Day 1 –
I am back in my spiritual home, Kenya. The moment I step off of the air plane the warm night breeze caresses my skin and I breathe in the smell of wild flowers and plants. The airport is hot and humid but the familiar sound of Kenyans speaking Swahili fills my ears and I feel so happy and relaxed. It is the usual chaos at the airport but as I stand to retrieve my bag I chat to a lovely local who welcomes me back home. This is one of the many things I love about Africa is how warm and friendly everyone is. Rajab my driver meets me at the airport and we chat about developments in Nairobi and how it has changed in the sixteen years I have been visiting. We arrive at the Ole-Sereni hotel next to the national park. It is a beautiful hotel with amazing views. It is after 11pm but I sit on the veranda drinking red wine listening to the sounds of the wild in the national park, totally at odds with the urban jungle surrounding it. It is a serene night with the stars lighting the sky, I love my life and feel blessed to be able to once again visit this wonderful, vibrant, diverse, welcoming country.
Day 2 –
This morning I fly from Wilson domestic airport out again to the Masai Mara. It is a very small airport and very friendly. The baggage handler tells me I look like an angel and I just love his sincerity and it makes me smile. It is only a 50 minute flight in a small plane. As we approach the Mara the scenery from the air is just breath taking, even after 16 years and dozens of visits I still catch my breath at the expanse of the plains, the winding Mara River and the bio diversity. I see herds of Elephants, Giraffes, Wildebeest and Zebra roaming the plains, peaceful and free from boundaries. This is nature at its most beautiful, awe inspiring and free. These magnificent animals are born free and living free. We touch down and I am greeted by Dan one of the guides from Asillia (Swahili for Genuine) camp. We take a short game drive to the camp which is a beautiful tented camp on the Mara River in the reserve. I am greeted by the camp managers, Clea, Stacey and Pete who could not be more friendly and helpful. My tent is stunning and is situated right over the river so I can hear the distinctive laughter and honking of the hippos at night. The wonderful gift of this camp is it is completely open so you are completely at one with nature.
After a fabulous lunch served outside on the banks of the river, I go out on my first game drive. We drive over the plains viewing Elephants (Swahili word is Tembo) wallowing in watering holes, leisurely spraying mud and water over themselves to protect them from the heat. A baby Elephant completely wallows in the water, using his trunk to spray the water up into the air. As they leave the pool the hot sun instantly dries the mud. Herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Thompson gazelle and Topi graze of the dry grass. There has not been any rain so the Mara is dry and dusty, but still so awe inspiring. Having seen Malika (Swahili for Angel) the female Cheetah with four 3 month old cubs in August, I was keen to see her again. After an hour we found her, she has managed to successfully raise two of cubs one male one female, which are now seven months old. The have grown significantly but still retain the fluffy hair on the back of their necks. I watched her hunt Topi but they are too large for her to successfully kill but it was a joy to watch her chase them whilst her cubs watched from a safe distance. She is a caring, successful mother. A short drive on through the plains we find the four Musketeer Lion boys (Swahili for Lion is of course Simba) Scar (the dominant male), Morani (meaning warrior, with dread locks in his mane), Hunter and Sikio (meaning ear, as he has an identifying dent in ear). They are laid out in the graze sleeping as male Lions do for up to 20 hours a day. They are a successful coalition of males who once just dominated the Marsh pride but have now taken over the Reikero pride from Lipstick and Blackie. They are strong males and they raise their heads languidly and fall back to sleep. We have our sundowner with these beautiful magnificent cats. The warm red and glow of the stunning sunset light up their golden manes. The sky flashes orange, red, pink and yellow as the sun sets over the hills, setting the plains a glow in a beautiful light that fills your heart with peace and happiness. There is something very magical about an African sunset.
We arrive back in camp and I shower before drinks around the open camp fire next to the river. Guests exchange stories of their day’s adventures before a beautiful meal. I fall asleep in my tent to the sounds of the beautiful African night. I sleep peacefully in my home.
Day 3 –
We leave camp just before sunrise; ethereal, orange, and gold and red light bathe the plains of the Masai Mara. The sun rises over the Acacia trees and Impala with their curved sculpted horns are beautifully silhouetted against the sky. It is almost too idyllic to be real, it is like a scene from a movie. We sit and watch the sun rise, radiating it golden fiery glow, lighting up the plains. It is still cool from the night and you cannot help feeling so at peace and at one with nature. I love the peace, beauty and stillness.
I am blessed to have Dan as my driver and guide and we drink in the beauty of our surroundings. He is Masai but like me is still enthralled by how stunning the Mara plains are. We drive to CCTV hills where we are fortunate to find part of the Reikero pride, 2 adult females, 1 female cub 6-7 months and 4 cubs 3-4 months playing in the grass. A few months ago the Musketeers male Lions took over the pride so killed all the cubs sired by the previous males, sadly infanticide is part of pride life. They mated immediately with the females and due to the short gestation period cubs have been born. All cats wild and domestic are solitary animals apart from Lions, this is because females work together to protect their cubs against possible infanticide, unfortunately this is not often successful. However the Reikero female Lions have four dominant males to protect them now and there new cubs thrive. Scar the dominant male is well known for his good cub babysitting skills when the females go off to hunt. We watch the cubs chase each other through the grass and practice their pouncing they will need for hunting when they have grown. They are a joy to watch, they still have they spots which camouflage them and have the sweetest call which is more of a squeak when they are communicating. A skull of a Gazelle completely white from sun bleaching sits of the plain, the Cubs approach it and hiss at this unknown intruder, it is very endearing and amusing. As the sun reaches full rise, the female calls to the cubs so she can lead them to the safety of the hill to sleep during the hot daylight hours and away from the threat of Buffalos, Hyenas and other predators who would harm them.
