Day 1 –
A safari is a journey and we are all on a very beautiful unique one (Safari means journey in Swahili). Mine starts on the plane from Bristol to Amsterdam. It is 6 am and it is a beautiful crisp sunny winter’s morning. As the plane takes off the sun begins to rise. The stunning colours start to spread their light across the sky, orange, red, pink and yellow. The fiery beams glow with warmth and hope of the dawn of a new exciting day. The sun rises magnificently a ball of fire, majestic, powerful and life giving. I look out of the window and feel at peace as my soul is filled is joy and happiness. Life is a safari and I embrace the wonder and magnitude of nature. I am returning to my spiritual home where I can once again be Nashipae, White Masai, Happy one.
On the plane I am reading “The Shack” a beautiful book about finding ourselves and learning to find peace and forgiving ourselves and others in a world filled with chaos. The book starts with a quote. “A confluence of paths, two roads diverged in the middle of my life, I heard a wise man say, I took the road less travelled by and that makes the difference every night and every day”. I have also taken this path and it has changed my life. For the majority of my teens and adult life I took the safe path and what I thought was security, but two years ago I stood at a crossroads and I embraced life. We can stay in our comfort zone and not embrace life or we can feel the fear and do it anyway and remember that the only certainty in life is uncertainty. When we embrace this, life becomes so exciting and we can empower ourselves, strike out and say yes to life. Life is a beautiful, wonderful, gift and whatever your beliefs are it really is a gift so we should appreciate it. Live Love Laugh. I have been blessed with all this and still am.
On my connecting flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi I write, my heart is filled with light, peace and happiness. I am excited about my safari ahead and the wonders nature will give me. Even though I have adventured here dozens of times, each journey is just so unique, wonderful and incredibly special. I may be travelling alone on the plane but I feel complete. I am blessed as I have made so many friends on my safaris and I am returning to see them and to start a new and exciting adventure. I decide to watch a film after a while as it is a 8 hour flight and one of the song’s lyrics in the film is “Don’t dream it, be it”, it is sang as a reflection, with joy and peace and I believe this is how we should live our lives. In Kenya I am Nashipae, happy one, the embodiment of a dream of a life lived to the full.
I arrive at Nairobi airport after a long flight. 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, this is the scent of Africa, it is intoxicating and beautiful.
The airport is busy and hot but I am home. What I adore is the friendliness, even at the baggage carousel airport staff chat to me making me feel welcome.
The safari really starts at the airport because what other airport in the world do you see real Zebra grazing on the grassy roundabouts. The airport itself is lovely, an artist was commissioned a few years ago to forge life sized wild animals out of metal and arrange them in hunting scenes. The sculptures are quite stunning and builds anticipation for seeing the real sights on the Mara.
My taxi driver Moses is very friendly and helpful and I enjoy an unusually clear journey through Nairobi’s busy streets. The Ole Sereni hotel borders Nairobi National Park so when I arrive I sit out on the terrace drinking a glass of red wine listening to the sounds of the night. It is warm and the air is fragranced with wild herbs and flowers. It is so serene and beautiful here. I drink in the stillness and calmness of the night, letting the peace fill my soul. The room has beautiful views of the park and I sleep peacefully thinking of my great adventure ahead.
TIA – This Is Africa.
Day 2 –
I wake to beautiful blue skies and as I open my curtains I see the sunlit National Park. It makes my heart burst with happiness. I open the patio doors and step out into the warm breeze. The view is of nature at its most beautiful, the soil is red and the bushes covered in yellow and green leaves. I dress in my full Masai dress, red and blue with layers of colourful beaded Jewellery, I am once again Nashipae, White Masai and I feel joyful.
In reception as I check out I meet a group of British Airforce police and they admire my attire so we take photos. The staff greet me with smiles as they love my clothes, I love how friendly everyone is how my outfit makes people smile. I leave the hotel to go to Wilson domestic airport to get my internal flight to the Masai Mara Reserve. Here again I chat to some local woman whom ask me questions about my dress, they seem to love how I embrace the culture which makes me happy.
It is a fairly calm flight in the small ten seater plane across the wide open planes. It is a 50 minute journey and we fly quite low which is wonderful as I observe herds of Elephants, Wildebeest, Elephants and Zebra. With much joy I reach Masai Musiara and Denis and Gladys my guides are there to greet me with smiles and hugs. I have missed my friends and in joy of our adventure ahead we sing the Jambo song to the amusement and delight of the other guests who were on the flight.
Denis, Gladys and I set off on our adventure. There is a large herd of Zebra next to the strip, grazing peacefully. Within 15 minutes we drive to the beautiful Marsh area, there has been rains and the Marsh is moist and luscious, vibrant in every shade of green. We find a mating pair of lions (Simba in Swahili) from the Marsh pride, they have only just started mating so they mate every 10 to 15 minutes. He is a majestic male of around 8 years, his mane is not yet all black and she is a stunning female of around 3 as she still has rosettes on her belly. She rises and he follows her lead and joins her, she crouches in front of him and he bites her neck, they mate aggressively and noisily for under a minute. He snarls and growls and she rolls over onto her back. It is aggressive and quick but they need to do so often for 5 days to ensure she is pregnant. Nearby one of the other three males sleeps peacefully under a bush, it is not uncommon for two males to mate with one female to ensure the survival of the pride. These three dominant males protect the Marsh pride.
We see Giraffes (Twiga in Swahili) grazing in bushes their long necks reaching up to the moist leaves. Warthog (Pumba in Swahili, which actually means stupid) graze and run with fright as we pass, their tails in the air. We pass a beautiful group of Water Buck, there are the largest and most attractive antelope but the least likely to be eaten as they give off a terrible odour when chased by predators. A herd of Elephant (Tembo in Swahili) enjoy the fresh grass and new shoots that have sprung up after the rains. Two calves frolic, one is only about two years old but the other is about four as it has small tusks. As the elephant gestation period is 20 months the mothers suckle the calves up to two years as their bodies need a rest. In the distance we spot a Rhino (Vifaru in Swahili) but as we approach it disappears into a bush they are notoriously shy.
We lunch down by the Mara River, Hippo (Kiboko in Swahili) wallow and take strolls down from us. It is so peaceful and tranquil listening to the flowing river. Trees bend over the river the bows low. Incongruous ducks waddle down by the river, they seem at odds with the environment. It is lovely to chat to my friends about the changes in the landscape in just six weeks since I was here last. It is now birthing season and it is so full of new life.
After lunch we find the paradise pride, they have cubs and they frolic in the grass, practicing their hunting and ambush on each other it is a joy to behold. The females relax in the sun and occasionally get up to greet and nuzzle each other. Lions have the most beautiful family life, they are so affectionate and protective of each other. In the distance two of the dominant males sit majestically their manes splendent in golden and black tones as they are mature males of about 10 years old. They are sat up and I am as always in awe of their magnificence and utter regal beauty. One lies down and puts a paw over his eyes it is so cat like and graceful. Even when the awesome electrical storm erupts around us in beautiful technicolour the lions are graceful, they stretch yawn lick themselves and walk slowly to nearby bushes for cover.
As we drive off we disturb a Hyena (Fisi in Swahili) in a small pool of water, clearly overheated and a little dazed from its sleep. It looks up at us quite uninterested and walks off through the grass. Leopard Turtles scuttle to water holes as we drive by, so small and at danger from the Fish Eagles hovering overhead as they screech and dive. We come across a small waterhole with a lone Hippo he seems perturbed by our pretence and we let him wallow in peace.
The circle of life is a beautiful balance of the sublime and the ridiculous all intertwined in this breath taking natural beauty. I adore the wide open landscapes, the architectural fallen sun bleached trees, intoxicating scents of plants and striking colours of the grasses and plants.
As we drive to camp down by the Mara River we spot a Leopard (Chui in Swahili) in the bushes, he is a large male, shy but powerful. It is so exciting to see one on our first afternoon, he is just so exquisite. His fur a glorious display of golden and black rosettes as unique as a finger print. He is wonderful to observe but the sun starts to set on the heavenly scene and we head to camp.
As always I am greeted by Moses my very good friend who runs Nkrombo camp on the Mara River, it is like coming home after years of visiting. After a lovely shower in my beautifully appointed tent, I join the rest of the guests for wine and nibbles around the camp fire to share our stories of the day, and goodness what a perfect day. After dinner I lay in bed and listen to the rhythmic sound of the river and it lulls me to sleep.
This is my Africa, my home.
Day 3 –
I wake to the sound of Hippos laughing in the river, others will be coming back from their nightly graze on the plains, and I often feel them brush the side of my tent in the morning. At 5.45am coffee is brought to my tent and I enjoy the aroma of the strong coffee beans, Kenyan coffee is just so delicious. I dress in my Masai a dress and beautiful Jewellery and head out just before sunrise at 6.15am. As I leave my tent it is still dark but I can see the Mara River a few feet in front of my tent and it glistens in the early morning dawn. The air is crisp and fresh and I breathe in the intoxicating scents of the land, bushes and trees.
We drive out onto the plains bundled in Masai blankets. There is a tower of Giraffes outside camp, some still sitting down sleeping and others grazing. It is stunning seeing them silhouetted against the sun rise. The sun rises spreading its golden red orange fiery glow across the sky, lighting up everything it touches. My heart is so full of joy as I feel it’s warmth on my face and absorb this beautiful wonder. Sunrises for me bring life and hope for a glorious day ahead.
We see Hippos running over the plains back to the river, one is so heavily pregnant her belly almost touches the ground. Hyena are laughing as they sniff the air trying to trace the scent of Lion kills from the night, these wonderful scavengers are such a delight to watch. We see a male and female Impala in a courtship ritual, he dances in front of her, encouraging her to mate. He prances on his back legs his front legs held high, it is quite impressive.
A lone Jackel stands on the track he is sniffing out potential kill and at that very moment we hear Lions roaring calling to each other. As we drive to find them the light is so impressive now as the sun is in full glow and I draw in the heady scent of wild sage as we pass dense bushes, it is incredibly intoxicating. We find two Lionesses with cubs in the shade of croton bushes. They love these bushes as they are natural insect repellent and the Masai use branches of these to sweep their huts to keep flies and insects at bay. I listen to the sweet sound of the cute cubs calling to their mothers and the mothers calling back. The cubs nuzzle their mothers as they are washed. It is a heart-warming sight. Further off we find four Jackal running around in the sun, they are such adorable little dogs.
