Every year, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, a vast expanse of protected savannah in Kenya, sees thousands of visitors. They flock to the safari park to see its abundance of wild animals from prowling lions and cheetahs to huge herds of elephants and gazelle. Every drive through the park guarantees a spotting of a few animals, but what tourists crave to see the most is the hunt; a predator stalking his prey.
While nature and wildlife channels like Animal Planet and National Geographic are constantly broadcasting hunts, nothing compares to seeing one in real life. Here’s the experiences.
A large jumble of animals can be seen on the plains; a herd of wildebeest mingling with a herd of zebra and a little ways away a group of female gazelle, the male with his long antlers nowhere to be seen. There are also two ostriches wandering around gawkily, occasionally pausing to scratch up some sand.
A few hundred meters away, in a patch of brown grass camouflaging them from the groups of animals lies a pride of lions, one large male lion with his mane standing up in shock around his head and six graceful females. Three cubs are mewling for their mother who has gone off to hunt. The big cats have just woken up, they are stretching and yawning and shaking flies of their tails. One lioness is watching the lion intently; she is perhaps the alpha lioness. At some unidentifiable sign from the lion, she gets to her feet stretches, and walks away. One by one, the other lionesses join her, their eyes all trained towards the group of prey ahead of them. It seems that the lion has ordered his food.
Slowly, they start to arrange themselves to get ready for the hunt. They surround the herd from all directions- the herd, oblivious to the pale brown ‘patches of grass’ that are moving closer and closer - continue grazing. The lion remains in the same place that he ordered his meal- on top of an anthill, that gives him a vantage view of the action. The lionesses take an hour to surround their prey. They do so, lazily, unconcernedly, with arrogance- it’s almost as if they have already caught their next meal. After some time, it becomes clear who their target is; a lone wildebeest who is standing a little away from the herd, having wandered there because he saw a patch of fresh grass. This greed may cost him his life.
Suddenly, in a flash of movement one lioness starts running, closely followed by another. They don’t try to get too near to the wildebeest, they just run directly behind him, shepherding him towards the other lionesses. Once he reaches a certain spot all the other lionesses charge from different directions. However, he is lucky. He finds a gap between them and gallops away, joining his herd who, alert to the commotion, are backing nervously away. The lionesses are taken by surprise. All they can do is watch as their dinner melts into the crowd. They cannot resume the chase, and to start a new one would take time and energy, energy which they don’t have.
They return to the lion, with no food, tired, and thirsty. The lion pays them no attention he has his food; a gazelle brought to him by the lioness who had separated herself from the rest of the pride to hunt for her cubs. All the other lionesses can do is sit and watch as the lion and the cubs feed on the animal, and hope they will get to gnaw on the remaining bones.
After all, only the fittest survive in the wild.