We drive over the beautiful plains and then breakfast under a tree surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna, basking in its beauty. We are blessed after breakfast to find a female Leopard Neema (meaning wise, the Swahili word for Leopard is Cheui) she is about 7 years old and she has two cubs about 6 months. She is walking gracefully through the trees almost camouflaged. She sits then rolls playfully onto her back. She is a large stunning female, a real powerful huntress. Leopards are solitary cats and are ambush hunters relying on their strength and speed over short distances. Like Cheetah they prefer to hunt during the day when Lions sleep or they would steal their kill. She is a beautiful cat, her rosettes quite the statement of grace and uniqueness. We watch as she glides noiselessly into the undergrowth, completely disappearing as Leopards are well known for.
We spot two Hyenas hiding in a den, they are shy as they observe us. They are finding shade as the sun is beginning to heat the plains.
We come across the male Lion Romeo the dominant male from Enkuyenai pride he is about 8-9 years old. He has a rather stunning blonde mane, it is quite magnificent. Usually about his age as with the nose that goes from pink to black with age the mane also usually starts turning black. However his remains beautifully gold a genetic inheritance. He is magnificent, powerful yet peaceful and graceful. He has a slight limp from fighting but he makes his way over to a large tree with shade to sleep under for the day. He sighs and turns and lays down, panting from the heat. We leave him to rest.
Across the plain we find a female Cheetah about 17 months old, now independent cub of the famous female Cheetah Roni who was one of the beloved stars of the BBC Big Cat diary. She is being observed from a distance by Elena the Cheetah project researcher. We ask her her name but we are told she is yet unnamed and asks us if we would like to name her. Elena requests a positive Swahili name so we suggest my Masai name Nashipae which means happy one, she is delighted with this as am I. I will be sponsoring this project now so I can keep track of Nashipae’s movements through the wonderful work of this project. Nashipae is sitting under a bush observing her surrounding looking for prey to hunt. She is a beautiful cat, so elegant and graceful, her streamlined body is built for speed and endurance chasing prey across the open plains.
We Lunch at Ntik Ntik down by the dry Mara River. It is 2pm so the sun is hot, we find a beautiful shaded tree to relax under.
After lunch we find Romeo’s Enkuyenai pride, we see 12 Lions, 2 adolescent males 2 -3 years old, 6 females and 4 six month cubs. They are hiding in the valley of the double crossing. Shortly after finding them they walk up the valley. We watch them playing, nuzzling and greeting each other after a day sleeping. It is so beautiful and interesting watching the pride together. They are a very loving protective family group. The females take care of each other’s cubs and help raise them. Romeo is still laying nearby resting under a tree. The pride move and two females, the two adolescent males and two cubs observe a group of Wildebeest. It seems the two eager cubs have given away their position. The Wildebeest seem far away but two of the females stalk forward, their bodies stretched out flat across their backs. They start to run alarming the Wildebeest their hooves kicking up large clouds of dust. We drive furiously to keep up with the Lionesses and the Wildebeest, the dust clouds envelope us. The herd scatter in several directions in the confusion, heat and dust and a Lioness successfully brings down a Wildebeest. She holds it down with her powerful legs and uses her mouth to cover the Wildebeest’s mouth so it suffocates. The Wildebeest dies quickly. The Lioness then grunts her call to the rest of the pride to come and eat. The pride eagerly approaches using their sharp canines to cut into the soft flesh of the back end of the Wildebeest. Twelve Lions envelop the Wildebeest, growling, tearing and chewing at the flesh. The young cubs favour the soft flesh of the Wildebeests nose and soon all their faces are covered in blood. The internal orgasms of the Wildebeest splash to the ground and intestines are chewed. A Lions growl and compete over the flesh but there is plenty for the pride. The sun sets over this magnificent raw scene. The golden orange and red rays of the setting sun cast a stunning glow of the Lion’s blonde coats. The sky is ablaze with light and once again the same as the day started it ends with peace, beauty and nature at its rawest and most breathe taking. This is my Africa, my soul, my home.
We return to camp feeling blessed and happy. I sit with a glass of red wine around the camp fire talking about another truly beautiful day. After another amazing dinner I fall to sleep to the sound of the wild night.
Day 4 –
The sunrises orange, red and gold over the beautiful Mara plains. Its fiery glow flashes across the sky lighting up a stunning Acacia tree on the horizon. The cool air caresses my face and I breathe in the intoxicating scent of the plants. A male Ostrich with his graceful long neck and legs at odds with his stunning black and white plumage walks into view, he is magnificently silhouetted against the sunrise. We watch as the sun rises drinking in the beauty of our surroundings and feeling its warmth. Hot air balloons are high in the sky and float gently across the sunrise, eight balloons are silhouetted in the sky.
We drive through the plains watching Hyena running through the grasses and prey grazing on the dry grass.