We head down to the Mara River to the main crossing. We spot a herd of Zebra (Punda Milia in Swahili, literally meaning stripy donkey) and Thompson gazelle grazing on the other side of the river waiting to cross. The river flows fast but it is still quite shallow. Two large Crocodile (Mamba in Swahili) sliver through the shallow waters waiting for them to cross. The Zebra walk down the bank to the water’s edge to check for Crocodiles and any other predictors who may be lurking on the other side such as Lions. After changing their mind a few times they start to cross. It is quite dangerous as the water flows rapidly and the rocks are slippery. Their hoofs could slip and they could break a leg. Fourteen cross safely and walk up the far bank within moments of the large Crocodile slivering within reach. The Crocodile marginally missing grabbing a zebra and devouring it whole.
Down the bank of the river we find two of the four male Lions. The coalition is made up of Hunter, Morani (dreadlock hair), Sikio (ear, as it is marked) and the dominant male Scarface. We find Sikio and Morani on the edge of the river eating what seems to be a hippo kill, the smell is stomach churning. They tear at the flesh with their canines and crunch on the bones. Sikio drags the carcass so close to the edge of the steep bank he is almost in danger of falling in but he settles down to chew again. After filling his belly he walks to a nearby bush to wash very cat like, licking his huge paws and washing his face. He has deep scratches on his face from probably fighting with Morani over the kill. After washing, like a typical male lies down, farts loudly and falls to sleep. I smile in amusement. He is as peaceful as he sleeps, his large full belly rising heavily. We go back to Morani but as he stands and drags the carcass out of the long grass we discover it is actually Hunter and it is a Zebra kill, the head is fully visible. It was probably killed by the Lionesses but the males have first feed.
We have breakfast down by the Mara River with the Crocodiles and Hippo. The Crocodiles bask in the sun their scales completely dried out to a pale beige, they are completely camouflaged against the dry banks. They are cold blooded reptiles so they need the heat from the sun to warm them. Hippos lay on the banks next to them in the early morning sun whilst others play in the river. We see a group of baby hippos with a female on the banks chasing each other and play biting, it is an amusing scene. As always breakfast is delicious, we feast on pancakes, sausages, French toast and muesli and of course drink delicious Kenyan coffee.
After breakfast we drive across the plains and find Hyena cooling themselves in small pools of water as the sun is growing hot.
We stop by a herd of Elephants as they graze they use their tusks and trunks to pull up new bush roots. The young bulls play and chase each other then one stops to urinate, it is like a torrent then his droppings thud to the ground. The matriarch is clearly heavily pregnant she will probably give birth soon. They find a small pool of water and stop to drink. They suck up vast quantities with their trunks and spray themselves with it, it is most amusing. One of the elephants has no tusks, this would have been a birth defect. A cheeky young bull comes up close to us to frighten us but he stops within a few feet, it is time to move on.
We pass a group of five old Buffalos they have been kicked out of the herd as they are old. They will live out their days together.
We drive to rhino ridge, it is a beautiful scenic area, luscious and green. Due to the amount of predators there are no rhino but to my utter joy and delight we come across four adolescent Lions, three males, one female, they are around 2-3 years old. The males have the start of their manes, a rather fabulous Mohican. Two are sat by a sun bleached fallen branch their heads resting on it, it is beyond adorable. They are so photogenic I cannot keep my eyes off of them they are just so stunningly beautiful. Even though it is midday and the sun is now very hot in the sky they enjoy the warmth rather than finding shade. At their age they would have now been kicked out of the pride. They are clearly doing well by themselves as they are very healthy and well fed. The boys will form a coalition and the sister will form a pride with them. Young Lions are just so beautiful as they are scar free, they have yet to fight for territory. They also have the light rosettes on their bellies indicative of the young. It really is just a privilege to spend time in their company in such a stunning setting.
We pass large herds of Zebra, the naughty young males standing five legged. The graze with Topi who have keen eyesight to spot predators. Nearby Elan graze, large and broad. We meet rangers from the cheetah project and they say a female cheetah is nearby, we search for her but it is hot so we find a large tree to stop under for lunch. It is just so wonderful lunching on the wide open plains surrounded by grazing animals. Above us Repul long tail starlings with their stunning iridescent blue feathers chatter noisily. It is a delicious lunch and we relax and chat about our fabulous morning.
After lunch we set off again to find the Cheetah (Duma in Swahili) in the double cross area. We are blessed this time we find Nashipae (named after me on my last trip) sitting under a croton bush. She is about 2.5 years old and the daughter of Musiara. We think she is pregnant. It is still hot so she pants heavily in the heat. She is a stunningly attractive Cheetah. She sits alert watching for predators but also an opportunity to hunt prey. She starts to wash, licking her paws and rubbing her face. As she rolls over it becomes apparent she is very heavily pregnant. Her usually athletic lithe frame now sports a big round belly. She is beautifully healthy and as she is still young she still has the fluff at the back of her neck.
We drive back to Rhino ridge past Hyenas cooling in pools, Elephants crashing through bushes and herds of Buffalo and Zebra. By the river we see a large Impala male carcass up a tree a few days old. A leopard would have dragged it up there and eaten the flesh. We come to an impressive herd of Elan, Zebra and Thompson gazelle. They are making an alarm call, of course we hope it is Leopard but it is a lone Jackel making mischief in the middle of the herd.
As we drive back to camp we find a beautiful Lioness laying in the grass she probably has cubs but they will be hidden in the bushes. Her fur is a glow in the setting sun.
When we get to camp the sun is setting over the Mara River, it lights up the banks in a warm glow of golds reds and oranges. The water sparkles like diamonds and I feel peaceful. The staff have lit a camp fire from croton branches and the scent is divine and heady. I sit with the other guests drinking red wine and swopping stories of our day. Safaris are just so sociable. We always dine as a group dinner and if wonderful getting to know people with common interests in safaris and wildlife.
I fall to sleep to the sound of the river flowing about my tent. This is my home and where my heart belongs.
This is my Africa
Day 4 –
After the rain last night the morning dawns bright and clear. In the night I heard Lions roaring right by camp, it was a beautiful sound and thrilling to hear them so close to my tent. I wake to the smell of delicious Kenyan coffee as it is brought to my tent and the sound of Hippos grunting and the fast flow of the river. Today I move camps to the Mara North Conservancy. We head out and are once again greeted by Giraffes grazing by camp, there are a dozen enjoying the pre-dawn crispness. The sky is clear at the sun rises majestically a real fireball shooting its rays golden orange and red across the sky. I really love the sunrise it is live giving and brings hope and optimism of a good day. We find Hyena crunching the bones of a carcass in the grass, the scavengers have such an important role in keeping the Mara clean. The rivers are swelling due to the heavy night rains and it makes crossing them quite challenging. Zebra, Wildebeest and Thompson gazelle still need to cross to fresh pastures away from the lethal jaws of the Crocodiles and cross where the waters are shallower. They cross very cautiously but quickly. After a thrilling drive through the Talik river crossing we reach the double cross area and find the two majestic dominant male Lions Blackie and Lipstick. Blackie is around 8-9 years old with an extremely impressive almost entirely black mane, he is sat in the open by himself. He sniffs the air to draw in the scent of the rest of the pride. He is the dominant male and exudes power and authority, it is his duty to protect the pride. I sit in awe of his majesty and absorb every detail of his beauty. Lipstick his brother lays nearby under a group of croton bushes. He is content, his belly is full. He is also stunningly handsome with an impressive golden and black mane. He stretches out his legs and large paws and rolls onto his side to sleep. The pride would have hunted and feasted in the night and like most cats will sleep the day away. We drive around to another group of croton bushes and see two females about 3 years old, they are just so beautiful they are joined by another female and they nuzzle each other in greeting affectionately. I do adore watching these displays of affection.
To my surprise we encounter another extremely affectionate encounter. We find two usually grumpy Buffalo but this time there are two sat together one nuzzling the other ones back, they both look blissful, not something you would associate with dangerous bad tempered Buffalo. It is a heart-warming sight. Ox pecker birds sit on their backs eating ricks and dead skin, this provides the Buffalo with great relief.
We head out of the Mara reserve to the Mara North Conservancy. Between these two areas the Masai live and we wave as we see them herding sheep and goats.
Even though it is only 9.30am the sun is already very hot we find the shade of a tree to have breakfast. Herds of Zebra graze in front of us. One frisky young Zebra tries to mate with a female with a young foul of less than old. She is not ready to mate and so starts kicking at him to show her unwillingness. The foul has very pale beige stripes and is just so pretty. It is young and happy and prances about excited with life and under the watchful eye of its mother.
After lunch we start to drive around the offbeat area of the Mara North Conservancy. It is incredibly scenic, rolling green hills, bubbling brooks and babbling streams, luscious trees and bushes a total contrast to the wide open plains of the reserve. It is absolutely teaming with mixed herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Topi, Impala and Thompson gazelle. I feel like I have arrived in the opening scene from the Lion King. It is absolutely breathe taking I am in awe of such natural wonders. As it is breeding and birthing season there are many frisky male Zebras standing five legged, or as Gladys says showing their shiny cobra which makes me laugh. Gladys and I as always stand on our seats hold onto the roll bars as Denis takes us on a literally wild ride through the herds. It is thrilling and exhilarating.
We pass a herd of Elephants grazing in the bushes with a very young bull, they pass close to us but they are relaxed and happy.
As we pass by large Acacia trees me breathe in the aromatic heady scent of the flowers, it is just so beautiful, this is nature’s garden.
It does not take long to reach the Cheli area where we find the Cheli pride. This was the first pride I ever saw when I came to the Mara for the first time. This is a successful pride of around 40 lions, they have two dominant males. We see three females laying under croton bushes out of the heat of the midday sun. Not far away we see an older dominant female with a three month old cub, it is surprisingly awake and plays with a stick, it has pale fur and clear rosettes, it really is the cutest baby. Three gorgeous adolescent males lay in amusing poses under a tree, they are brothers of around 2 years. We call them Denis brothers, when they were young they were attacked by Buffalo one of the cubs received a broken leg but thank fully survived.
