A hyena worth waiting for, Kenya

A friend recently invited me to a 7-day nature photography challenge on social media. I decided to do a tour of wildlife on the seven continents of the world. It was such a pleasure to comb through old photos and experiences that I’ve decided to do a version of it on my blog. We’ll start in Africa, Kenya to be precise, where I spent a semester as a student with Earlham College. Please bear in mind that this trip was long before I owned a decent camera or even fostered a serious interest in photography for that matter.

“In the grasslands, the vast grasslands the lion sleeps all day…”

lion_KenyaWe belted out our revised lyrics to The Lion Sleeps Tonight as our van bounced through a cloud of dust. Two days at the Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve and we already felt like pros. Languid lions sprawled across parched soils and browned grass had proven the original song lyrics inaccurate. Now that we’d corrected the errors, lions were no longer our goal. In fact we had an elaborate story-line featuring all the things we wanted to see, a tale that was updated as we checked items off our list and replaced them with newly discovered potential sightings. Our current version included a confused cheetah circling a wildebeest with the turning disease, a dik dik trembling in the bushes beyond and a leopard smuggly viewing the scene from atop a nearby tree, its captured Thompson’s gazelle hanging from an adjacent branch.

The van lurched to a stop, sending us scrambling for hand holds and a better view in the direction our guide gazed. I saw nothing. Shifting to my toes, I strained against the edge of the vehicle’s pop-up top and stared at the dirt mound before me. Was there a brilliant bird tucked in the scraggly bush growing from its top? Had a giant snake disappeared down the gaping hole at its base? There was silence as we collectively scrutinized this unimpressive knoll. Seconds ticked to minutes.

It was unlike our guide to wait so long with nothing to see, but he continued staring at the mound. “Patience,” he urged.

People began fidgeting. Someone sat down and pulled out a walkman. My own gaze wandered to distant trees and the sky above. What were we waiting for?

And then an enchanted gasp, “Oh! It’s soooo cute!!!”

A baby face of fur emerged from the shadows. The creature cocked its head and examined us with curious black eyes before tumbling back into its tunnel.

The walkman now dangled from the seat and all of our eyes were trained at the gaping hole. Would we get another glimpse?

Our guide glanced back at us and chuckled, “Natal nest of a hyena.”

Yes, unscripted baby hyenas were worth waiting for.

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