We are travelling south and see in the distance Lions walking. It is the beautiful Ronkai pride. We see 9 of the pride, the dominant male Long face, one female and seven cubs from six to eighteen months old. Long face is incredibly handsome, strong and powerful. He strides across the plains confident and regal. He is about 10 years old his impressive mane is half gold half black. He walks with the female smelling her scent from behind, he draws her scent into his mouth using his Jacobson gland in the roof of his mouth to gain information about her, this is called flehmen. They walk together rubbing heads which is incredibly affectionate. Nearby the cubs play and frolic by the trees, chasing each other through the grass. I adore watching them play fight, growling and pawing at each other. They head down a gorge into an almost dry river bed. Long face bends down his broad powerful shoulders as he laps the water. The female and cubs also go to the water to drink, their raspy tongues lapping up the water. The sun is rising and their faces are beautifully reflected in the water. The cubs give chase again frolicking in the warmth of the sun. I sit on the roof of our Landover so I can look over the scene. As more lions join them they greet by nuzzling their heads together. All the pride want to greet Long face so they nuzzle his face and sniff his small round fluffy balls. He grows tired on the attention so he sprays urine over them in the act of scent marking. This shocks the cubs and they back away which is most amusing and a little naughty of him. The cubs climb the bank of the gorge, chewing on the grass. They pounce on each other in the long grass and play with spindly bushes. They have full round belies so they clearly had a good hunt in the small hours. They are happy and healthy and a strong pride. We watch them all climb the bank to the other side.
We drive by Magic Querry bushes, the Masai use the y shaped branches to locate water to dig wells. The bushes also produce edible fruits. The orange leafed croton bushes with their round orange and green leaves provide excellent camouflage for Leopard. The orange leafed croton bush scent is beautiful. The Lions love sitting under this bush as it acts as insecticide. The Masai use the roots to boil up as a cough remedy it also adds flavour to soup. There are also tall wild olive trees architecturally stunning.
As on cue we find the Ronkai pride sleeping under the bushes now, their bellies full. Many sleep on their backs, legs spread and big white fluffy bellies warming in the sun. They are so peaceful, they breathe heavily in the warm air. The whole pride sleep together, some their limbs entangled in a loving poise. Others with their paws over their eyes to shield their eyes from the sun. The cubs look particularly affectionate as they sleep together. Long face the male Lion sleeps slightly further away under a bush.
We drive past a herd of Water Buffalo, Ox pecker birds sit on the buffalo’s backs, ears and heads nibbling at the ticks which brings the Buffalos relief. Buffalo have poor eye sight so the ox peckers also make an alarm call if they see Lions or any other threats approach. It is a very mutually beneficial relationship. The buffalo always look angry and unpredictable. They stand chewing the grass like cows, they also have four stomachs to digest the tough grass.
We see a Wild Gardenia tree completely bent over in an arch, the bark is very gnarly, textured and architectural. Underneath the bow a Hyena sleeps in its cover. The tree has beautiful white flowers when it blossoms and the wood is so hard it is used to make furniture. The Hyena is very sleepy and relaxed.
We find a den of black back Jackel, they are very friendly and relaxed. The pups come right up to the car, they are curious and confident. They are beautiful little dogs who mate for life. The family group is strong and the older pups help to take care of the younger pups. They have such large fluffy ears incongruous to their petite heads and long mussel. They petite bodies make them the cutest wild dog on the Mara. They are a joy to observe.
Elephants graze nearby along with Topi, it is an idyllic setting.
Two adolescent male Giraffes (Swahili word is Twiga) stand close in a y shape and it soon becomes apparent they are play fighting. It is called necking as they smack their necks against each other in turn. They have an additional lump on their heads the females do not have as it makes their heads heavier for necking. It is fascinating watching them. It is also very amusing as Dan calls this lump on their head a knob and tells me the bigger the male’s knob the more powerful he is. Once I stop laughing I do explain the English slang word knob and encourage him to use the word lump with English guests unless he wants to amuse them, which of course I encourage. We stop for breakfast by the Talek River, it is dry but the beautiful exposed grey boulders are impressive and beautiful. The Giraffes come out of the bushes to observe us, it is very tranquil. They then walk down by the river to wade through and drink water. They spread their front legs to bend to reach the refreshing cool water. It is now my favourite breakfast spot for its breath taking beauty, tranquillity and wildness. We drive through the Tarek River the Giraffes still graze in there and bend down to drink water. It is very serene, Giraffes are very graceful and peaceful. They walk ahead of us nuzzling each other’s backs affectionately. I can smell wild mint in the air, it is tangy and sweet.
A large herd of Waterbuck graze on the beautiful open plains. The males are stunning with their impressive horns. The sun beats hot and they will need to find shade and water.
We find a beautiful young male Cheetah under a Wild Gardenia tree in the Olooibor Soit area. He must be only 2-3 years old and is the son of Amani (Swahili for peace). He lays on the grass observing his surrounding looking out for both predators and prey. He has beautiful distinctive spots and dark golden eyes. He is such an impressive cat. I watch him pant in the heat of the day his white fluffy belly rising and falling rapidly. I love the distinctive black tear marks that run from his golden eyes to mouth and the local folk lore about why Cheetahs have these. The real reason is of course is to stop too much light going into the eyes whilst hunting during the day. A large Male water buck walks past, it is too large prey for the Cheetah but he stops to look then moves on. The Cheetah just watches him with interest but with no view to hunt. The Swahili word for Cheetah is Duma. It is the hottest part of the day so he rests.
We spot Pumbas (Wart hogs) grazing nearby as soon as we stop they run off their tails in the air. Pumbas give birth to many piglets as they have thin skin and as much as fifty percent die in the cold nights from hypothermia.