We hear a large male Baboon barking in the distance, this is an alarm call warning the prey of approaching predators. We go in search of him. He sees a lone female Lion walking through the bush. She rests under a tree, from her teats she clearly has cubs somewhere. She snaps and bites at annoying flies, it is however amusing to watch.
We drive to stop for a late lunch. We find the perfect tree with shade however we spot a Lioness with two six month year old male cubs. They are absolutely gorgeous, their heads are already fluffy indicating the start of a mane but they are still pale furred and spotty. They sit up and watch us initially warily as they are not yet fully used to vehicles. They relax after moments and start washing and pretty much look beyond cute. They find a hare in a bush but to their disappointment and surprise it quickly hops off. The two boys are now however fully awake and start play fighting. They jump all over each other and chew and bite each other’s tails and ears. It is fun to watch. The Lioness comes over to watch over them but they see it as an excuse to start feeding from her. They are a little too old to be suckling but she allows it as she rolls onto her back so they can feed. They make cute contented noises and prod her belly to encourage the milk. At their age they will be encouraged to join the hunt and they will be feeding on small scraps of meat. The cubs fall to sleep contented and we drive a little further away to have our lunch under a tree.
After lunch we see Pumba on their knees grazing on the short grass. There are three large males with large dangerous tusks and long hair on their heads. They are a challenge for any predator as they are quick and are quite aggressive.
The interesting observation about the weather in Kenya is one minute the sun is hot in the sky then the clouds will roll in heavy and grey, lightning will streak across the sky and the thunder roar. You can get caught in a heavy rainstorm and the plains will be flooded and impassable in minutes. The temperature drops considerably and the wind is fierce. It is quite exhilarating watching this power display. Then within half an hour it will clear and the sky will be blue sunny and hot.
The skies clear and joy oh joy we could not be more blessed we find a Lioness with three one month old tiny tiny cubs. She is laying on her side as their tiny paws prod her and tiny mouths suckle. They have the sweetest angelic faces and they make tiny squeaking noises to communicate. They are beyond adorable. The family group lay under a small fallen tree it is just beautiful. The cubs keep waking and then falling to sleep as they suckle. It is very enduring. Only a few metres away two other Lionesses lay out in the open with three five month year old cubs, they all sleep peacefully in the sunlight. Within a few minutes we find the dominant Lionesses the skilled hunters who just days ago brought down and killed a hippo at dawn. In all, today we have seen twenty of the Cheli pride, they are successful hunters and breeders and a rather beautiful pride. We only now need to find the dominant males.
To encourage the males out Gladys, Dennis and I sing the Jambo song, we are quite harmonious which lovely, maybe we need to dance too is!
Even though it is near sunset the sun is strong and we stand again on our seats, hold the roll bars and pelt through the plains, I feel completely alive here.
A very large bull Elephant tears down branches of an Acacia tree. It has sharp hard thorns but it can eat them with its thick hard tongue. The bull has impressive large tusks and sends a torrent of water as it urinates.
We end the day at sunset having red wine with the Lions. First we enjoy watching the Lioness suckling the two five month cubs. Then our beautiful 13 hour day finishes with the Lioness playing with the three one month old cubs. They are awake alert and very very playful. They use mum as a climbing frame and play with her flicking tail and ears. Even though very young they pounce on each other, biting and pawing gently. They are fascinated by our vehicle and come close, inquisitive and brave. They make little chirping noises in lieu of their roar to come. They really are so cute you just want to stroke them but they are wild so we appreciate their childish exuberance. We get so caught up in watching them we realise the sun has set and it is after 7pm and we have to get to camp. We drive with our beams on at speed the cool night air wiping our faces. What an incredible day. This is Lion country, born free and living free.
We arrive at Serian camp and I am met by the wonderful staff, I adore how friendly Kenya is. I sit and have red wine by the fire and catch up with everyone. I am home, happy and content. Once again I fall to sleep to the sound of the river.
Day 5 –
The camp is on the edge of the Mara River in the North Conservancy. The tent is huge with a comfy double bed so I sleep like a baby. I do find the sound of the flowing water lulls me to sleep. I love sitting in bed drinking my coffee listening to the sound of pre-dawn. Hippos grunt in the river and birds sing the dawn chorus. I dress in full Masai dress and my Askari guides me through camp as it is still dark and there could be Hippo, Lion or Leopard in camp. We head out as the sun starts to rise. We find hyena and jackels scavenging. They pick at the flesh on the bones and crunch the remnants. The sky is a blaze with beautiful colours, red gold orange and pink. The long thin horizontal cloud formations merge with the colours to create the most dazzling ethereal painting in the sky, it is very Monet. A single architectural Acacia tree is silhouetted against this stunning vision of nature’s art. Hot air balloons glide silently into view and are too silhouetted in the sky. It is a poetic scene of beauty colour and peacefulness. As the sun rises above the stripes of cloud it bursts like an orange red fireball illuminating everything it touches with its fiery glow. I love nature’s morning light show.
We drive to the Cheli area to find the Lions (Swahili – Simba). We find a female with the three adolescent cubs. Their golden fur is illuminated in the sun. The young cubs suckle as the lioness warms up in the sun.
A herd of Elephants (Swahili – Tembo) graze on shrubs using their long trunks to wrap around the tough branches to rip them out, they then chew them thoroughly. They only have one stomach unlike Buffaloes (Swahili – Nyati) and Giraffes (Swahili – Twiga) who have four, so they have quite a poor digestive system. There stools are very dense and course and so fall to the ground in hard thuds. The young bull of two years does not have tusks yet so chews the softer parts of the shrubs. It is easy to tell if an Elephant is relaxed or stressed. They have a gland between its eye and ear and when the Elephant is stressed the gland will run with fluid down its cheek. These Elephants are content and peaceful.
We drive through a beautiful herd of Zebra (Swahili – Pundamilia, literally translated as striped donkey!) The word Punda is used by the Masai to insult someone if they are being stupid!
Fish eagles fly over us with their impressive wing span and black/white storks with long orange legs peck at insects and seeds in the grass. This is the time the migrating birds are here.
We find the beautiful Cheetah Amani (Swahili – Duma and Amani means peace) she is in the Kichwa (Swahili – head) area. Her two female cubs are now 10 months old, I last saw them last August when they were only tiny four month old fluffy cubs. They still have fluffy backs of their necks and they are not quite as big as their mum yet. She is teaching them to hunt, they are sat in the grass observing a group of Thompson gazelle. They will stay with her until they are 18 months to 2 years old. They will stay together as sisters for a while but as soon as one becomes pregnant they will go their separate ways, it is only the male cheetahs who stay together. The Gazelles observe the Cheetah and the Cheetah observe the Gazelles it is a stand off until the Thompson gazelle forget about the Cheetah and they will then hunt.
It is still early so we drive around and to our astonishment we see a female bush buck up a tree, its lifeless body handing over a high branch. It has puncture wounds in its neck and the red congealed blood slowly drips to the ground. It is clearly a very fresh Leopard kill. We drive around the base of the African olive tree and see the powerful male Leopard sat in the bushes. He is sat up and is looking at us with his striking green eyes. It does not matter how often I see a Leopard I am always in awe of its magnificence power and beauty. Its distinctive rosettes are individual to each Leopard. He has a large strong face so we know he is a handsome male straight away. He is shy so we call him Mwoga. He is panting heavily as the gazelle is as large as him and he would have only recently killed it and pulled it up the tree with his teeth after hunting and killing it. He yawns showing his impressive lethal canines and lays for a while to rest. Leopard (Swahili – Chewi) deposit their kills up tree to prevent other predators or scavengers from stealing it, especially Lions and Hyena.
He has quick recovery and gets up and starts to climb the tree. It is such an impressive sight watching him use his claws and powerful broad shoulders and arms to climb the trunk. At the top of the trunk he leaps skilfully from branch to branch until he reaches the kill. Again he uses his powerful teeth jaws and claws to reposition the kill so he can start eating it. He tears into the flesh at the neck where it is most tender and chews on the moist tissue underneath. Blood spills to the ground as he eats and he licks the blood from around the opening of the wound. He eats so much of the meat from the neck that he almost decapitates the kill and the head hangs by just some sinewy tissue. He then repositions the kill again by straddling it and using his jaws to pull the kill up the branch. He tears into the side and rump and internal organs spill through the open wound. He licks at the blood and juices and chews on the flesh. The kill is so heavy he has to reposition it again as several points it looks like it may fall. He is clever and moves it to a thicker branch just in time for the original branch to snap and fall heavily to the ground with a thud. He must be exhausted constantly repositioning and tearing into the tough thick flesh of the gazelle but Leopards are extremely muscular strong powerful cats. They are ambush predators built for power not speed or endurance like Cheetah.
We watch him for nearly two hours so we decide even though it is quite a bloody gory sight we would have breakfast in our vehicle so we can carry on observing his behaviour. After our breakfast he finishes too and repositions the kill once more so he can come back later to feed. He uses his powerful shoulders legs and claws to safely climb head first down the vertical high tree trunk. He stops down the bottom looks around and starts to walk. He has the confident gait of a powerful predator and we follow him at a distance. He stops and sits under a croton bush to rest, it is now mid-morning and the sun is starting to get hot. He will rest for a few hours before returning to the kill, he will not go far from his prize.
We drive back to the Nchia Mingi area meaning roads meeting. We are trying to find Amani again but she has moved off. We come across a Masai herding his cattle and he tells us the Cheetah walked past him in the distance not long ago. We set off and shortly find them walking over the plains clearly with the intention to hunt. They spot Topi and Thompson gazelle in the distance. They are grazing and at first do not see the Cheetah. The Cheetah give chase, their lithe athletic bodies stretching as they run, so fast and graceful. The gazelles scatter but the Thompson gazelle they pick out to bring down cleverly diverts behind a herd of Elephants preventing them from taking it down. The Elephants trumpet a warning and the Cheetah stop the chase. The Thompson gazelle is extremely fortunate. The Cheetah start scanning the plain for another opportunity to make a kill. The Cheetahs rest under a tree to regain their energy. The cubs start frolicking and playing with each other as they are still young, whilst Amani scans for more potential prey.
