late over at your blog. Hope all is well with you Niranjan.

  2. Amazing footage. I never cease to marvel at your propensity to pick the right shots, the right angles and of course, the right places to visit… you were born to travel and regale us with the wonders of life in all its myriad colors. Thanks for this awesome post.

    Take care!

    1. Thank you dear Meenakshi. This is hardly the kind of ‘word song’ you use to bewitch us 🙂 Your latest is exquisite.

  3. So many zebras together is a wonderful sight. I suppose its because they are pretty that the idea of them as lion lunch is far worse than a wildebeest or antelope. Your video is great too Madhu!

    1. Thank you Gilly. You are too kind…I need to learn to contain my excitement if I plan on shooting more videos 🙂

      I would have been just as distressed watching a wildebeest calf getting stalked. I know most people look for live predator action when on safari 🙂

  4. Bless you, I can’t start to imagine what your shots would look like if you had a tele lens!!! The video is most amusing too. Zebras sound a lot like donkeys. Thank you, Madhu. I wish I had been there in person, but this is the next good thing. Much appreciated!

    1. And I know you love donkeys! 🙂

      I so wished I had a decent lens for this trip Paula. I use a crappy (but practical) 18-200 which was barely adequate. The high cost of our safari didn’t allow room for an upgrade. My travel plans always take precedence over my photography equipment 🙂

      Many thanks Paula.

      1. And so they should. A decent tele lens zoom would be very heavy to carry around and to hold, not to mention a prime tele lens. You are aright, I love donkeys, and zebras too as their relatives, though I only saw these at a zoo. Thank you for letting me link to this amazing adventurous post. Zebra pic is now featured on my TS posts preview (imperfection). CG says it is like giving people small free samples like they do in a shopping mall 😀

  5. This post just brings a smile to my face ~ the Serengeti and you really nail it with it all being the cycle of life and something for the soul to take in. Enjoy 🙂

  6. Wow, what an experience. Thanks for sharing your photos with us and the cycle of life in pictures. I showed my students a National Geographic photographers DVD and they all were appalled at “the kill scene” of lions devouring a zebra but I asked them if they eat hamburgers and reminded them that the lions don’t shop at the grocery store meat counter. They seem to have trouble taking it in. I am going to show them your video, Madhu. Thanks.

    1. Hubby asked me the same thing. Ours is possibly the only species that kills for the joy of eating meat rather than survival. The clinical grocery store counter helps keep emotion, and guilt, out of the process for the end consumer at least 🙂

      Thank you very much Ruth. Would love to know how your students react to the zebras’ obvious distress.

  7. I once watched a documentary on a hare being chased by a fox. When the hare managed to escape there was a relief, I must say. But then the narrator or host said that with their mother’s failure to catch a prey, that day the cubs had to survive through the night with only a little bit of food. It’s a reality of the nature, but one thing we can learn is that whether it’s fox or lion or any other predators, they only take what they need. I really enjoyed this post, Madhu! And you took some great images too.

    1. Thanks Bama. You are so right. And the whole process is fine tuned to balance populations. Except where humans are involved 🙂

  8. What a joy to sit in our armchairs and join you on your great safari, Madhu. All the images are wonderful, but we think the zebras are our favourites. Just love the video! 🙂 Oh dear, Siri and Selma want to go an a safari as week now. How many shots have you taken altogether during those 8 days, do you know?
    Have a wonderful, cozy weekend.
    Best wishes from the Four of us, Dina xo

    1. Thank you Dina. Hope Siri & Selma have their wish granted and soon! 🙂
      I must have clicked over 5000 photos, which isn’t excessive considering i shoot approx. 2000 on a typical city break 😀

  9. I am guessing that the impassiveness with which I watch wildlife documentaries will be very much tested if I was there in person… Great pictures!

  10. These poignant life experiences are breathless moments between the intersection of nature and human nature. To witness life in the raw is vital to understand the universe in which we inhabit. How fortunate you are.

  11. Madhu, beautifully haunting captures of predator and prey relationships. I don’t know if I could return to watch the wildebeest …the synchronized birthing I could watch in fascination…the lions watching and waiting for their next meal…I don’t think so.

  12. Such an amazing experience Madhu. I am sure the experience was thousand fold more riveting than watch it on a documentary.

    1. I hope you do Ishita. Experiencing it with your daughters will be especially enjoyable. We wished we had brought our grandsons with us.

  13. Amazing photos, Madhu. I’m so glad that zebra got away. Like you, I would root for the zebras. If only the lions became vegetarians, then the zebras, wildebeests and others could live in peace. Unrealistic, I know. 😉

  14. I’d never heard of the synchronised birthing event, Madhu, but it seems to make good sense (and nature’s pretty good at that, isn’t she?) It’s such a tussle between the good guys and the predators! I want them both to win 🙂 But I have to admit to being squeamish, so ‘in the flesh’ might not be for me. Brilliant share!

    1. It’s a bit like watching an old mafia flick Jo, where the dishy (anti) hero beguiles you even as he goes round shooting all his victims 😀 Not for the squeamish!

  15. You said it perfectly, Madhu. Life depends on death. It’s not pleasant to watch, but it is nature. Your zebra video with the sounds brought back a flood of memories. It is a hard sound to describe. Watching Wildebeasts delivering babies on the run while lions crouched nearby was difficult for Ron and I. but our guide, like yours, always put it into perspective.

