Seven Days in the Serengeti. Day One: The Lion Hunt.
After months of planning and waiting, and two days of travel across three continents, I was finally here - in Africa, Tanzania to be precise.
We are a diverse group of sixteen enthusiastic photography buffs from across Canada and the US. Toting our cameras and mega-zoom lenses, we are excited and eager to begin our seven-day Photo Safari.
Day One: First Stop, Tarangire National Park.
Tanzania has done a remarkable job setting up game preserves, national parks and conservation areas to protect and preserve its diverse natural grasslands and sought-after wildlife while accepting tourism as an essential part of their economy. They have worked to foster the symbiotic relationship between the treasured animals and their curious fans.
Let the games - or game drives- begin. Adam, our ever-patient young driver, stops with each excited gasp: look - a small herd of zebra grazing on the right! Click. Wildebeest on the left, we all shift... Click.
Hyenas ahead, right on the road. Click, click, click.
And so it continues, we can't get enough. Ostriches, gazelles, impalas. In the distance we spot several massive, gray African elephants as they lumber across the grassy plain.
Slowly we make our way deeper into the park. We are heading to a watering hole, it is mid-afternoon and hot. The animals will be heading there for a drink. We are hoping to see lions near the watering hole,waiting to surprise unwary prey as they approach, thirsty and hot.
There they are - two sleek lionesses with their yearling cubs, half hidden on a small knoll in the tall, dry grass. Here they have discovered a vantage point where they can lie in wait, unobserved, and plot their attack.
Our parked Land Cruiser becomes a camouflage for the group, like a large shady rock they can hide behind. We have front row seats, positioned between the lions and the watering hole; between the predator and its prey. The lions lie flat, unmoving but for their eyes - ever watchful and alert, following their prey. The young are not so engrossed. They play and nip, impatient with the waiting. We realize this is training, the mothers are teaching their young the art of hunting.
A single Waterbuck approaches, oblivious to the danger, separated from its herd, drawn to the beckoning coolness of the water.
The lionesses are alert, their bodies now taut, ears perked. The lions must spread out, encircle their target. One young lion slowly moves to the right, around the watering hole. There is less protection here, more visibility. The lioness slowly rises, coiled to strike.
The birds' chatter is louder now, perhaps a warning to the young waterbuck. The lioness springs forward, powerful strides, sprinting over the banks of the watering hole, fixed on its prey.
But the buck has been alerted. Its frantic gaze first to the young cub on the right; then back at the rapidly approaching lioness as it streaks across the bank. That instant was all it needed. The young cub is not yet adept enough and the lioness is a split second too late. The buck bounds to safety leaving the lions spent and disappointed.
The scene unfurled in seconds - like a Hollywood action movie, playing out too quickly for our excited, and, in some cases, amateur photoskills to capture. However, the pure, raw display of nature needs no camera to etch itself indelibly in my memory.
Day One: Lion Hunt. Tick.