We drive to Leopard gorge. It has the most beautiful rock formations, architectural twisted trees and plants. I saw a beautiful Leopard sitting in a tree there last year. It is still as stunning but it is full of hyena sat between the rocks. It is amazing how quickly a place can change.
We stop for lunch nearby under a large gnarly twisted Moth tree, it is really stunning. It is popular with Leopards and the trunk has many scratch marks where they have either sharpened their claws or climbed up it. We take many photos at lunch and enjoy chatting about our fabulous day so far.
We head back to where we left Amani and her cubs but she has clearly gone off hunting so we head back to the Leopard.
Mwoga the Leopard is sitting up in a bush sheltering from the rain that has started to fall in torrents. It does not last long and he licks his body to dry himself. He then gets up stretches and yawns and heads back to the tree with the kill. We watch his impressive frame climb the tree with such kill power and grace. He looks around when he gets to the top to see if there are any predators around and then gracefully leaps from branch to branch to reach the kill. He takes the kill between his strong jaws and tugs it over the branch so he can chew through the flesh to get to the soft tissue underneath. He chews the neck and it really is just hanging by some thin sinew. He then starts eating the side to get some fresh flesh. The kill still hangs over the branch and the entrails start hanging out of a large opening, it is not the most appealing sight seeing the bladder stomach kidneys etc. hanging down and wavering in the breeze. We amuse ourselves with a bet of what will drop to the ground first, the almost decapitated head or dangling entrails. The leopard takes a break from eating and as he moves away the kill slips from the branch dislodging the head which falls dramatically after it with a large thud. The leopard is shocked and panicked and follows it quickly down. He reaches it and drags it to the base of the tree and starts eating it hurriedly before other predators or scavengers come to try and take it. We hear him crunch noisily on the bones and tear hungrily at the flesh.
On our way back to where we saw the Lions last night we find Amani the Cheetah and her cubs they are still looking to hunt. They relax in the grass in the beautiful afternoon light. Their beautiful fur stunning.
The rain sets in as we drive back to camp however on the way we come across the Cheli females and drama unfolds. The rain eases off at the right moment. There is a timeless feud between Lions and Buffalo as Lions do like to kill Buffalo calves and lone Buffaloes. Two large Buffalo bulls are trying to attack two of the five month old lion cubs in retribution. A Lioness bravely goads the Buffaloes to lead them away from the cubs. This is a brave and dangerous manoeuvre as she could get herself killed. She calls to the cubs and they run to the nearest tree, to my amazement they start climbing the tree to protect themselves. All cats can climb trees but it is only the Leopard who is really known for it. The small cubs ease themselves up and watch the unfolding danger. More Lionesses hearing the desperate call come and join the fight. They try and attack the two buffalo but they are large angry and aggressive. The buffalo charge the lionesses and the lionesses attack the Buffalo.
The fight is evenly matched and I am nervous for the cubs as they come down from the tree. The Lionesses at one point seem to have the upper hand and look like they may kill a Buffalo but the other defends it. Then the Buffalos attack and a Lioness climbs the tree along with the cubs. As it has been raining it is slippery and she loses her footing at the top, she falls but manages to grip with her front paws whilst her body swings wildly, I am scared for her but she manages to pull herself back up into the branch. Lionesses also fight amongst themselves as some clearly want the Buffalo just to move off and others want to attack and kill them. The Buffalo move off a little and the Lioness and cubs come down from the tree. The cubs are relieved and playful and start jumping on their mother and play fighting. It is a tense situation but neither side will back down. After an hour of fighting the Buffalo move off to graze the sides are too evenly matched. Behind all this action the sun is setting. The sky is awash with purple and pink tones, it is an unusual colourful sunset and a magnificent back drop to this dramatic scene.
Close by the Lionesses with the three one month year old cubs grooms her litter. As we approach the cubs are initially nervous but the three small females start to be bold and approach our vehicle. They are so small they are unsteady on their tiny paws. They tentatively play and pounce on each other and squeak their tiny communication. They stay close to mum and she gathers them in to be washed by her raspy tongue. They love climbing her and using her ears and tail to chew and practice pouncing on, it is an adorable heart-warming sight.
We drive back to camp very late in the dark tired but exhilarated. It has been a memorable day.
We are joined at dinner by Niels from the Kenya lion project. It is fascinating hearing about the wonderful work they are doing to conserve the prides. We are also joined by the Jennet cat who is more ferret than cat but is cheeky enough to join us at mealtimes and is totally wild. I feed him Chicken.
Once again I am at peace and fall to sleep to the sound of the river, bull frogs and hippo. This is my Africa my home.
Day 6 –
Once again I wake to the sound of my Askari calling my name letting me know he is about to bring my coffee in. I sit in bed enjoying the aroma and listening to the sound of the river. It is my last day in the Mara North Conservancy and with Gladys and Dennis, I will be sad to say goodbye. We drive out at sunrise, it is a beautiful clear morning and the sun rises orange red and gold over the escarpment. We drive to where we left the Lions last night. To my joy we find the Lioness with the three one month year old cubs. As it is early and they are very playful. They practice pouncing on each other and grabbing at tails and ears. They have the cutest squeak to communicate. Hyena come into view looking to kill the cubs. The Lioness spots them and grunts to tell the cubs to hide. She chases the Hyena off and other Lionesses join her to protect the cubs and give chase to the Hyena. Once safe she returns to the cubs and she greets them. They relax and start using mum as a climbing frame. They use their tiny paws and claws to climb up her back. They love the security of sitting on her back. They then chew and play with her ears and slide playfully down her side. They adore playing with her tail as she flicks it. She uses her large paws to draw them into her for a wash but they are too playful and roll onto their backs and use their tiny paws to bat at her face. She is incredibly gentle and patient. The cubs become brave and start to wonder off and she goes after them, one by one she picks them up in her mouth and deposits them safely by the bush. It is incredibly endearing watching her carrying them. Another Lioness sits with them and the cubs goes over to play with her but she is not patient and bats them gently away. They tumble away and back to mum. Two other Lionesses join them along with the two five month year old cubs. They have full bellies so clearly had a kill in the night. The older cubs spot the younger cubs and want to play with them. As they are older they are much rougher and the little cubs squeak in protest. The mother tells the older cubs off and bats them away but they are determined to make mischief. It is wonderful to watch. The older cubs get bored after a while and move off with their mother to find water.
Driving through the Cheli area we come across a male Giraffe with a young Giraffe, likely father and son. They are being very affectionate. This is not something I have seen before. The youngster rubs its head on the neck of the older male.
We drive back to where we saw the Leopard yesterday and we find him under a bush eating the kill from yesterday. It is surprising scavengers have not smelt the blood and tried to steal it. It is also surprising he has not taken it back to safety up the tree. He chews and crunches on the remains. His beautiful large round green eyes scan around him looking for any threats. He is just so beautiful but shy and private, very good traits. I love how peaceful serene and beautiful the Leopard is. He is happy in his solitude. After eating he walks gracefully through the bushes to find a quiet place to relax and sleep.
We find a lovely shaded tree to have breakfast. Zebra graze close by and frolic and kick their back legs like a donkey. They are intelligent animals and interact well with each other.
After breakfast we drive through the plains and observe large herds of Zebra, Buffalo, Topi, Impala grazing peacefully. The wide open plains of the Mara are so beautiful now there has been rain. New grasses and shrubs are starting to shoot up and it looks luscious and green. Small white flowers called white tissue have sprouted up and look so delicate.
We see an Elephant in the distance and as we get closer we see that it is a mother and a young calf of just a few days old. It is tiny and protects itself by walking up its mother’s belly. They must have been temporarily separated from the rest of the herd as this calf is very vulnerable to predators. It is so beautiful watching it graze like its mum then start to suckle.
It is so peaceful here and I enjoy the wonder of these plains. Everywhere I look I am surrounded by stunning mountain ranges, small forests of trees and of course the wide expanse of the plains. It is a glorious sight, with all the different animals grazing it is like the opening scene of the Lion King.
We stop for lunch under a beautiful gnarly fig tree, its trunk sun bleached and grey. The trunk is split in two and its bows reach out. It is rather architectural and fascinating. This is our last meal together so we take photos and discuss our wonderful time. Dennis and Gladys are such great guides and friends.
We meet with Dan my guide for the next five days whom I met in December. He is a very knowledgeable guide and amusing to chat to. We drive back into the Mara reserve and down to the Mara River. Across the bank we see a herd of Zebra they look like they want to cross the river. We stop to observe them. It is a group of around 50 but it only takes one to start the crossing. These crossings usually happen in the migration session so late June to September but due to the rain it is also happening now. There is a large crocodile on the far bank his scales dried by the sun and his mouth is open, he is quite well camouflaged against the dry bank. Crocodiles conserve energy by reducing their body temperature hence their need to bask in the sun. This way they can go without eating for up to a year. I can see three other large crocodiles hovering in the river. A few Zebras bravely walk down the steep bank of the river but are startled by the immobile Crocodile, they run straight back up the bank. They graze again before descending down another part of the bank. A few Zebras come down and scan the bank and water for potential threats and the how deep and fast flowing the river is. A brave Zebra tentatively start to enter the river and others start to follow. The river is flowing rapidly and there are slippery rocks under the water. They have to move fast but if there hooves slip on the rock they could break a leg or be swept and drowned down river. The rest of the Zebra start following now and the crossing starts to become noisy with the sound of zebras braying. The crocodiles start to move in and one opens its large jaws with its rows of sharp teeth and grabs a Zebra. The Zebra is terrified and starts to kick and thrash about but the Crocodiles large jaws clamp down on it. Another Crocodile moves it and bites the other side of the Zebra, the Zebra brays loudly and the water around it turns red with blood. There are Hippo in the water watching this terrifying scene and they come in to try and rescue the Zebra there large mouths open to try and bite the Crocodiles but the Zebra is now beyond rescue its head disappears under water, the Crocodiles will twist the body and almost swallow it whole as they cannot chew. There is no love lost between Hippos and Crocodiles as Crocodiles kill Hippo babies. The rest of the Zebra cross safely and climb the river bank. They start to graze and they relax after their ordeal. Even though you see Zebra in large herds, within those herds you have family groups of usually one male, several females and fouls. We see a group of five Zebras braying loudly, calling to their lost family member. They will not know what happened but they know it is missing and they call to it, it is very sad. The rest of the herd move off to find fresh grass.
