Lion in the wet.

Flashes of lightning backlit the acacia trees on the horizon as the skies opened and torrential rain came down. The oceans of dust we’ve been navigating the last few days turned instantly to seas of mud. It’s special mud; black, viscous clay-like stuff the clogs the treads of your shoes and the tires of the trucks alike. Driving out at 6:30 this morning involved skidding and sliding all over the place, and always dicing with the prospect of getting bogged like some other trucks we saw.

The animals are all hunkered down. The bat-eared foxes have been flooded out of their burrows and huddle tightly together in the grasses, jackals look whipped in the rain, and lions sit wincing and looking visibly diminished as their manes get plastered to their skulls.

Lion eating zebra.

Something we learned today is that lions licking themselves clean make an audible sort of smacking sound – at least when your only two meters away from them. Thanks to the rain, we were the only people literally right beside two lions. And in spite of the rain they were very beautiful to watch as they, somewhat futilely, cleaned themselves of mud.

We saw tons of lions throughout the course of the morning. None quite so close as the first, but the last pride we saw was eating a zebra – much to our queasy delight. Their meal was being eyed off by hyenas, but the pride was big enough that the hyenas kept their distance.

The things we haven’t seen though include leopard – which we tried again to see last night and spent two-and-a-half hours not finding; and wildebeest, which is primarily while we are here. Now that it has rained everyone is confidently predicting the arrival of the wildebeest, just after we leave. I’m sort of reassured by the fact we’re not seeing everything though, it proves this is the real world.