Driving past a beautiful forest of Magic Querry ever green trees we look for Leopard before lunch. Dan and I are joking that you never know what you will see when two large male Hippos come shooting out of the trees and run fast across the plain. They are being chased by the dominant male who tolerates them in his pool until they misbehave with the females. The males are covered in bloody scratches from fighting. It is unlikely these males will be allowed to return to the pool where the pod of hippos live. It is a wondrous sight watching Hippos run at full pelt out of water.
We have lunch under the shade of the trees surrounded by Baboons. It is peaceful apart from the occasional squabbling Baboon.
We drive back to the double crossing area and find the Enkunayei pride with Romeo sleeping under a tree. It is hot so they are mainly on their backs with their legs in the air, white bellies exposed. The young adolescents stretch and yawn and start to walk around nuzzling the older cubs and females. A female gets up and 2 six month old cubs call to her as they want to be suckled. She lays next to another female and suckles the cubs, they are contented and fall to sleep on her after they have had their fill. Romeo sleeps towards the back his legs resting on a tree exposing his belly. It is wonderful seeing them all together. A short distance away two young Lionesses sit in bushes watching Giraffe walk towards them. The Giraffes stop and stare at the Lions. Both aware that they are not prey but an uneasy encounter anyway. The much needed rain starts to gently fall and two adult females sit on a mound getting wet.
We drive towards the Orirong area to find the mating Lions. Morani (warrior) is laying in the grass with a female. Before we see them mate we hear from another guide a Serval cat (Mondo in Swahili) has been spotted. We find her walking through the grass, she is long limbed, large eared and graceful like a small leopard. She is as small as a domestic cat but longer limbed. She has black back ears with a white stripe so her kittens can follow her through the long grass. She sits down in the long grass washing, yawning and stretching, she is just so beautiful. She is unusually relaxed as Serval cats are nocturnal and elusive.
We decide to go and look for Malika the Cheetah and her two cubs. We drive to the Nyoka (means snake) area and we see her walking with her cubs. The cubs are around 6 months old so they are still small with fluffy necks, they are just so cute. Then to our delight she starts running she has spotted an Impala with a young. She gives chase, her impressive physique gliding across the plain and within minutes she has caught the baby. It is small so she chokes it within seconds and carries the limp Impala between her jaws. She settles down and scans the area for predators before calling her cubs. They come running out of the bushes excited about the kill and quickly set to work tearing into the soft flesh. They tear and chew, their faces bloody as Malika stands guard over them and the kill, keeping them safe from predators such Lions and Hyena. When she is satisfied they are safe she joins in eating. It is wonderful to watch their three faces next to each other covered in blood enjoying the kill. The Impala is small and they eat quickly, they can crush the bones and eat the whole carcass. The sun starts to set on this stunning scene.
Back at the beautiful camp on the Mara River I shower and join the rest of the guests for a drink around the camp fire. I do enjoy listening to other people’s safari stories. Dinner is as always delicious and I love the way each night a guide is the host and he can share his knowledge and experiences with the rest of the group. I once again fall asleep in my beautiful tent to the sound of the African night.
Day 5 –
I wake to the sound of heavy rain on the roof of my tent. The air feels fresh and soft. It has been so hot and dry the rain will clear the dry dust and make the big cats more active. I sit in bed drinking my coffee feeling blessed to be in this beautiful country and wondering what nature will give me today.
We drive out at sunrise through the moist open plains, the rain stops and I breathe in the fresh air filled with the scent of plants and animals. We see a Lioness walking and calling to the rest of the pride, she walks close by us and disappears into the bushes where the rest of the pride must be resting. Further ahead we find Scar the dominant male Lion sitting up on a grassy bank, he is observing his surroundings. We watch him wash his face with his paws which is very enduring like a domestic cat. He stretches and yawns and seems very peaceful. He hears other Lions roaring in the distance and starts to call back, it is a low throaty roar that can carry up to 5 miles, and it is an amazing sound. He gets up and starts walking towards the pride but he has a bit of a limp so goes quite slowly. He settles down again in the grass to rest.
We set off towards where we left Malika last night, Cheetahs can move a long distance every night but to my joy she was still there with her cubs. We watch the cubs play fighting and Malika looks around for prey. The cubs follow Malika as she stalks through the grass. Dan then spots a Caracal cat walking nearby but also so does Malika. My heart is in my mouth. In the 16 years and dozens of trip to the Mara I have never had the privilege of seeing a Caracal, the guides only see them maybe twice a year. They are small beige domestic looking cats with sleek bodies and Tufts on top of their ears, absolutely stunning cats. The other reason my heart starts to beat wildly is big cats see other cats as a threat and even though she is tiny Malika would kill her. Malika and the cubs start to give chase but the Caracal is fast and Malika decides not to waste her energy. We follow the Caracal until she stops and we watch her rest in the long grass. She is so sphinx like, sleek and graceful like the Egyptian cat sculptures. She has the most beautiful delicate face with stunning markings. Her ears are large as hearing is as important as she needs to detect her prey of rabbits and mice in the undergrowth. Her ears are constantly moving as she intently picks up all the sounds around her. I sit and watch her in awe of her beauty and grace, a small cat surviving on such a large plain. We leave her to relax and drive back to Malika who is sitting on a termite mound with her cubs. It is hard to believe but the Impala mother of the baby Malika killed last night is still hanging around hoping her baby is still alive. It is quite sad as I am sure there is no trace left after Malika and her cubs eat it.