Up in small Boscai tree we see a Marshall eagle with a small bird in its sharp long talons. It is impressive and it starts to eat its kill with its sharp beak. These eagles are one of the most powerful birds of prey, they can hunt small gazelles or even babies if they get the opportunity.
We head to camp which is on the banks of the Mara River. It is a stunning location and my beautiful large tent has a lovely decking area overlooking it, such a stunning view.
An amazing electrical storm rattles the camp and buffers the sides of my tent but it is quite safe but all the same quite exhilarating.
Dinner is always such a social affair, everyone sits together to discuss the events of the day. I sit next to Tim one of the very experienced guides here and we swop our favourite wildlife stories. I then head back to my tent with my Askari, the camp is completely open to the wild and our torches shin on bright eyes of Buffalo, Elan and other prey. I fall to sleep to the sound of Lions roaring, Hippos laughing and the river lapping. It is so serene, I sleep deeply and peacefully. This is home, heart and soul.
Day 7 –
I slept so well, the longer I am here the more at peace I am. The room steward brings in coffee and we chat and I enjoy the aroma of the coffee. It is a clear morning and I anticipate it is going to be a wonderful day. We drive out at sunrise and we stop in front of an Acacia tree, it is silhouetted stunningly against these orange and yellow glow of the magnificent sunrise. The glorious beams shoot across the sky lighting all it touches. The sun then rises like a fireball over the hills, radiant, splendent and life giving. We drive across the plains as they light up, the grasses bathed in the glow of the sun. The grass is green, purple and yellow and the early morning dew hangs like diamonds on each individual blade.
In the distance Dan and I see Lions sitting on the plains. It is the Topi pride Lionesses and they have a Wildebeest kill. There are five females and five adolescent cubs. They are surrounding the kill, pawing, chewing and tearing at the flesh. Their faces are covered in blood. In the background Hyena and Jackel loiter in the background waiting for them to finish eating. Most of the flesh has been eaten and they are picking the flesh from the bones. We can tell it is a Wildebeest as they have not eaten the head and the horns are obvious and the eyes stare blankly in death. The face of the kill is like a death mask as they die in shock so their eyes remain open, it is only the light in their eyes that go out. The Lions even though their bellies are very bloated and turgid from eating the kill still fight and swipe at each other the remaining pieces of meat, there will not be much left for the scavengers. Some of the cubs finish eating and walk away to start chasing and play hunting each other, they are spirited and energetic. They pounce on each other rumps and bite each other’s necks in practice for when they start to hunt. Other cubs sit nearby sweetly and gently washing the blood from each other’s faces with their long raspy tongues. Their faces with a look of utter contentment. The Lionesses join them and start to nuzzle and wash the cubs. Lions really are such affectionate cats. The Lionesses also greet by nuzzling their faces and rubbing their bodies together. They walk together over the plain to a nearby watering hole. They sit in a line and bend forward on their front legs, shoulders broad and muscular, they use their course raspy tongues to lap up the refreshing water as the meat would have been quite salty. It lovely watching the little cubs sit beside their mothers and drink. They leap over the narrow watering hole so they do not get their paws wet and walk over to a beautiful gnarly tree and start to sharpen their claws on the trunk. Some of the cubs attempt to climb the tree but do not get far as the trunk is hard and they have small claws, it is most amusing to watch. They then all head off to find shade.
Nearby a group of Buffalo sit chewing grass, they have four stomachs/chambers and they ruminate. They seem very chilled and relaxed. Colourful black red and yellow ox pecker birds hop on their faces picking and eating ticks and dead skin, it brings the Buffalo much relief. However sometimes the birds get in their ears and they shake them off vigorously. Another buffalo stands next to them he has a branch with leaves stuck in his horns it looks like he is making a fashion statement it is very incongruous with the mighty beast.
Large herds of Zebra graze behind and Topi join the herds it is a beautiful scene.
We head for breakfast under a tree and chill out to talk about our fabulous morning.
We come across Spur winged goose, with stunning black plumage which shines iridescent green in the sun light. They are the largest goose with a long red beak, they are paddling gently in the watering hole.
Driving further out we see some Lions under some croton bushes. First we see Blackie the dominant male he is sleeping on his side, he stretches and yawns and looks up at us. He is a magnificent cat, so regal and powerful. His black mane is resplendent. Lying next to him is a young lioness, they are a mating pair. She too is laid out under the bush, she rolls over onto her back her legs wide to cool her belly. She stretches and yawns and even though it is very hot now she walks over to Blackie to mate. She walks around him and draws in the scent of his testicals and then walks right over him so he can smell her scent. She tries to encourage him to mate but he is hot and tired and ignores her advances. The sweet irony.
In a nearby bush Lipstick sleeps peacefully, he is a gorgeous male Lion, his mane is not as black but beautifully blends from dark blonde on the top of his head down to black half way down. He looks up at us but it is hot and he goes back to sleep.
We see two Hyena on the road sitting as usual in puddles cooling themselves down. One jumps up and starts running, we are driving at 40km/hr but he keeps up with us. Hyena like dogs can run for miles at speed, they are endurance runners, it is most impressive.
The reserve is teaming with prey, we drive past beautiful herds of Zebra. A group of Waterbuck sit peacefully chewing grass. The females are quite hairy with big beautiful eyes and the males have stunning horns. Both are large impressive beautiful antelopes.
We drive through some trees to the river and have lunch. It is blissfully cool under the shade and we relax and enjoy a delicious lunch. Dan and I chat about so many topics, we always have fun chatting about our lives.
After lunch we drive around a gorge where Leopards are often spotted. We see a tree rustling and we can hear the grunt of a Leopard but the trees foliage is too thick. We sit and wait to see if the leopard moves. After an hour we decide to drive around the bushes and to our surprise we spot a male Leopard walking, he is about 4 years old and absolutely stunning. He seems quite confident as he walks out into the open. He is not too large as he is young but his markings are stunning. His big beautiful green eyes scan his territory but he does not seem worried about us. We stop and watch him walking gracefully. He has the gait of a confident predator, strong purposeful but regal. He is a magnificent cat. He walks right up to us then straight in front of our vehicle, he is so close and I feel so privileged. The sun is much cooler now so he stops and sits by a small croton bush. We watch him wash and snap at flies, he is quite playful. He then lies down to sleep in the setting sun.
On our way back to camp we pass the mating Lions. They are now laying out in the setting sun sleeping. The male stretches and yawns and rolls onto his back. We spreads his legs wide and rests his front paws on his chest, it is such a cat like poise the same as our domestic cats. It is lovely to see him like this, he is just so handsome.
Sadly we have to drive back to camp but it has been another incredibly day. I am so blessed to be able to spend time with these incredibly wild animals. This is Africa, beautiful, wild and free.
Day 8 –
Once again last night I fell to sleep to the sound of the flowing river and the wild, my nightly lullaby. However around 2.30am a hippo decided to come out of the river and rub itself on my tent and then graze noisily. I love being so close to nature but sometimes you have to accept that they will wake you up. On the plus side it is a very unique experience! I fall back to sleep as I am perfectly safe in my tent and there are Askari around with spears outside.
I really do adore being brought coffee in bed in the morning and this morning I need my pre sunrise fix. I sit in bed in my beautiful tent enjoying the aroma. Once dressed again in my stunning Masai dress and Jewellery I am escorted by Isaac and Simba to my vehicle. You cannot walk around camp in the dark by yourself as wild animals do come into camp to graze. Dan and I set off before sunrise. We drive through the rather smelly (thanks to the Hippo and stagnant water) Olare Orok River. As we drive through the sun rises rather spectacularly over the ridge casting orange red and yellow rays through the most biblical cloud formation, it is just breath taking. As the fiery ball emerges the clouds and sun are reflected on the river, it is so awe inspiring and we stop and watch the natural wonder and light show.
We drive out bathed in the warmth of the sunrise, Hyena run around with pieces of carcasses in their mouths from Lion’s nightly hunts. They laugh and chatter. Birds stretch their wings in the air, calling to each other overhead and looking for insects to breakfast on. Herds of Zebra, Buffalo and Antelope warm up and graze on the luscious dewy grass. A pack of banded Mongoose run through the plains hunting snakes and small insects. Baboons sit peacefully in large troops picking at seeds in the grass, white tissue flowers and small insects. Some sit and groom each other, eating ticks and salty dead skin, they look so happy. It is a blissful heart-warming scene of natural at its most beautiful.
We drive through the plains to the Endoinyuo Keri (Fig tree Marum) area and find the rather beautiful Cheetah Malika (Swahili – Angel) I have been coming back to see her for years. She is now around 9 years old and is a very successful mother, she has raised many cubs. She has now two male cubs of around 8 months old, I saw them for the first time when they were just three months and she had three cubs, but there are many threats to Cheetah cubs from Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Hyena. She has done well as they are all very healthy. Cheetahs really are such graceful cats, when they walk their long athletic bodies undulate as they walk. I love their faces with the distinctive black lines that run from their eyes to their nose. This is to stop the sun reflecting in their eyes when they hunt. The cubs are still young so have lovely fluffy hair still on the back of the neck. They are all sitting gracefully on the top of small ridge scanning the plain for potential prey. They start walking around trying to get a better position for viewing, as they do they nuzzle each other affectionately. The cubs then spot some birds rustling in some nearby bushes and they go and investigate. They try and catch the birds but they fly off in fright. The cubs are now playful and start chasing each other their long lithe limbs impressive as they navigate the undulating hill. They pounce on each other biting each other’s necks playfully. It is wonderful to watch as in about a year these boys will strike out together and hunt together forming a lifelong coalition. For now Malika looks over them, teaching them to hunt but protecting them from threats. They are free to play and be young cubs. This beautiful family group are surrounded by potential prey but they will choose carefully what they hunt to conserve important energy as Cheetahs chase at speed. Malika gets up and walks over to them and starts to wash and groom them affectionately, it is an endearing scene watching the beautiful interaction. We spend several hours with them as their behaviour and bond is just so fascinating and beautiful to watch.
