Lions’ buffet

Before travelling to Africa I naively thought it was somewhat difficult to see the wild animals. I mean, your chances of seeing North America’s “Big 5” — grizzly bear, polar bear, moose, wolf and bison — on a week-long trip to Canada is far from guaranteed.

But the three Tanzanian game parks we visited — Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park — were teeming with wildlife. Upon pulling out of Lobo airstrip in our open-air Toyota Land Cruiser safari jeep and hitting the dirt track road in the Serengeti, Blake declared, “Holy crap, it’s a lions’ buffet!”

There are so many animals in the Serengeti, it’s shocking the predators ever go hungry.

Everywhere we looked, herds of wildebeest and zebra grazed on green grass under a cloudless Serengeti sky. Impalas, Thompson’s gazelles, hartebeest and many other species of antelope I never knew existed pranced between acacia trees as if they hadn’t a care in the world. A water buffalo, one of Africa’s Big 5, gave me a hostile stare beneath his heavy rack of horns.

Don’t mess with me, mzungu! (That’s Swahili for hapless tourist.)

Closer to Klein’s Camp, our safari lodge, we spotted giraffes nibbling acacia leaves high in the treetops and elephants plundering the bush for leaves, grass and even thorny branches — anything they could wrap their trunks around.

These “gentle giants” can evidently kill a lion with a swift kick from an impossibly long leg.

When we spotted a pride of lions later that afternoon, I had to wonder if they ever went hungry. All the animals we’d seen earlier were still visible, though they kept a healthy distance between themselves and the beasts at the top of the Serengeti food chain.

Well-fed lions frolic near andBeyond Klein’s Camp.

In fact, we got so close to the pride — still in our open-air jeep — I marveled that mzungu (western tourists) hadn’t replaced wildebeest or zebras as a favourite meal. The crazy reality is they took nearly no notice of our Land Cruiser, but watched the other animals of the Serengeti intently.

Psst, buddy, there’s a tasty snack taking your picture.

The lions looked healthy, happy and, well, a little fat. Turns out they’d just sampled a preferred dish from the Serengeti buffet: a wildebeest.

Mmmm … paw-lickin’ good!

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