We had just had a wonderful day in Ngorongoro Crater, having seen mating lions, hyenas, golden and black-backed jackals, fantastic birdlife, and stunning numbers of plains game (especially Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest and zebra). I was with an active cheerful group of three families from San Francisco, who had arrived in Tanzania at different times, and had all just joined up for the big game part of the safari (Ngorongoro and Serengeti). We were on our way out of the Crater when we came across a serval cat hunting very close to the track.
It was so intent on finding a meal, that it completely ignored us. It would prick up its huge dish-like ears and twist them to listen for a meaty moving morsel in the long grass.
Then at one point it located something, and we watched as it froze, crouched, and sprang high in the air, to land precisely where it last heard movement. Whatever it was got away, and the cat turned towards us, walking down the track right past the Land-Cruiser to begin hunting again behind us.
We decided to turn around and follow and watch it for a bit longer, mesmerized by its intensity and focus as its ears shifted right and left, “quartering” the vicinity by sound. It then pounced again, this time catching a small snake, and began feasting. We were close enough to hear the crunching of the bones. Having had its fill it crossed the track and continued hunting.
We watched as it disappeared into the long grass immediately in front of us, with the darkened backdrop of the forested Crater rim in the distance, and the sight of a huge hippo out feeding midway between the two.