We breakfast under the shade of a tree so we can carry on observing them from a distance. We have a real feast of a breakfast, the camps chiefs are really excellent. A troop of Baboons come near the Cheetahs but they are chased away.
We spend a while longer with Malika but they now sleep together in perfect peace under a bush.
Driving back out we spot a rather impressive large Marshall Eagle on the banks of the river. It is the largest eagle and has piercing deadly cold eyes, a large hooked blue sharp beak and killer long talons. It has caught a foot long monitor lizard and it sits clutching it in its talons. Once it is happy it is dead is starts to tear the scales with its sharp deadly beak.
We find the magnificent regal handsome Lion Blackie in the bushes with three females. He is mating with one of them. The Lioness always initiates the mating ritual by walking over to the Lion encircling and nuzzling him and letting him draw in her scent by laying down in front of him. He picks up her scent and mounts her. He licks and bites her neck to stimulate her and mates with her for around 30 seconds. In this time it is very fiery and aggressive as they both roar and growl. When he has finished he walks away and she often swipes at him then rolls over onto her back her legs open to cool. They then lay apart for around 10-15 minutes until they start again. They mate this often in the first day then it becomes less frequent over the next four days. In this time they do not hunt or eat they conserve their energy for mating. We spend several hours watching them. Blackie does start to look very tired towards the end, the female does get more demanding.
A big storm comes in and we are surrounded by heavy rain, the rains here are so impressive, biblical and dramatic. Because the plains are still quite dry the plains and rivers can flood so quickly. We have an exhilarating dramatic drive back to camp, it is very bumpy and wet, such fun.
After a thrilling day I sleep so well. The river outside my tent is high so I have my nightly lullaby hearing the cascading waters.
This is my Africa.
Day 9 –
How heavenly a full night’s sleep with no interruptions from Hippos. It is so important for me to get rest here as I am up before dawn around 5.30am then am out on 12-13 hour a day game drives in the hot sun. Of course most guests will go out morning and afternoon and come back to camp to sleep in the hottest part of the day. I just love going out all day we take packed lunch and breakfast and can eat when and where we like. There is nothing more beautiful than eating out on the wide open plains surrounded by herds of animals peacefully grazing. Plus of course we can explore further afield and see so much more. I sit in bed for a few moments listening to the sound of the river, Hippos honking and Lions roaring whilst drinking my delicious aromatic coffee. My Askari Isaac and Simba walk me to my vehicle after I am dressed and we chat about what I may see. I love how they dress in full Masai clothes and carry spears, their only protection against Lions, Leopards etc. I know I am perfectly safe with them as this is their country.
We drive out at sunrise, it is a beautiful clear morning, and the light is just incredible. I am excited to see the big cats this morning I just love spending time observing them. There are many prides on the Mara and even though Lions are not shy they do move and after hunting all night often walk up to the hills and sleep in bushes inaccessible to us. This is also true for both Cheetah and Leopards. We spend three hours driving and we see no big cats at all, in this time we cover a large area of the reserve but they have hidden. They are looking at us but we cannot see them. This is how it is with safaris each day is so incredibly unique you do not know what nature will give you. This morning is a lesson in patience. Of course we still see the amazing beauty of the wide open plains, the hills, rivers, grazing prey and birds. It is nature at its most raw and beautiful.
Down by the Mara River we observe nineteen hungry large Crocodiles sitting like dead logs on the river bank. An extremely large herd of Elan and Zebra are grazing on the banks of the river, they want to cross but to do so would be suicide as the Crocodiles will grab them as they cross, pull them under and eat them. They observe the Crocodiles and potential threats and decide against crossing at this point.
Driving out in the Ospua Kupe area we are looking for Lions again but as we are about to go for breakfast we spot a Serval cat leaping through the grass! I am ecstatic as this is only my fourth sighting and it is an excellent one. She is not shy and turns to look at us. She is sleek and beautiful like a very small leopard. She has a black nose and pointed ears and very long legs for running long distances and leaping up to four foot in the air to catch birds. She is just so stunning. We watch her run after a flock of birds that were hidden in the grass. They fly up in fright and out of her grasp. She stops and looks around and heads into a group of bushes to probably look for hares to hunt. I am beyond happy to see her.
We see a large tower of Giraffe, unusual in the reserve, they stand together in the morning light, their fabulous colours lit up. It is a resplendent tower of giraffes. They are just so graceful as they walk.
We head for a late breakfast under a tree, we are pleased with how the early part of the morning ended. Breakfast is once again a feast of eggs, sausages, cinnamon rolls and coffee. It is so delicious.
And nature now just keeps giving and giving. We drive along the Oriong area of the Mara River there is a heady scent of wild mint in the air and we spot a male lion in the bushes, it is Morani part of the four musketeer Lion brothers. We start to drive to him when we spot an adolescent Hippo lying next to a nearby bush, it looks peaceful and asleep. Oh how looks can be deceiving because near a male Lion that would not be feasible. The Hippo is dead and lying next to him is another male ion Sikio. It is such a peaceful scene of one animal sleeping peacefully alongside another, when I take a photo it could be titled unlikely friendships. It is likely the Hippo earlier this morning was heading back to the nearby pool and the Lions were walking close by and took the opportunity to kill it. It is a very popular misconception that the male Lions do not hunt, it is harder for them because their manes give them away but they are as successful as the females. Sikio gets up and stretches and yawns and even though it is midday starts to eat. Hippo has probably been dead now for a few hours so is starting to smell quite bad. Sikio starts to paw at the carcass trying to turn in over so it can drag it into the shade of the bush. The Hippo is large and heavy and it takes several attempts for him to turn it over. He licks the flesh and once again a picture would look like he is washing it, how looks can be so deceptive. Once he turns it over he starts to tear into the hard flesh of the belly. He rips it open and uses his claws and teeth to tear off chunks of flesh to chew. He uses his canines to pull the stomach out of the Hippo and rips it open, he tears off a section. The stomach contents spills out, it is a huge amount of undigested grass. The stomach is huge but seeing such a large amount of grass is fascinating. It spills to the ground as the Lion eats the lining. He then puts his head right inside the body cavity to gain access to the soft tissue inside. A Hippo is very fatty so the internal organs will be tastier. It is so interesting watching him using his paws and claws to pull out the insides. He eats his fill and walks away to drink some water, it is very hot now and he is tired and thirty. Morani then gets up from a nearby bush and comes over to the carcass and starts to feed. It is large kill and will feed them for a couple of days. He tears at the flesh, you can see the sinewy tissue as he pulls out it out stringy and attached to the body. He too eats his fill for now and joins his brother.
Back down by the river we see two Lionesses on the other bank, they are following the Zebra migration hoping to hunt one. The Zebra run on ahead of them aware of the predator. Further along we see the rest of the herd of Zebra they have found a good place to cross the river. They head carefully down the banks of the river and cross the fast flowing river. The rocks are slippery underneath and some stumble and slip but regain their footing and cross safely. They are fortunate no Crocodiles are around. They all cross safely to the other side.
We find a quiet place by the river for lunch. Hippo wallow in the waters in front of us, honking and splashing. It is an idyllic peaceful scene to eat our lunch to, especially after such an exciting morning.
After lunch we decide to return to the male Lions but we see a Lioness in the distance walking with three cubs of around four months old. She has blood on her face and front legs so she has clearly made a kill. The cubs are excited as they can smell the blood on her and communicating to her with their distinctive squeak. As they walk the cubs rub against her, play with her tail and try and pounce on her. They walk down past where we saw the Lions with the Hippo kill and down to the banks of the river. We see a lone Lioness and she is guarding a kill. In the tufts of long grass is a Topi kill laying waiting. The cubs can smell it and run excitedly towards it. The Lionesses follow and start to rip open the kill. We can barely see the Topi as the three Lionesses and five cubs descend on it, they are hungry so they fight and growl over the choicest parts. The young cubs have to hold their own in this situation as this is the wild and the fittest and most dominant survive. It is fantastic to hear the growls and moans of the Lions. We can hear bones cracking, flesh tearing and juices being slurped up, nothing will be wasted.
After a while the mother Lioness leaves the group and starts to walk purposefully. We think she is going to the males but she walks past them. Herds of Topi, Thompson Gazelle and Buffalo snort warning calls as she passes, one Buffalo even chases her but she is on a mission. We follow her for a couple of miles as she is so purposeful and so determined that we are intrigued by her behaviour. Then she makes her distinctive motherly call and a cub yelps back so pleased to see his mother. They run towards each other and they greet. The cub is over joyed and rubs himself furiously against his mother he is beyond ecstatic to see her. He clearly was left behind when she retrieved the other cubs and is relieved to be reunited, it is a heart-warming beautiful scene. She leads him all the way back to the kill. The herds once again make an alarm call as they pass but they are delighted to be together and keep nuzzling and communicating. Once back at the kill they cub hungrily joins the others in devouring the carcass. There are groans and growls as they eat together. As some of the Lionesses finish they walk to a nearby pool to drink the refreshing water. The cubs lick themselves and start chasing and playfully with each other, they have full bellies. The sun begins to set and the warm glow lights up their golden fur.
We start to drive back to camp slowly watching out for whatever nature gives us and we see in the distance another male Lion. To my joy it is Scarface the ten year old dominant male of the Musketeer boys. He gets his name from the deep scar over his right eye. I have to admit he is not the most handsome Lion but he has the largest most regal full mane I have ever seen. In the sunset it glows black, brown, red and golden, it really is quite staggeringly stunning. He walks close to us and climbs a mound as if to say you can worship and adore my regal magnificence from this elevated height. Of course we do exactly that as he is a sight to behold.
We leave him and drive back to camp, as we arrive we are greeted by a biblical sunset, a fiery glow of purples, pinks, oranges and reds. It lights up the whole sky silhouetting the trees and bushes against its breath taking beauty. I feel peaceful and happy after our day with the royals of the Mara, the magnificence that is Lions. It is no wonder I was born under this sign.
I enjoy a fabulous dinner in camp chatting to the guides. All the staff here are just so friendly and lovely, it is always a good evening.
I fall asleep peacefully to the sound of the flowing Mara River, my nightly lullaby.
This is my Africa – my heart my peace.