We drive to the paradise plains to try and see the pride there but they are in the bushes up the hill, we see a cub peeking out at us. We have lunch under the trees in the Ntik Ntik area down by the river, it is a beautifully tranquil spot. The drive to Rhino ridge is beautiful as we pass Giraffe staring at Buffalos in the bushes. We see Hartebeest, Wildebeest and Zebra herds. A particularly lovely sight is Zebra, Wart hog, Impala, Topi, Baboons and Thompson gazelle all grazing together, it is a very special sight. As we drive through a crossing we see a beautiful colourful monitor Lizard, it scurries over the warm rocks towards the water. In the upper part of Ntik Ntik we drive along a river lush with bushes and beautiful trees. As we are looking at a stunning architectural fig tree we notice something in the v of one of the branches. It is a Thompson gazelle curled up in a perfect sleeping position. Just looking at it it just looks asleep but of course they do not climb trees, it is a recent kill dragged up there by a leopard. Clearly the leopard will not be far away so we drive around the river searching for it. Leopards’ stealth is legendary so as we arrive back to the tree we see her climbing back up it to eat her kill. First she starts playing with the gazelles legs hanging down which is most amusing. She then drags it up the tree further in her strong jaws. Her strong teeth tear through the flesh as she eats the meat from the plump rump first. The gazelle hangs over the tree branch limbs dangling, the leopard carefully balances on the branch which is slippery from the rain and holds the body still with her paw. I can hear her tearing and chewing, her face covered in blood. She pulls at the carcass to re-position it to eat another part but as she does it looks like the carcass will fall and she slightly slips, my heart skips a beat but she awkwardly rebalances herself and carries on eating. It one of nature’s beautiful raw sights. The sky starts to darken and we hear the roar of thunder and then the rain falls hard. The leopard is exposed up the tree but she carries on eating, her thick dense coat protecting her. Every few minutes she shakes herself vigorously to remove as much of the water as possible. She eats her fill and walks gracefully along the branch and sits upright washing the blood from her face, I love watching her because she just looks like any domestic cat after a meal washing and looking content.
The rain has continued to fall heavily and the once dry plains are now awash with flood waters, new streams have formed and the drive through them is exhilarating, the Land rover glides and slides through the water. The crossings which were once dry start to fill and as we drive through the water it sprays up the side. It still hot and humid and the thunder roars. We hit mud and the car spins 180 degrees and gets stuck. It is not uncommon and quite amusing, we call for help to pull us out. Another vehicle from our camp arrives and I take the opportunity to stand on the plains with a gin and tonic whilst the guides pull the car out. Everyone enjoys the sight of the Landover wheel spinning in the mud before it is set free.
We drive back to the double cross area and see five Lionesses in hunting poses ready to hunt a group of Impala. It is fascinating watching them form there strategic positions. Some of the Lionesses will herd the prey and block them whilst the larger Lionesses who are expert hunters will actually make the kill. Unfortunately this strategy did not work this time but it is always interesting watching how they work together.
This is my last night in Asillia Reikero camp and I have had such an amazing stay. The camp and tents are beautiful, the location completely open on the Mara river just breath taking. The managers are just so friendly and hospitable and the camp staff delightful and helpful. I will miss everyone. I have been delighted with the quality of food both in camp and the packed breakfast and lunches, the chefs are just amazing. I will of course miss most my amazing guide Dan who has been incredibly knowledgeable and the best spotter. We have shared awesome cheeky banter and become fast friends.
Tomorrow I am off to Asillias Naibosha camp for three nights to hopefully enjoy more cat action.
I go to bed happy and content to the sound of Hyenas, Bull frogs and Hippos. The beautiful sound of the wild night in my Africa.
TIA – my heart, my home.
Day 6 –
I leave camp this morning with my new guide Evelyn and we drive across the beautiful open plains. We spot Hyena with a Wildebeest carcass, there is very little left just the skull and spine but an enthusiastic Hyena uses its strong jaw to crunch the bones and eat the marrow. It was probably a left over Lion kill from the night before. Lapped face and hooded Vultures stand impatiently around waiting to pick at the bones but it is unlikely there will be anything left for them. The Hyena drags it away from them as he does not want to share. The Hyena squabble over the bones, whist others lay around satisfied.
We drive down to the double cross area and in the bushes is a beautiful female Leopard possibly Baharti (lucky). She is sleeping in the morning sun. We watch her roll over and lick herself. She is very healthy and powerful. Her markings are so beautiful, each leopard’s rosettes are individual like finger prints. She is very sleepy with a full belly, she probably made a kill last night.
On a dead tree branch nearby a beautiful grey headed king fisher sits in the sun and looks into the pool of water searching for fish to catch. Its feathers are stunning blue and purple iridescent colours.
Elephants walk in the distance stopping to use their big feet to kick up roots of plants and munch on the grass.
Driving over the plains we find the beautiful Cheetah Nashipae. She is laying on a termite mound the sun lighting up her beautiful fur. She rolls over, yawns and focuses her attention on the valley. She is looking out for both predictor and prey. Lions are such a threat for Cheetah as they compete for food. In the distance we see rather unusually another Cheetah walking across the plains. Nashipae watches its progress.
We have breakfast on the plain within viewing distance of Nashipae and a herd of Thompson Gazelle in case she hunts. It is a beautiful morning and we relax in our chairs surrounded by the bush in its full glory.
