Day 1 –
I woke this morning at the beautiful Ole Sereni hotel on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. I am home, once more Nashipai White Masai. The wide open plains stretch before me the greens, reds and golds of the grasses and leaves in contrast to the rich orange soil. I dress in my beautiful Masai dress and jewellery and head to Wilson Airport to get my one hour flight out to the Mara North Conservancy. The flight is turbulent as we fly at low altitude but the views are spectacular over the Mara plains. Herds of Elephants, Zebra and Wildebeest can be seen from the air, it is breath taking. As we land on the plains Zebra scurry in each direction, there is no airport here. I am greeted by my wonderful guides Sam and Mark. As they know me well they have packed lunch so we can safari straight away.
There are two main languages used on the Mara, Swahili and MAA and of course each Masai tribe has its own dialect. You will often see the word Masai spelt wrong, it is actually MAASAI, MAA is the language and SAI is the land. But it is now most commonly spelt Masai for tourism.
I am keen to see the Cheli pride of Lions (Simba in Swahili) as these were the first pride I ever saw when I came to the Mara all those years ago. Within an hour we find two of the beautiful Lionesses, they are sleeping under some bushes as it is nearly midday and it is hot. Their beautiful golden fur is lit by the sun rays and shimmer gold; they are very healthy females of around eight years old.
The Mara North Conservancy has recently had rain so it is very green and lush with new grass. The Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala and Topi graze peacefully on the fresh grass. A herd of Elephants are in a ravine drinking in the cool waters; they march up the banks and join the rest of the herd enjoying the fresh new shoots. White tissue flowers sprout up through the grasses; the Baboons enjoy eating their sweet petals.
I love just driving in the open vehicle stood on my seat holding onto the roll bars breathing in the exotic intoxicating scent of the trees and bushes and visually drinking in the beauty of the landscape. It is stunning beautiful, wild and natural.
We drive to the very scenic Offbeat area; it is very luscious and green with a plethora of exotic trees and plants. It has been over a year since I have seen the Offbeat pride as they can be very elusive but to my delight we find a Lioness laying under a tree, she calls and out comes three beautiful cubs of just a few months old. They frolic and play, practicing pouncing and jumping on each other, valuable skills for when they are older. The Lioness spots a group of Topi and moves off to hunt them but she is too exposed.
By the road we see a large female Hyena (Fisi in Swahili) sitting at the entrance of her den. The females are larger than the male. To my absolute delight a small dark brown pup of just a few days old comes out of the den, it squeaks and she picks it up in her mouth and puts it back in the den, she is a very protective mother.
A safari of Giraffe (Twiga in Swahili) walk by and stop to graze the tops of bushes, they are the gardeners of the Mara keeping the bushes nicely trimmed. They graze silently they make no sound. They use their impressive long tongues to pull off fronds of leaves and chew them slowly.
We stop for lunch by the river; it is a stunning setting with Hippo wallowing in the water. We talk about the land, vegetation and how the Masai live on the land utilising what nature has given them. Nearby we see Masai grazing their cattle in the presence of the wildlife around them. It is a delicate balance that sometimes results in conflict but mainly the two live side and side quite well as they have done for hundreds of years.
I am beyond happy as we find two young male Lions of around 3-4 years old, their manes are still entirely golden they have not started turning black with age yet. They are majestic and quite staggeringly handsome. They are not too scarred from fighting to defend territory or from mating with females. It is still hot so they are sleepy. Nearby we find the rest of the pride sleeping in the bushes.
We find three Cheetahs (Duma in Swahili) lying out on the plains; it is two brothers and a sister. They are very relaxed occasionally rolling over and stretching out affording us a wonderful view of their lithe bodies. They are so graceful and elegant. They sit up and survey the plains for prey to hunt; it is still hot so they will probably hunt later. They lick their paws and wash their faces like all cats do, I do find it very endearing.
We drive through wonderful herds of Topi, Impala and Thompson Gazelle. Within the herds we find the national bird of Uganda the Grey Crowned Crane; it has beautiful plumage and a stunning crown of yellow feathers.
Herds of Buffalo sit together with young protected in the centre of the herd from predators. White Oxpeckers hop over the Buffalo eating fleas and ticks; they also alert the Buffalo to approaching predators they have a harmonious relationship.