    1. It must have been fascinating nevertheless Lynne!! I really would love to witness that even if I have my eyes closed for the most part 🙂

    1. It was even louder before I decided to record it Marina. Their distress heightened our squeamishness. A silent kill would be easier. I think 🙂 Many thanks for your support.

  16. Amazing post, Madhu. It was really interesting to watch the video and to hear the sounds made by the zebras. I never knew they sounded like this. What an amazing experience that safari must have been. I would really love to do this one day. 🙂 It really would be hard to stomach the killing, but as you say, it’s part of life’s cycle. Happy holidays. 🙂

      1. Yes, Madhu, I’ll be here for Christmas. We don’t finish our semester until mid-January. At that time I’ll have 6 weeks off, so I’m starting to plan my travels now. I can’t wait!! 🙂

  17. Loved the text part too. you have beautifully brought out the balance, the necessity and feelings of onlookers in the wilderness.Whatever might be the context, life is the game of balance. specially loved the first pic….the jungle drama caught at it’s best.

  18. Fantastic images, Madhu…..love the zebra and the lioness, and as for your video with all the sounds! Fabulous. Now, I think you have a Nikon – that 18-200 isn’t crappy, is it? Just not the best for this kind of thing 😀

    1. Well, not exactly crappy, but not quite what you would pick for quality either 🙂 It is the most practical though for the kind of photos I click most often, so it didn’t make sense to upgrade while we had so many bills to pay. Thank you very much for the thumbs up Sue.

  19. I had stepped away from WP for awhile. I had no idea you were on such a fantastic adventure! I will follow each day! It was nice to hear what I think was the sound of your voice in the video! Spectacular footage and photos! I am so envious! The circle of life captured in raw footage yet keeps the planet in balance. Spectacular Madhu!

  20. Madhu, the sight of all those zebras must have been amazing – I had no idea what they sounded like until I watched your video. As for the lions, vultures and hyenas, they certainly don’t seem to be camera shy either. 🙂 The Serengeti has long been on my wish list for Africa… thanks for giving us a glimpse of its grandeur in this beautiful, concise account!

    1. I hadn’t heard Zebras barking (braying?) before either James. And to have this huge herd ‘complain’ loudly and simultaneously was mesmerising!

      You will get there, of that I have no doubt 🙂

  21. I too was struck by the cycle of life and death, which is nowhere as apparent as it is on safari. We saw a very graphic kill of an impala by a leopard, who in very short order lost his feast to a viscious pack of hyenas which promptly tore the poor impala apart at the seams. We also saw a mother leopard with a fresh kill feeding her cub in a tree to protect against scavengers. One feels so bad for the prey but as you say, for them it is survival. I think an African Safari should be a mandatory experience for every living person. If only it could be so Madhu. Thanks for the reminder of some extraordinary memories.

    1. Tina, extraordinary is the right word. And nowhere is it quite as memorable as in Africa. I was never much of a wildlife person, despite my father in law heading the forest department in our state for over a decade. Now I am hooked. Wish it was more affordable though.

      1. Amen to that! But I talked to them about that and they said it’s actually a way of controlling the number of people which helps protect the pristine nature while still generating the revenue they need to sustain it. That made sense to me.

        1. It sure does. Central Serengeti and Ngorongoro is over crowded as it is. And I hear Masai Mara in Kenya is too.

  22. A fascinating and informative narrative and fabulous images Madhu. I’d love to see some of these animals in the wild for myself some day. PS Thanks for the nod on my site being down recently, much appreciated.

    1. Thank you Suzanne. And you are most welcome. The comment section was behaving strangely yesterday, have a feeling all might still not be OK.

      PS: Was wondering, do you have a web developer maintaining your site, or do you handle all the ‘chores’ yourself? I know I need to take the plunge sometime soon, but I am dreading having to find more time to devote to all of that.

  23. That’s the problem with taking sides in nature. Both sides have a good point, the zebra wanting to stay alive and the lions wanting to eat. That herd of zebras is mesmerizing to look at though, with all their myriad stripes. 🙂

      1. I would too. It’s like the video of the pack of lions attacking the baby elephant. I knew they have to eat, but I was still hoping it got away (it did) 🙂

  24. That video really put me right there with you, Madhu. Your photos are always awesome in transporting me to where you are, but this video really made me feel present.

      1. Thank you very much for the share Angeline. Much appreciated.

        I debated inserting the video, since the quality didn’t match that of the photos, but I too felt it conveyed more than still photos ever could. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  25. What an amazing experience you had! Loved the sound video of the zebras. I had no idea they could make so much noise. I’ve only ever seen them feeding peacefully. 🙂 I’ve never seen an actual kill in real life. I know I would find it very disturbing to watch. Thanks so much for your wonderful post. 🙂

  26. The photograph of the unsuspecting young Zebra and the lioness stalking her prey is indeed fascinating! I rate this as a rare and brilliant capture Madhu. Thank you so much.
    Warm regards,
    Dilip

    P.S. I don’t seem to get your email alerts any more. Will check on this by refresh of the follow. 😦

  27. Peace and tranquility for some… a daily struggle for survival for others. I wonder what these creatures would think if they visited our urban jungles… would they scoff at the artificial struggles we create? That first shot is an amazing capture, Madhu. How fascinating to have witnessed it. Synchronized birthing? Didn’t know about this… would be quite something to witness, eh?

  28. Hi Madhu,

    what was the cost of this safari when you had gone? I am planning to go this year.

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