We just watched a lion chase a zebra. Well, actually we just ate dinner, listened to a Kenyan sing John Denver and Bob Marley with a fetching colonial accent, then returned to the room to download approximately 516 photos from our game drive. That was where we saw the lion and the zebra having a National Geographic moment.
So I ought to back up a bit. We left IAA in Kinangop this morning (June 9) and drove to Nakuru National Park where we are spending the evening at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. Our team reunited with Gary and Kevin’s project team, who were on the other side of Kenya all week, and we had time for an afternoon game viewing drive before dinner.
Having toured plenty of national parks and developed some understanding of when to go wildlife spotting, we were not expecting to see much at 3:30 in the afternoon. Most animals are active in the early morning and evening. So I don’t know if we just got blessed like crazy here or what. We saw rhinos, giraffes, baboons, crowned cranes, guinea hens (think colorful but dumb-as-a-post chicken), warthogs, baby warthogs, baby zebras, and more zebra, one really dumb zebra, cape buffalo, and more gazelle-ish things than I could count. It was already pretty awesome, but then we saw the lions.
There was a pride of females lounging in the brush about 100 yards off the road. We were stoked to see them inactive even from that distance, and after watching them for about 20 minutes we drove to another part of the park. We circled back to go to the lodge for dinner and we passed the spot where the lions were before. They were still there, only they had moved closer to the road and we could now clearly see there were at least 16 of them, most of which were cubs.
This time we caught them moving about a little more, flopping over on their backs and batting each other on the head with their giant paws. I had been wondering since the first spotting an hour prior why they took no interest in the massive herd of zebras that were about a quarter mile off, but clearly visible down the slope toward the water. Soon one of the adult females sat up and looked very intently across our cluster of vans because it just happened at that moment that the aforementioned clueless zebra had wandered to within about 75 yards of the lions. It all happened rather quickly after that.
The big lioness slid right past our van with not even a glance at us, crossed the road and paused in the grass. The other adult female took the other side and also crossed the road toward the zebra and bolted, as did the zebra (it was at least that smart). The chase lasted only about 5 seconds before the lioness bailed out (we decided she bolted too soon, giving the zebra too much of a head start). Even after she aborted the mission, the zebras were in a wild stampede off in the distance and making the most bizarre sound. At this, a couple of the cubs decided to take a chance, and of course they were too late and not skilled enough yet, but they seemed to enjoy the learning experience. They did not run far before circling back to mom and giving her a nuzzle on the neck. All of them were chuffing to each other, a sound almost like very loud purring with a little vocalization.
I am reading back what I just wrote and it sounds unbelievable. I’m still floored. We really did not expect to see lions at all, but to see them hunting was incredible. Two walked so close to the van I could have petted them. Our driver had to ask me to close the wide open window I had forgotten all about in my excitement, because you know, this is not Disney World and those claws and fangs are legit.
By the time you are reading this we will be home, caught up on laundry (mostly), sleep (sorta), and Instagram (totally). If you’d like to see the 80,000 other photos from our time here in Nakuru, click here for animals and here for the eMi project site. And be sure to scroll farther down to see the video that team member Jonathan shot of the zebra chase. Enjoy!
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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