After breakfast we find part of the double crossing pride, one female, an adolescent females about two years old and an adolescent male about three years old. He is almost fully grown but his mane has yet to fully develop, that will take in another 2-3 years. We watch them nuzzle each other and then take shade into the croton bushes. They pant heavily in the heat. It is beautiful watching them lick and stretch and yawn.
We find Baharti the Leopard along the double crossing in a hollow in the far bank, it is a wonderful cool hiding spot to sleep for the day out of the heat of the sun.
We drive back to Nashipae to see if she will hunt but she seems quite relaxed just viewing her surroundings.
As we drive through the waters of the double crossing we see a tower or as known a journey of Giraffes. They are an impressive group of nine of varying ages, they walk down the steep bank to the water in a straight line and spread their front legs so they can bend forward to drink the cool water. After the rain yesterday the once dry double crossing is now free flowing. Once satisfied they walk up the farther bank and start eating the leaves of the bushes. They are so peaceful and notably non vocal animal.
Across the river we come across another female Cheetah she settles under a tree to rest.
Baboons graze on the open plains, picking at seeds and graze. Babies cling to their mother’s bellies as they walk along. The males are very large and fluffy apart from their bare bottoms.
We lunch under a beautiful Balamite tree watching animals grazing around us.
After lunch we drive back to see Baharti but she it’s still sleeping, she is such a beautiful Leopard. We then drive back to the Cheetah’s they too are sleeping in the sun, recharging their energy for a possible afternoon hunt. Driving through the double cross area we see the part of the pride we saw in the morning, they are walking through the plains maybe to re-join the rest of the pride. It is such a privilege to see so many magnificent big cats.
It is late afternoon so it is time to drive to the Naibosha conservancy to my next camp. We pass through herds of Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebra and Gazelle. At the edge of the reserve before you enter the conservancy is Masai villages, the Masai graze their goats, sheep and cattle up here. There are beautiful whistling Acacia bushes, some bent over from elephant’s eating them. We reach camp and we are greeted by Moses the manager, he is very friendly and helpful and the camp is once again completely open to the wildlife. What I particularly love is each tent has the usual shower with pumped water but you have also an outdoor bucket shower. I of course opt for this as it is so blissful showering outside in the wild. In my tent before I head off to dinner I can hear the roar of lions near my tent. It is so exhilarating. What a truly amazing way to spend New Years Eve.
Day 7 –
Evelyn my fabulous guide and I head out into the Naboisha conservancy, we are both dressed in colourful Masai dresses and jewellery. It is very cool before sunrise and we bundle up with a hot water bottle and Masai blankets. The conservancy is more hilly and green than the reserve, it has many specimens of Acacia trees which provide much needed shade from the hot sun for predictors and prey alike. We drive up and down valleys and over stony ridges. We come across a pair of mating Lions sitting on the plain, they get up and we follow them to see if they will mate. Every now and again we stop ahead of them and totally unconcerned they walk past us with four foot of the vehicle. The occasionally look up at me but as I am not their prey neither I nor they are concerned with the close encounter. They carry on walking and then enter a thicket to rest in for the day.
We drive through a ravine and in the dense bush we see a Lioness with three cubs only about one month old. She is laying on her side suckling them. They barely have their eyes open and they jostle each other to get as much milk as they can. Their natural insist is survival so they know the milk will make them strong so they compete from an early age for food. It is a beautiful tranquil sight. The Lioness needs to keep them hidden from predictors but also from male Lions who would want to kill them so they can mate with her.
The conservancy is teeming with game, herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, Thompson Gazelle and Impala graze in the cool morning air.
We find a beautiful female Leopard sitting in some bushes, she is scanning around her to hunt. She gets up and makes her way through the bushes, she is stealth like a domestic cat. She can easily make herself disappear. She is not a shy Leopard so we are able to follow her at a distance. She comes out of the bushes and we see her in all her glory. We follow as walks up and down the valley scanning as she goes. At one point we go ahead of her, to our amusement she decides to change direction and walks straight towards us so I get within a foot of her with just the open vehicle and fresh air between us, but instead of her walking around our Kand rover she walks under it and pops up the other side. We follow her again, she seems happy and relaxed and not fazed by our curiosity. It is interesting observing cat’s behaviour so we follow her for another hour until she disappears into bushes again to sleep as the sun is now warming the hills.
There are three prides in the conservancy and we come across three incredibly handsome, powerful and regal adolescent male Lions around three years old. They are fully grown but there mane is only half grown. They have clearly recently made a good kill as they have large bellies and seem very contented. The most beautiful sight for me on safari is bromance, the love between Lion brothers whether young cubs, adolescent boys or fully grown males. They are just so incredibly affectionate and tactile with each other and these incredibly beautiful boys are no exception. Each is sitting under a bush. One gets up and joins another. They nuzzle and lick each other in greeting and the one that comes over practically lays on top of the other, they spoon in such a loving way. The third brother then comes over to join them and the nuzzle and show so much affection. He lays next to them and the middle Lion puts his paw over him in a beautiful embrace. They lay together so closely it is a heart-warming scene so loving and affectionate. One then rolls over onto his back legs wide head back exposing his white belly, they are so beautiful, they always have been and will continue to be my favourite wild cat. The mixture of power, dominance, regal with beauty, love and affection has always held my heart.
We leave them to sleep and drive off to try and find the Leopard cubs she has hidden away but they are well hidden.
