Make no mistake, Africa is a wild place. I have shared my experiences in the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the Maasai Mara and all the wonderful and cute animals found there but don’t let me fool you, these are dangerous places, especially if you are a delicious antelope. The circle of life in Africa was well on display and I can tell you it made for the most fascinating and exciting encounters. This, of course, is not for everyone. With that I will give a disclaimer – some may consider the following content graphic. If you are squeamish or prefer the cuter side of animals I suggest you check out my more G-rated posts like my African Big 4 out of 5 or Africa Got Back.
Or enjoy this African tree, just not too closely:
For those interested in my experience with the Circle of life in Africa, read on.
Kittens to Carnivores
Possibly the best example of the circle of life in Africa was our time watching cheetahs in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Our day started from Chaka Camp on a high. We watched a mother cheetah play with her 2 cubs for an hour or so. She would hide in the tall grass then pounce on her young which resulted in playful swatting and rolling around.
Fast forward to the afternoon where we watched in awe while a pair of cheetahs devoured a freshly taken down wildebeest calf. These cute and cuddly kittens that we watched frolicking around not but 3 hours prior were now up to their elbows (knees?) in the guts of a wildebeest.
We watched in horror and awe while these two cats completely cleaned this animal flesh from bone, proving that the circle of life in Africa is indeed a thing.
Cheetahs weren’t the only cats we watched in action. While at Encounter Mara in the Maasai Mara Conservancy we watched lion cubs finish off a half eaten zebra in a bush. I didn’t get any pictures as they were well hidden but I can tell you the sound of bone crunching sent shivers down my spine.
The Ones That got Away
Not all of our circle of life in Africa encounters ended in guts and gore. Here are a few battles that ended peacefully:
While at Encounter Mara we watched a lioness stalk its prey in the rain for a good hour only to get spotted. Fascinating to watch but a little anticlimactic.
Lion vs Buffalo
While cruising around the Ngorongoro Crater we stumbled upon a pride of lions feeding on a wildebeest. Half way through their meal they were interrupted by a water buffalo that felt the pride was a little to close for comfort. Interesting note, water buffalo outranks lions, not so much on the African circle of life food chain as lions will take down a young or injured Buffalo, but they are considered one of the most dangerous animals. These lions were well aware of that fact. It was intense to watch a pride of lions face off with a brave water buffalo only to back down and be forced to leave their lunch.
Even though we didn’t witness a lot of the circle of life in Africa in action, we definitely had plenty of evidence around us. Each night we were serenaded by lion calls and hyena cackles as they hunted, sometimes outside out tents. Then there were the bones. So many bones. The majority of them being wildebeest, which their sheer numbers just suggests that they are naturally farmed to be food. We also saw the remains of an elephant, which blew my mind.
We also witnessed a showdown between a hyena, vulture, and jackal that was pretty epic. Once the lion pride in the Ngorongoro Crater was scared off their lunch by the water buffalo, it was time for the scavengers to move in. We watched as these middle-of-the-pact African food chain animals faced off over the remains.
Definitely not Disney
Sure we saw our share of cute and cuddly animals in Africa but there were plenty of realties mixed in. If you head on safari with a Disney style mindset you are in for a shock. The circle of life in Africa is alive and it is fascinating. Remember this when you come across Simba tucking into Pumba.
And speaking of Pumba, he is delicious:
What say you?
Thoughts on the REAL Circle of Life in Africa?
Let’s hear it!
My Circle of Life in Africa experience was partially made possible by The Safari Partners through a travel professional educational trip. Although my trip was discounted, the experience, opinions, and sights of guts and gore are my own.