Day 10 –
Another heavenly peaceful night. I wake up naturally before sunrise and listen to the dawn chorus of the birds in the trees, Hippos walking next to my tent returning to the river after their nightly graze and the rhythmic flow of the Mara. My coffee arrives and I enjoy some time sitting quietly before my full day out in this beautiful heavenly place. Who knows what nature will give us today but I am excited and happy. Outside my tent Isaac greets me and we chat then he puts a protective arm in front of me as a Hippo comes out of the bushes. I feel quite safe as I have an Askari between me and natures biggest killer. Fortunately the Hippo is just interested in returning to the water. We walk on to my vehicle and I am greeted by Dan and we set off.
The sunrise is stunning the sky is so clear with not a cloud in sight. The sun bursts pink purple and red into the sky an amazing natural light show. The dazzling light illuminates all it touches. It is the dawn of another exciting day, it fills you with peace hope and love.
We drive down to the river and find Sikio the male Lion with the hippo carcass, it is completely hollowed out and you can see inside the entire body cavity. It is fascinating to see, jackel are wandering around hoping to pick up scraps. A jackel could get into the entire body and probably will once the Lions have finished with it. It is wonderful watching the male tear off chunks of flesh and chew it. Of course now the Hippo has been dead in the sun for more than 24 hours it really smells quite bad. We have to pull back a little as it is quite overwhelmingly pungent. Of course Dan (Masai name – Sikona) says it smells yummy and I challenge him to go down and taste some, funnily enough he declines! Sikio pulls at the carcass and drags it further into the shade. Even though it is becoming very smelly he may well still eat it tonight and tomorrow.
Further away the three Lionesses and four cubs are still with their Topi kill from last night. There is only the horns and a few bones left. They cubs love to gnaw and chew on the bones and play with the horns. The grass is long and tufty and cubs love jumping on it. It is lovely seeing them so playful. They start chasing each other through the grass, pouncing, biting necks and chewing tails. The females need a rest from the cubs so they leave the grassy verge and walk into the distance. They leave the cubs in the capable paws of an older female cub of around eight months old, she is almost fully grown but still playful. She starts to join in the fun of the chase with the four month cubs and even though she is much bigger than them and quite rough the little cubs take her on, they are very brave and boisterous. She is a good babysitter and entertains but cares for them. The cubs are restless and notice the females have gone, they call for them in their cute squeaky voices but the females are off in the distance. The cubs get distracted and start playing again until they grow tired and the young female walks them up the hill to the dense bushes to sleep in safety for the day. The cubs still have large round bellies from the kill so will sleep peacefully.
We drive further down the river and find a beautiful spot for breakfast. We see a beautiful elephant pepper tree, tall and architectural, but what makes it so stunning is the strangling fig tree that is growing on it. It vines are twisting around the trunk creating interesting artistic shapes. It really is so beautiful. Of course once the fig is fully grown it will kill off the elephant pepper tree. We sit by the river and eat breakfast, relaxing after our exciting morning. The sun is now very hot but it lovely to bask in the heat and stillness. We chat about our time together on the reserve and everything we have seen.
After breakfast we drive to the Talek River and find the stunning Cheetah Malika with her gorgeous cubs, they are relaxing under a group of croton bushes. They seem hungry but sleepy, they are conserving their energy for hunting. Nearby a large black and white secretary bird stalks through the grass looking for snakes, lizards and small birds. It is quite tall and graceful with its fan of plumage on its head. It is so relaxing sitting and watching wild cats as they act and behave like domestic cats. Cheetahs have a real serenity about them.
We drive through the plains drinking in the beauty of the savannah, herds of Zebra, Topi, Buffalo, Elan, Impala and Thompson gazelle roam so freely. We come across a herd of Elephants, one cheeky bull male is showing off and being naughty waving his large member at us, we laugh.
We go back down to the river for lunch, it is such stunning scenery. We relax and eat under the shade of an Acacia tree, it is so nice to relax in our peaceful surroundings. It has been an amazing five days on the reserve, nature has given us so much. Dan has been an amazing knowledgeable guide and I have enjoyed our time together.
We head back to Malika after lunch. She is still relaxing with her cubs, it is beautiful to watch. Even though it is mid-afternoon it is incredibly hot still and they enjoy just lying out.
We decide to head back to the Talek River and to my delight we see a male Leopard sat on the banks of the river. He is an adolescent male but still strong and powerful. He looks very relaxed after a day sleeping in the bushes. He just sits in the sun enjoying the last rays of the day before he hunts. We is breathtakingly handsome and I enjoy observing him.
We have an incredible drive back to camp, the sun is setting but the cloud formations across the setting sun are so stunning and artistic we have to stop many times to photograph them. The sky is aglow with pinks purples reds and gold, the light streams across the plains of the Mara lighting up the grasses. It is a vision of natural beauty and wonder. It is the perfect ending to my time on the reserve.
I say goodbye to Dan and enjoy a final meal in camp with the managers and guests, it is a lovely evening.
I fall asleep happy to the sounds of Hippos, bull frogs and Lions roaring.
This is my Africa my home.
The morning breaks beautiful and clear. I am heading off to the Naboisha conservancy today. My guide Daniel greets me and we drive through the plains under the glow of the red, orange and yellow rising sun. The warmth of the sun touches my face and I feel its strength and life giving properties.
In the distance we see an Aardwolf, it looks like a cross between a hyena and jackel. It is scurrying into a burrow so we do not observe it for long as it is nocturnal. This is the first one I have ever seen so it lovely to see.
We observe a Lioness walking on the ridge, she is silhouetted against the rising sun. She will be joining the rest of the pride to sleep for the day after a night of exhausting hunting. From the carcasses we have driven past there is no doubt it was a successful night.
We drive out of the reserve and through to the Naboisha conservancy. As we do we drive through Masai villages, it is interesting seeing how the Masai live and tend their cattle. The terrain of the conservancy is very different to the reserve, there are more trees and it is rockier. It is equally beautiful and awe inspiring up here.
We are visiting the Maa Trust today. It is a charity for Masai women, they make the beautiful Masai bead work jewellery and sell it through their website and here to tourists. Their work is stunning. The woman are paid allowing the woman to earn an income for themselves and the profits are used to create educational facilities for the young woman and it also funds community projects. I sit talking with Crystal the CEO of the project and Resian, Crystals research assistant about the work they do. Their website explains it beautifully;
“The Maa Trust is a non-profit organisation based in community-owned conservancies in the Masai Mara, Kenya. We work to increase the benefits of wildlife and conservation to Masai families so that they appreciate, and contribute to the protection of, wild animals on their land, and we aim to unite communities by involving them in conservation at a management level.
At The Maa Trust, we believe in research-based development and undertake detailed baseline and end line assessments so as to both quantify and qualify our impact. Our team has spent years going door-to-door asking thousands of ordinary people for their views, needs and aspirations. We listen carefully to what they say, think and ask for, and we act on this, rather than what donors want to give. By directing funding appropriately, and ensuring projects are set up and handed over in a sustainable manner, we help people to help themselves.
Unlike many organisations working in remote areas of Kenya, we are a permanent presence on the ground in the Masai Mara and we directly oversee all of our projects. While we strongly encourage communities to take ownership of projects upon completion, we continually monitor our work, and we are on hand should they need advice or guidance with repairs or maintenance issues.
The Maa Trust empowers local people by promoting small business start-ups & micro finance schemes, enabling them to make their own money and to invest in their family’s development. For example, in our social enterprises, Maa Beadwork and Maa Honey, we measure the success of these projects not only on how much money the ladies earn, but also the impact that these earnings have upon their lives. Our members self-identify their needs and wish list of items, and The Maa Trust helps them to save up for and attain these. Despite a severe lack of education granted to girl children in previous years, our female beadwork and honey members are now affording and investing in clean drinking water for their homes, solar power, alternative fuel to firewood, and they can now send more of their children to school.
We believe that education is a key to the success of the Mara conservancies and to the survival of this world-famous ecosystem. In collaboration with donor organisations, The Maa Trust builds classrooms and dormitories with electricity and clean water; connects children in need with scholarship and bursary sponsors; and organizes conservation education for students and teachers.”
Crystal and Resian show me around the shop showing me the stunning jewellery, bags and accessories they have produced. I watch the men cutting the leather for the belts and bags and the ladies sat on the grass sewing the bead work. It painstaking, detailed, time consuming work, the woman are very talented and create such beautiful work. I purchase many pieces as this beautiful jewellery can be easily worn here and in the UK. The colours are stunning. I intend to start working with this charity as the work they do is helping so many woman on the Mara to gain education, work and independence. A right all woman should have.
Daniel and I leave the project laden with bags of beautiful jewellery and accessories and drive out into the conservancy. In the distance we see Lappet faced vulture, the largest of the vultures, Ruppells Griffon Vulture
and African White backed vulture. They are sitting on and pecking at a whole dead Wildebeest, it probably died of natural causes. I enjoy watching how they squabble over who will eat first.
At this time of year the Wildebeest are calving all at the same time. It is safety in numbers as the calves and mothers are in danger from predators. I have seen many calves killed whilst their legs are still wobbly. They have to be up on their feet and walking and running quickly. It is interesting as the vultures will eat the afterbirth, keeping the Mara clean.
We see the beautiful Cheetah Naborr (Swahili – relaxed) with two cubs one male one female of around 6 months old. She chased an Impala but did not catch it they are very fast and can change direction as they run very quickly. She they lays with her cubs in the shade of a tree to regain her breathe and scan the plains for another opportunity. The cubs play around her also aware of their environment and the opportunities to hunt as well as any potential threats.
Graceful Giraffes stretch their necks to eat the thorny whistling Acacia. They use their long hard tongues to wrap around the thorns and pull off large fronds. They chew slowly breaking down the leaves and thorns before digesting. They seem very calm, thoughtful animals, noiseless but very observant and curious.
We drive through herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, Elan and Thompson Gazelle. They peacefully graze together on constant watch for approaching predators.
We stop for lunch under the shade of the tree in front of the herds. They carry on their grazing as we do ours. It has been a fabulous morning and we chat about Masai culture and the work of the Maa project. A tower of Giraffes amble past us staring at us eating. We are watching them as they are watching us, it is most bemusing.