A beautiful herd of Zebras frolic in the sunshine, they chase each other for fun. Zebras are also very affectionate, we see them nuzzling each other like horses do which is very sweet. What they also do is rest their heads on each other’s backs, it looks very loving and romantic. Of course what they are really do is watching for predators, each looking different ways.
Across the plains we see sleeping under a tree four 3 year old Lions and three 3 year old lionesses all siblings. The males are almost fully grown and have small manes but they still have the spots on their belly. They are curled up together affectionate and peaceful. Some sit up stretch, yawn and wash their faces with their large paws. Others roll over legs wide cooling themselves. They are a stunningly beautiful group. They look over at us curious but then go back to sleeping, their limbs tangled together, and heads resting on each other’s backs or bottoms. They are such a healthy pride. It is all I can do to stop myself wanting to get out of the vehicle and join them for a cuddle.
We have a late lunch relaxing on the plains. As always camp has sent us out with a delicious lunch. Nearby is a Bosia or Leopard tree its flowers smell like Lilly’s, it is wonderful.
After lunch we drive back to the Lions they are still sleeping close together, they roll over and lay paws over each other’s bodies in an affectionate hug. One Lioness rolls over onto her brother and accidentally smacks him in the face. They start playing fighting trying to bite each other’s paws and bat each other in the face.
Vervet monkeys with bright blue balls forage for seeds in the grass. When they see predators they shriek a warning call they scurry up trees as leopards will attack them.
Across the plains Baboons also forage in the grass their babies either riding on their backs or clung underneath their bellies. They are also scared of Leopards who would kill and eat them.
A baby Zebra stands in the track, it must be less than a week old, it is still very fluffy and its stripes are white and light brown instead of black and white like its mother. The mother beckons her away and she starts to suckle, it is very endearing.
It is a beautiful afternoon and we find the mating Lions from this morning asleep by the bushes. They are peaceful as the sleep in the last of the day’s sun. Jackel circling around them looking maybe to see if they have a kill.
It has been a wonderful day. Evelyn and I have chatted about our lives and it is wonderful to meet such a spirited intelligent woman on my travels. As I have always said. Life is a safari you just have to live it.
Day 8 –
We drive out to the most beautiful sunrise. It is partly cloudy and the sun’s rays shoot through red, gold and orange. The sky lights up in the most beautiful ethereal light show. Stunning architectural Balamite trees are silhouetted against the sky, the colours a joyful contrast to the tree. Grazing animals on the plains are also silhouetted, their horns creating beautiful shapes.
A lone Hyena gorges on a Wildebeest carcass, its strong teeth and jaws tearing and pulling at the flesh. Vultures stand nearby ready to pick flesh from the bones.
We watch a beautiful herd of Elephants wandering through the plains, they are pulling up with their trunks great clusters of thorny acacia branches. Their tough tongues are able to process the sharpness. There are some calves in the group, they shelter under the bellies of the adults for safety. One adolescent rests her trunk and head on a younger calf it is so endearing and affectionate. They march in a line, their large feet kicking up dust as they thud to the ground. As they walk they use their trunks to pull up plants and roots to eat. They do not stop to defecate, they just drop large mounds of faeces as they walk.
There are very large herds of Wildebeest on the plains. Zebra, Thompson Gazelle and Hartebeest graze with them, safety in numbers against predators. We see a beautiful young Giraffe sitting in the grass resting. It is probably only a month old, it is incredibly beautiful. I take a photo of it and a Hartebeest photo bombs in the background to my amusement. It is very idyllic on these plains, the animals seem very relaxed.
Jackel run about looking for carcasses, they are quite friendly and come up to the vehicle. I find their cute little faces, incongruous large ears and small body quite endearing.
A troop of Baboons sit in the grass foraging for seeds. Rather strangely two Tawny Eagle are also sat nearby in the grass. It soon becomes apparent one of the large male baboons is eating some intestines, we are not sure where he found them. Meat is a real delicacy and treat for monkeys. As he finishes the Eagle hops over to pick up any scraps. Another eagle swoops in but as he is flying low another male baboons tries to jump up and catch it. A narrow miss for the eagle and it flies up into a tree. This would have been an unexpected delicious treat for the Baboon,
We breakfast on the plains surrounded by beautiful grazing animals.
We once again drive through bushes, down ravines and through water. We stop by the river and the smell is putrid and overwhelming there must be 30-40 hippos in the water, defecating where they wallow, the water is full of rotting faeces and the smell is just stomach churning. After I take a few quick photos whilst holding my breath we drive quickly away.
A confusion or flock of guinea fowl scurry through the bushes along with dwarf ginger mongoose.
On the edge of the reserve we drive past Masai herding their cows. It is a tense relationship between Masai and the wild animals, they live side by side in an uneasy and not always successful partnership.
Very close to where we see the Masai herding the group of adolescent male Lions sleep in the bushes. As soon as they hear the Masai they look up uneasy. They however stretch and yawn and go back to sleep as the Masai are sufficiently far away. There is really nothing as beautiful and serene for me as a sleeping cat. The slow rhythmic rise and fall of their chest, the contented look on their faces and their sheer regalness, beauty and power. I could and have watched them for hours. I feel so connected and at peace with them.
We lunch under a tree literally in the middle of a herd of Wildebeest, Impala, Wart hog and baboons! It is so open wild and free. It really is a privileged experience to be among such amazing animals.
Driving through the plains we see three Jackel chasing a Hare. The Hare is fast and as it runs it leaps high into the air. As quick as the Jackel is the Hare is faster so they give up.
