Senator has a front-row seat as lion devours wildebeest
MASAI MARA, Kenya - "Nice fresh kill," said Sen. Barack Obama to his family, mesmerized, as were a string of other people on safari, at the remarkable sight of a lion eating a wildebeest.
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Minutes before, the lion jumped the buffalolike animal that roams the Masai Mara National Reserve this time of year, keeping company with giraffes, elephants, impalas, zebras, gazelles and hippos.
Safari drivers in open-roof tourist transports keep in radio contact, and soon a herd of vehicles, including one with Obama, his family and friends, were racing over the dusty roadless plains to the lion.
They got there in time to see how the lion bites through the wildebeest hide to make an opening and then plunges in headfirst, emerging with a bloody face and dragging out pieces of raw meat.
(See the video.)
This was the repelling and compelling scene and a fairly rare one, guides said, at the end of Obama's two-day, one-night break from his official U.S. government visit to South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti and Chad that started Aug. 18.
Obama and his entourage flew a charter from Nairobi to Masai Mara on Tuesday. The Kenyan government decreed Obama's stay a state visit, a resort executive said, so meeting Obama on his arrival was one of Kenya's elite commando units plus other military and police forces.
Obama personally paid for the side trip. Staffers Mark Lippert and Robert Gibbs paid for themselves; this was considered work for one embassy official and a naval officer staffing Obama for his trip.
Going along were the U.S. writers and photographers covering Obama's African visit, (paying their own way) making for some awkward moments since the Obamas wanted some privacy.
Obama completed his Kenya swing Wednesday night, leaving about 9 p.m. on a military aircraft to Djibouti, where he will visit a U.S. air base.
The fanfare leading up to his visit panned out; huge crowds met Obama at almost every public appearance. He urged Kenyans to move past their deeply rooted tribalism and form a new sort of Kenyan identity. Obama also very sharply c