~~We had been travelling for an hour at least before we saw our first glimpse of a lioness hunting, in the mere hours of daylight. Her shoulders were hunched over, ambling under the long grass of the African terrain. Our jeep was only 20 metres away from the predator, yet everything the beast could see was in our view, almost as if we were hunting along side. Following its hard gaze we noticed the herd of zebra near the lake. My hands gripped the handle of the jeep in anticipation, waiting. My eyes wandered over the surroundings of the lake before noticing that there was more than one lioness in sight. The sun was at its peak now, scorching my exposed head as I watched the hunt. She was so fluid. Lying down, not a muscle twitched, as her eyes were riveted on the zebra drinking 300 yards away. They can't see the lioness, but we could because we were sitting motionless in an open Land Rover ten feet away.
The sunrise was the colour of blood. It leaked out of the east, stained the dark sky red, and streaked the sky with its golden rays. The colour deepened as the sun rose from beneath the mountains of Kilimanjaro. Those few minutes of the sky erupting into flames, welcoming the new day, were breathtaking. The wilderness was awoken as it rose further and further up the sky, illuminating the landscape with its hues. My eyes burned from gazing at the fire ball, but I couldn't tear my eyes away afraid that if I looked away I might miss this moment. The light sauntered over the canopy of sand and lush landscape of Africa. The few trees that stood firm against the ground appeared as silhouettes against the slowly brightening sky. Warmth enveloped me and as I sat there inside the jeep, I couldn't help but feel that this moment, this sight was just mine.
Travelling at an early time of 5 in the morning was easier said than done, but to be able to see all the animals in the Ngorongoro Crater would be definitely worthwhile. There was the sweltering of heat, the unbearable exhaustion and the long droning hours of boredom when it would be too hot, or when nothing interesting happens. But there was also the exhilarating anticipation of seeing the hunt of a predator stalking its prey or the chase before the attack. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was definitely very different from seeing them in captivity. The sense of freedom and belonging was prominent in these surroundings.
"As long as you keep quiet and don't put anything - even a camera lens- outside the jeep, she won't pay attention to us," said our ranger guide, Leo.
Her muscles were so supple that you could barely see them moving; the lioness rose; sniffed the air. Then in a quiet gait, she moved a hundred yards closer.
"She's going to pounce." I whispered in amazement. We were actually going to see a kill.
And then she took off, at full speed. Her muscles contracted as she moved gracefully against the grass, her back still hunched as she went towards the herd, her eyes locked on one zebra. Their heads instantly looked up and turned only to see at least six lions surrounding them, and before we knew it they had taken off. The chase was on. They ran in all directions, trying to flee from the already closing beasts. It was manic, but we managed to capture the pursuit. It could only have been a few seconds as the zebra ran desperately. My heart raced and it was frightening how quickly the animal was gaining on the zebra. It was all over too soon. She leapt; claws clenched the skin, teeth sank into the creature as it withered in agony. My breath hitched as I stared at the animals in awe yet disgust at the corpse of the animal. I glanced towards the sky, the sun sweltering, and blinding against the vivid blue background. The Crater was a true sense of wild.