Backpacking

The Big Cats of the Serengeti

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Posted on / by Alex Berger
Lion Rock by Alex Berger

The four days I spent in the Serengeti were full of incredible experiences. One of the things you always dream about is the opportunity to spend time with big cats. From shy cheetahs to lazy lions or the ever elusive Leopard, there’s something captivating about the alpha predators of Africa. At the outset of my safari I hoped I’d spot, perhaps, one or two large male lions and a leopard or two. A cheetah or two if I was lucky and a pride of females with cubs. Little did I know what the Serengeti had in store for me.

My time spent in Tarangire at the start of the 9 day safari had already set a high bar. After all, catching lionesses and their cubs beneath a rainbow was one of the most magical things I’ve witnessed in my travels. Yet, lo and behold, the Serengeti had far, far more than that in store. By the end of my four days in the Serengeti I had given up on counting lion and leopard sightings. At times, the big cats got so close to the vehicle that, had they been tempted, they could have easily jumped inside. At one point a young Cheetah Cub put his front paws up on the bumper and chewed on the cattle guard a bit. In another, a large male leopard used us as a sun and wind block and settled down immediately next to the vehicle.

The highlight though? Spending a good 20+ minutes with a tree full of lions – a sight that I have dreamed about for years but never imagined I’d get lucky enough to catch….let alone with a tree soo overflowing with lions that they quite literally ran out of room forcing the youngest of the litter to retreat to the ground for a nap.

I attribute the sheer number of big cats and the special experiences I had in part to my incredible guide from Fed Tours and Safaris. He understood the animals, where they’d be, and when they were inclined to be active. He also didn’t shy away from driving the extra distance to get off the most heavily trafficked roads, which meant most of the time spent with the cats was done in relative tranquility.  Camping in the heart of the Serengeti National Park and starting at sunrise also made a big difference as the best big cat viewing came when they were most active – around sunrise and sunset, in the day’s coolest hours. By the time many of the other vehicles finished breakfast, gathered themselves, and headed out to explore or arrived from the lodges out/around the camp – the cats were already napping.

To learn more about my advice for picking a good Safari company read the post here. To learn about the $200, 70-300mm lens I shot most of these photos on see the post here. All shots were captured on a Canon 6D. To see my full albums, including black and white edits and other big cat photos from my visit jump over to flickr. Wan’t to purchase a print of one of these shots? Let me know or browse existing prints in my store.

Leopards of the Serengeti

Sunset Over the Serengeti

Mother and Child - Serengeti Cheetah

Mother and Child

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Obnoxious Love

A Leopar'ds Perch

A Well Balanced Lunch

The Worst Lion

The World’s Laziest King

The Cheetah

Looking Skyward

Leopards of the Serengeti

Nap Time

The Sunset Leopard

Leopard Perfect Safari

African Serval Cat - Serengeti

The Secretive Serval

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

Temptation

The Lover's Roar

Lust

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

Nap Time

King of the Pride

Into the Wind

The Cheetah Family

Childish Energy

Gazing Outward - Lion Rock

Three Queens

The Lions of the Serengeti

The Playful King

Gazing Outward - Lion Rock

King of the Mountain

The Leopard - Serengeti

The Gaze

Leopards of the Serengeti

Big Eyes

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

The Touch

Leopard vs. Hyena

The Chase (Leopard / Hyena)

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

Overloaded

The Cheetah Family

Family Photo

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

A Lover’s Nibble

Leopards of the Serengeti

Perfect Form

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

UP!

The Lion's Tears

A Lion’s Tears

The Dismount - Leopard - Serengeti

Grounded

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

Defying Gravity

The Lions of the Serengeti

The Hungry Comedian

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Childish Curiosity

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Windblown Love

Leopards of the Serengeti

Teeth

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Company

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Dinner Time

Leopards of the Serengeti

Relaxing

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

The Crouch

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Looking Outward

King of the Pride

Blending In

The Sunset Leopard

Relaxing at Sunset

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Hunting

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Summer Sun

Leopards of the Serengeti

The Predator

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Poised

The Lions of the Serengeti

Laughter

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Investigation

A Leopar'ds Perch

Leopard and Kill

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

The Full Tree-House

Reclining Leopard

The Hunter’s Perch

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

The Fat Cub

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Low Bridge

Gazing Outward - Lion Rock

Gazing Outward

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Perfect Hair

King of the Pride

On Patrol

Gazing Outward - Lion Rock

The Climb

The Sunset Leopard

Leopard at Sunset

Lion Lovers - The Serengeti

Lust in the Moment

The Serengeti's Tree Climbing Lions

Siblings

The Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains

Looking Backwards

Thanks for going on Safari with me!  Don’t miss my other blog posts from 9 incredible days spent exploring Tanzania’s spectacular national parks and countryside.

Have questions about how I captured or edited these photos? You can see aperture, lens, speed and ISO if you click into the image over on flickr. Want to know more? Feel free to ask in a comment below.

Don’t forget: To learn more about my advice for picking a good Safari company read the post here. To learn about the $200, 70-300mm lens I shot most of these photos on see the post here. All shots were captured on a Canon 6D. To see my full albums, including black and white edits and other big cat photos from my visit jump over to flickr.

Wan’t to purchase a print of one of these shots? Let me know or browse existing prints in my store.

If you are considering a safari, I’d highly suggest considering Tanzania and the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater park in particular. I’d also suggest the team at Fed Tours and Safaris who I partnered with for this trip.  They’re a Tanzanian owned and operated company run by two brothers and they provided me with an absolutely spectacular safari experience. As part of our collaboration, I received a discounted rate in exchange for sharing my unfiltered/fully independent experience with them. If you are considering Tanzania,  I do encourage you to research Fed Safaris and mention you’ve read about them here on VirtualWayfarer. They’ll make sure to take extra good care of you.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

2 Comments

  • Christina Pfeiffer
    June 9, 2017

    Ahhh your photos bring back so many memories. I love visiting Africa on safari and haven’t been for a few years now. Tarangire was quite an adventure with so many elephants. Nice work!

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      June 10, 2017

      Thanks Christina! Agreed, such a wonderful place and the number of elephants? Can’t wait to go back!

      Reply

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