"What are they doing, Daddy?"
"Oh, that?Just monkey business."
The Intrepids camps are known for their terrific children's programs. Our little posse is led by Joseph, a big Masai in his twenties who has so much personality he could be an entertainer). He jokes a lot with the kids and teaches them how to catch Blue Pansy butterflies, fashion slingshots, and play bao, their version of mancala. By the river, he shows them fresh leopard tracks, and they make a plaster impression of a paw print. Later we return to shoot a montage of the kids crossing a suspension bridge straight out of Indiana Jones.
Mornings and afternoons, a jeep takes us deeper into the reserve, where zebras and wildebeests migrating across the plains attract predators. You can see the Big Five here: black rhinos, cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, and lions—the game most coveted by hunters at the turn of the 20th century because they were the most dangerous to bag. Now protected in game parks, the beasts are used to the sound of vehicles, so we're able to get unbelievably close, even when we come upon two mating lions. As long as you whisper and don't startle them, you're fine, but I worry the kids might scream or laugh out loud—and then it's going to be me and those big cats scrapping.
The night expeditions are a whole different experience. Far from any city lights, it is the pitchest black you can imagine: when the guide shines a big light into the void, you see the animals' eyes before you can focus on their shapes. Lions' eyes appear yellow; the eyes of gazelles are blue. Hippos that seem to be as big as our jeep lumber out of the water to feed on the grasses. And at night, you have a much better chance of witnessing a kill, since predators typically hunt under cover of darkness. Even so, it's not until our last morning drive that we see a pride of lions—seven cubs and two mothers—with a freshly slaughtered zebra. Our timing is perfect: watching the attack would have been traumatic for the kids, but it's amazing for all of us to observe the lionesses feeding the cubs, pushing them forward to eat first.