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  • “Serengeti” is a word of the Masai language which means “endless plains”. And while we enter the Serengeti I see with my own eyes the plains that stretch to the horizon on either side of us. Here and there a bunch of rocks rest on each other as if a decorator placed them there. They are just like the rock islands lions are provided with in many zoos.

    Our Tanzanian guide is a short, stocky black man named Simba – the Swahili word for “lion”.

    We have just entered the gate to the park when my husband spots a cheetah sitting in the high grass just beside the road. The cheetah does not give us any attention, she is sitting staring, and her eyes fixed on a point in some distance. She seems to be completely captivated. I have to look for a while to detect a gazelle at that spot. The gazelle is grazing peacefully. The cheetah suddenly gets up and then she runs. She races so fast, it is impossible to follow her with my eyes. I drop the camera. The gazelle does not graze anymore she too has started to run. She runs for her life. But she is doomed; the cheetah reaches her in no time. The gazelle disappears, and then we see her hanging dead in the mouth of the cheetah. She slowly carries her heavy victim away.” I think she has cubs somewhere near and will feed them now.”, says Simba,” It is difficult for cheetahs. After running so fast, they have to breathe for about 30 minutes before they can actually eat their prey. In those 30 minutes often leopards or hyenas steal their meal.”

    There was a second gazelle grazing beside the now dead one. She stopped grazing and still stares at the spot where her sister was killed a few moments ago. The process of killing happened so fast and yes: elegantly – that she seems to be as dumbfounded as we are. It was barely a second from grazing to become nourishment for a cheetah – family.

    Driving through the Serengeti we discover a leopard resting on a tree branch. He is sleeping. When we pass the same tree a few hours later, the leopard seems to not have moved, but he obviously has, because in the branch on the other side hangs head down a dead gazelle. The following morning our leopard is gone and just the head of the dead gazelle still hangs down from the other branch. When we stop our jeep under the tree a few vultures fly up.

    While in the Serengeti we sleep in a mobile tented camp. At this time of the year happens the huge migration of more than a million wildebeest from Tanzania towards Kenya. This camp moves with the wildebeest. There is no marked road to reach the camp, which has just moved a few days ago, Simba explains to us. We have to drive off the dirt road and into the grass of the endless plains. We drive for a very long time and speaks once and again over the radio. He obviously has a hard time to find our camp. It is late afternoon. Will we have to sleep this night inside our jeep? We are lucky or Simba knows the endless plains very well, because before sunset we do reach the camp. There are about 20 tents and all around them graze hundreds, no, I think thousands of wildebeest. Every so many moments each of the male wildebeest grunts all day and all night long. During our second night we suddenly hear lions roar very close. The wildebeest grunting stops immediately. The following morning we discover eleven lions on a rock island very close to our camp. There is no wall or fence between them and us or even them and the tents or other lions and the public toilets in the park.

    “Are you not afraid to be attacked by lions?” I ask the employees in our camp

    They laugh and shake their heads,” When we put up the tents a few days ago,” tells one,” a few lions came walking through the camp and a few nights ago, two came to us while we sat around our night fire. But lions here do not like the meat of humans. Far away from here exist other lions. Those are smaller and have a whiter belly. Those do eat humans.”

    Later I read that in Tanzania a man lions on average kill a week.

    Photography by Kiki

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