We find the Cheetah Naborr again sitting underneath a bush rolling over and frolicking. She gets up and chases a herd of Impala and misses again as a group of Masai ladies collecting firewood come into view. She walks off to find a better hunting ground. There is a finely balanced relationship between the Masai and wildlife.
We drive past a stunning architectural group of Yellow back Acacia trees, the leaves are iridescent in the light. They are such beautiful trees. Vervet monkeys swing from them and then jump down to the ground to forage for seeds and insects.
A pair of Dick Dick deer run past us they are Chakula Cha Duma, Cheetah food. I love how small they are with their large pretty eyes. It is also so endearing how they mate for life.
We find the Ilkisiausiau pride of Lions. There are two three year old females playing together. One sits on the other and they play fight, they are typical sisters annoying each other. They still have rosettes on their bellies as they are still young. They are so healthy and beautiful, such exquisite cats.
As we drive back to camp in the glow of the setting sun we find Tembo ToTo (baby Elephant) of less than a week old. It is sheltering under the protection of its mothers belly. It is just so small and vulnerable and a real joy to see at the end of another amazing day.
At camp I am greeted by Della and Richard my friendly, fabulous and fun camp managers. As always after a wonderful but tiring day out they warmly welcome me with a drink. We talk about my day and the changes in camp before me head for a wonderful delicious dinner.
I sleep soundly to the sounds of the wild. I love listening to Lions roar as I fall peacefully off to sleep.
Day 12 –
I wake after a really great sleep in my beautiful tent. The first thing I hear is lions roaring and calling very close to my tent. It is an amazing sound and it makes me excited for the day as we did not find the male Lions last night. Coffee comes and I chat to the room steward about the Lions. I drink my coffee and enjoy the sounds of the wild all around me. I dress full Masai today with some of my beautiful new Jewellery. At 6.15 I meet my beautiful Masai sister Evelyn at the land cruiser and we hug as we missed each other, it will be an exciting day.
We drive out as the sun is rising. It is a spectacular sunrise, it is literally every colour of the rainbow it is awe inspiring. The prey grazing on the dewy grass and are beautifully silhouetted. Architectural Acacia trees are silhouetted on the horizon, it really looks like the opening scene from the Lion King. My heart is bursting with the beauty of the nature surrounding me. Then my heart’s desire is fulfilled three magnificent regal male Lions are walking across the plains, their black and golden manes lit up by the sun’s rays. The males are around eight years old and are exude dominance power and strength. Two stunning Lionesses are walking with them. They all have full bellies so they have clearly hunted in the night and are walking to the bushes for shade. The males stop to stretch and yawn and scent mark the bushes and trees. The females are regal and young, about three years old, they really are quite stunningly beautiful. We follow them until they retreat into the bushes from the sun that is now growing warm. The croton bushes will provide both shade from the sun but also insect repellent from the flies and mosquitos.
We drive through a large herd of Wildebeest and Zebra. Almost all the Wildebeest have calves or Chakula Cha Simba (Lion Food). As if to demonstrate just over the ridge we find three Lionesses one has caught a very young Wildebeest ToTo (baby). The Lioness is crunching on its soft bones, the Toto could not have been more than a few days old. The Lioness crunches tears and chews the soft flesh. The Lioness’ face is covered in blood as she enjoys her very easily caught morning snack. She looks happy and content as she would have used little energy to kill it. It is difficult to watch limbs being torn away from the delicate fragile body of the baby but this is nature, the circle of life. It is hard though hearing the mournful call of the Wildebeest mother to her calf. She stands of the ridge near the Lionesses and at times even comes close, she wants her baby. She does not leave the whole time it is being eaten. One of the other Lionesses comes close to the Lioness eating the baby, she wants a part of the kill but cats do not share. The Lioness eating growls in warning at the other so she sits apart and starts to wash. I love watching the Lionesses grooming they act just the same as our domestic cats, using their large paws to wash their faces and lifting their legs to wash their bellies with their long raspy tongues. The cheeky female then walks over to the female eating and lays next to her hoping in vain to get some food, she rolls over playfully to her to get her attention but it does not work. She keeps rolling over and over which is endearing and sweet then she sees her opportunity and grabs a limb from the carcass and runs off with it and starts to eat it. Fortunately the other female is now satisfied so she leaves the other female with the remains of the kill. The female brings the leg back to the remains of the kill and starts eating the rest of the carcass. She enjoys chewing the flesh from the bones and crunching the bones, she salivates as she enjoys this unexpected threat. All this time the mother Wildebeest still cries in the back ground. As the Lioness finishes off the remains jackel and vultures smell the blood and start to encircle the lioness, they are patient and remain hovering the back ground. As soon as she is finished the Jackel leap in grabbing in their jaws the rest of the carcass, at the same time a dozen Vultures swoop down wanting the remains to, a fight ensues as both scavengers want to clean up. The two Jackals chase the Vultures who are most indignant. The Jackals run off with the remains and the Vultures are left with picking bits of flesh and tissue in the grass. It is not very satisfying for them so they stretch their impressive wings and fly back up into the trees. We drive off leaving the scavengers to do their job.
Within minutes we see the three Cheetah brothers walking purposefully, their lithe athletic bodies undulating as they walk. They are so graceful and beautiful. Herds of Wildebeest, Impala and Thompson Gazelle bark around them giving a warning call. Occasionally a Cheetah will break away and chase one, it seems more for fun than serious hunting. This scatters the prey in panic, it is most amusing. The Cheetahs walk on, birds fly overhead too making warning calls letting other prey know predators are coming. The Cheetah walk through some bushes and find a shaded Acacia tree to sit under. They relax under the tree and roll over frolicking with each other. They are very relaxed and happy. We are enjoying our time with them so much we decide to eat breakfast in the vehicle. What a unique privileged position to be in! After breakfast we sit and watch the Cheetah for a couple of hours, it is so relaxing watching cats play, groom and sleep. We then drive past yellow back Acacia trees looking iridescent and shimmery in the sun. Vervet monkeys with their distinctive blue balls sit in the trees grooming each other and picking off insects. Below noisy Hippo wallow in the waters, grunting and splashing. Giraffes amble into view to stretch their necks and munch on the high branches. It is a utopia for prey animals as the predators sleep in the hot midday sun.
We drive through herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Water buck. The rivers are still low so as we drive through the gorges we see the beautiful rock formations that would usually be hidden under the flowing waters.
We find a beautiful tree to picnic under for lunch. It is wonderfully relaxing sitting in the shade just watching the wildlife around us. My beautiful sister and I talk about our lives, how different they are but also how similar we are in our strength as women out there making a difference and hopefully inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves and have a can do attitude. We bond over our shared passion for nature and wildlife. Evelyn is a real inspiration, a beautiful woman inside and out who I have nothing but total respect for, her story is just so incredibly moving I love her strength and the respect she has for herself and the determination with which she lives her life. She is unique and special and a lesson to all women to always inspire to be more.
With that we find the three Lionesses walking through the open plain, it is cooler now after a big rain storm. They are quite frisky so even though they are adults they play fight and frolic with each other, it is wonderful to watch. Large herds of Wildebeest and Thompson Gazelle are all around them and they snort in annoyance of having predators in their mist trying to hunt them. The Lionesses walk straight past them seemingly on a mission. The Lionesses start to make their low calling noise and it is clear they want to meet up with the rest of the pride. We follow them across the plains. We find the three dominant males asleep in the grass, their manes a glow black red and gold in the setting sun’s rays. They are so magnificent, there will never be a time I am not in awe in their presence. They are just feet from us but we are not their prey. They look up at us with their beautiful golden eyes, regal powerful beautiful. They sit up and yawn showing their full canines, perfect powerful killers, but right now they are peaceful and relaxed after a day sleeping. I love seeing them stretch their muscular bodies on full display. They get up and start walking together, they rub their bodies and head together, and they have such affection for one another. A coalition of males is a strong bond of trust and affection. It is a privilege to go with them watching them walk. They then sit and rest as the sun goes completely down and they start their low throaty deep roar to the rest of the pride to gather for their nightly hunt. We are so close to them and the sound just goes through us, it is so masculine primal and strong and dominant. It is now dark so we head to camp.
This is my last night and I am sorry to be going, this has been an incredible trip. I have dinner with Della the fabulous manager here and we swop our favourite cat stories. It is a lovely last evening.
On the way back to my tent my Askari and I chat and as I reach my tent he shines his light on two Lionesses sleeping about fifty feet from my tent, I am just overwhelmed with happiness to share the night with them.
This is my Africa, my heart, my soul, my home.
Day 13 –
My last day! This has been a wonderful safari, it will be hard to leave my spiritual home. Here I am Nashipae, white Masai, my soul is free as a bird! Here I find my peace and happiness, to be this happy is such a blessing. I hear the roar of the Lions outside my tent, they have been around most of the night. I will miss the sound of the wild. I leave my tent with my Askari Simon and we talk about the Lion’s nightly activity, he has been outside my tent all night keeping me safe. I say farewell to Della and Richard the wonderful camp managers and tell them I will be back soon, they have been such lovely hosts and always make me feel so welcome. The sun is rising over the camp, it is such a stunning setting. I hug my beautiful Masai sister and guide Evelyn and we set off for our final game drive. The sun rises in a perfect cloudless sky, it beams a stunning watercolour of purples, pinks, yellows and reds in a very Monet style. It is quite breathe taking.
We are so blessed in our final few hours of my time here we find the five Cheetah males. They are walking through the bushes looking to hunt. They are quite young still with so much exuberance and vitality. They frolic and play with each other. Cheetahs love to roll over and over like domestic cats, they bump into each other as they do so. They sit by the bushes watching the game and decide on whether they are within a reasonable distance to hunt. As it is growing warmer they decide to lay and rest.
We drive near the air strip to have breakfast. I am so sad to be leaving my spiritual home and my Masai friends. This has been a truly wonderful safari. As I get on the plane to take me back to Nairobi I hug Evelyn and take one last look after me and breath in the heady scent of the trees, bushes and plains. The flight back is only 50 minutes but it affords me a last vista of my beautiful Masai Mara. Coming here is such a gift and a blessing. A blessing I love to share as this really is the most beautiful place on earth. Wild, raw, free, beautiful.
This is my Africa, my heart, my home, my soul and they place I will always come back to.