A baby Giraffe just a couple of weeks old sits in the grass as we approach her mother comes and the baby starts to suckle, it is so sweet.
As we approach camp we see two Dick Dick deer in the clearing. The name comes from the noise they make. They are the smallest antelope with big eyes, they are almost hare like. They mate for life which is beautiful.
It is my last evening in camp so I wear to dinner my full Masai dress. I love the rich colours and beautiful bead work of the jewellery. We enjoy a beautiful meal and the guests swop stories of their safari experiences it is a lovely evening with the sound of the wild around us.
As I walk guided back to my tent, I am conscious of the movements and sounds around me in the dark. The camp is completely open to the wild and if feels exhilarating to be that close to nature.
This is my home, my Africa
Day 9 –
I wake at 4.45 am to the sound of lions roaring close to camp. They sound like they have hunted and made a kill and are calling the rest of the pride. It is a low male roar which can carry up to five miles. I lay in bed listening to them until staff bring coffee to my tent at 5.30am.
I pack up as I sadly leave today. I join Evelyn just before sunrise which is starting to cast its beautiful orange, red and golden glow over the plains. As we drive out it begins to rise over the ridge the stunning acacia trees silhouetted against the sky line. The sky is perfect and clear this morning, no clouds at all so the sun rises like a fireball shooting colour across the sky and lighting up everywhere it touches. It is my perfect last African sunrise on this trip.
We drive out to find the Lions near camp. The air is just so fresh and crisp scented with wild flowers. Firstly we come across a kill they made, scavengers tear at the Wildebeest carcass. Hyena and Jackel squabble and compete for the scraps left by the pride. Further on we find the remnants of another kill a large flock of lapped faced Vultures hop around it, picking at the bones, swallowing tiny scraps of flesh and neat. They will pick the bones clean so the plains are not littered with rotting carcasses. The scavengers play such an important role in this eco system.
We finally see two male Lions with females walking over the plains, they have full bellies and seek shade to sleep for the day. Jackal follow them in anticipation of further kills. The Lions enter some dense bushes to sleep but there are angry Buffalo grazing in there. The buffalo make an angry grunt at the Lions and the Lion’s growl back. We expect the usual fight as these are real enemies due to the amount of Buffalo Lions kill and the number of Lions cubs Buffalo trample if found. However they move apart from each other giving each other a wide birth. The male Lions lay down near the edge of the bushes in full regal splendour.
We drive to find the rest of the pride but instead come across the coalition of the five Cheetah males. This size of coalition is unheard of. Usually brothers will join together so this is assumed to be all brothers, however as they have only just arrived at the conservancy they may be a coalition of males which has never been documented. Jackel run around hoping the Cheetahs will make a kill. The Cheetahs wash and groom each other affectionately. They roll in the grass on their backs and over and over again feeling quite frisky in the sunshine. They are restless so they all get up and start walking across the plains. Up the hill they start running, just for fun they start chasing Baboons. The Cheetahs chase them and then the larger male Baboons give chase back and then the frisky Cheetahs chase them again. This is typical cat like behaviour they love the thrill of the chase. The day is heating up so they sit under the shade of the tree panting and observing their surroundings. They wash stretch and yawn and settle down.
A few miles away we find the beautiful female Leopard again. She is laying relaxed again on a rocky outcrop. She is serenity itself. She has sensibly hidden her cubs up there as no cars can reach the area. She really is a stunning cat, we sit and watch her, so peaceful and at one with her environment.
We have breakfast with a view of the open plains. It is very idyllic and picturesque. There is a beautiful outcrop of rocks, flowing rivers, plants and trees. The herds grade peacefully whilst we eat.
We find the Cheetah again where we left them stretching and yawning. They groom themselves with their paws, it is very sweet. One of the Cheetahs goes to sit on a termite mound to view the open plains, he is looking for prey. They all begin to walk down the hill stalking prey. Herds of Wildebeest, Topi and Impala graze. The Cheetah stealthily walk towards them and sit under the bushes completely undetected. We sit watching them for over an hour as the Wildebeest slowly graze towards them. We fear the Topi with their good sense of smell and eyesight will detect them and start making an alarm call but the Cheetah are undetected. The sun beats hot and the Cheetah decide not to hunt and conserve their energy for when it is cooler. It has been such a privilege to see such a rare coalition of Cheetahs, they are so stunning.
The smell invades our senses before the visual. We come to a Hippo pool but instead of just seeing a large gaggle of grey fleshy bodies in the water the Hippo are standing at the top of the bank. Some are grey but some are very pink and looking sun burnt. They group of eleven have been out grazing and are now about to walk clumsily down the bank into the filthy water full of their excrement. It is a sight to behold watching them walk down heavy footed and bulky. It seems so unnatural. They all enter the water to wallow and we drive away from the stench.
We have our final lunch under a tree. I suggest a picnic on just our rugs rather than getting the table and chairs out of the land cruiser. We chat about our fabulous time together, what we have seen and experienced and how blessed our time has been. Topi watch us suspiciously as we sit on the ground and then decide we are not predators.
My final beautiful gift from nature is finding the beautiful regal adolescent male Lions sitting under the croton bushes. They are just so incredibly stunning. I could watch them for hours but it is my time to leave. I tearfully hug my beautiful Kenyan sister and say goodbye again to my spiritual home.
TIA – This Is Africa, my spiritual home.