Going back to the Lions one of the males has walked off and is sitting with a Lioness, they are clearly a mating pair. We sit patiently until they decide to mate. It is always the Lioness who decides when she is ready. She yawns, stretches and stands. She walks over to the Lion rubbing against him so he can scent she is ready to mate. He growls stands and she crouches in front of him so he can mount her front behind. As he does they both snarl and growl it is an uncomfortable experience for both of them, the mating is over within seconds as they will mate three or four times an hour in the first day and then less over the next four days so they know she is impregnated. When he finishes she swipes him with her claws hence why you see such scarred faces of the male. She then rolls over to aid the direction of the sperm. He moves away from her and they sit apart. Not terribly romantic but this is all about the survival of the pride.
Just over twenty minutes later she is ready to mate again, but he is young and inexperienced. She places herself in front of him and he begins to groom her by licking her beautiful fur. It is most affectionate but she growls at him as he has a role to fulfil. He stops licking and mounts her again, he bites her neck and they growl and snarl at each other. When he dismounts he narrowly misses her claws as she swipes at him. He unusually sits close to her and she growls at him as she wants space, he has fulfilled his duty.
The sun sets on this romantic scene, I love how the suns warm glow lights up the gold of the Lions fur. As the sun sets over the hills it sends radiant vibrant glow of reds, golds and oranges across the sky. The plains are bathed in its final warm glow. I love the sunset it is romantic but also a time to reflect on such a wonderful day, nature has given us so much beauty.
We drive to Serian main camp and are greeted by the wonderful staff. The camp has a beautiful position on the river and the tents are very luxurious. I love how the bathrooms have a bath formed like it is cut out of rock and you can bathe over-looking the river.
I join the other guests and managers for drinks around the fire so we can share stories of our day. We then enjoy a truly delicious meal, the chefs are very accomplished and Kenyan food is superb. A Genet cat sits on the rafters nearby and watches us, it is quite habituated and I feed it some food. I enjoy the group dinners as it is a chance to chat about safari experiences.
I walk back to my tent with my wonderful Askari and I listen to the sound of the night. The camp is completely open to the wild but quite safe. My lullaby is the sound of the river and laughing Hippo. I fall peacefully to sleep.
This is my Africa, my heart, my home.
Day 2 –
I wake so happy and relaxed to the sound of laughing hippos in the Mara River that gently flows outside my tent. The sound of the wild comes to life around me as I sit and drink my delicious aromatic morning coffee. I dress in my beautiful Masai dress and jewellery and leave my tent. It is still dark as I love to leave camp before sunrise, the air is crisp and fresh and the scent of the croton bushes fills my lunges. I breathe deep and feel so happy and alive. I greet Mark and Sam my wonderful guides and we bundle ourselves in Masai blankets. Camp is fully open to the wild and Impala, Dik-Dik, Elan and Hartebeest graze on the rich green dewy grass.
The sun begins to rise as we drive out; the sky starts to light up with a vibrant glow of reds, oranges, purples and yellows. The colours flash across the sky like an artist’s broad brush strokes. The grazing animals are silhouetted in front of nature’s masterpiece. We stop to appreciate nature’s light show. The trees and prey and now perfectly silhouetted as the sun rises like a flaming fireball, vast, powerful and magnificent a perfect sphere of life giving energy. The sunrise brings joy and hope of another blessed day.
We shortly see the gift of new life, a Topi has given birth in the last hour the Toto (Swahili for baby) is still wet from birth and nestles next to its mother. The mother knows the vulnerability of its baby so encourages its spindly legs to trot alongside her. It is a beautiful scene of perfect happiness. This is nature though.
We hear the low roaring call of the Cheli pride of Lions a short distance away and we find the alpha male Lion sitting with two Lionesses. The sun is still rising and the orange, red and yellow of the low sun beams perfectly lights up the gold of the Lions fur. The Lions are really healthy and majestic, the royalty of the Mara. They are strong and powerful with a regal air. The male sits up and his darkening mane glows dark gold and brown against his blonde fur. He has a strong face and a muscular body; he is the protector and ruler of his domain.
They are sitting next to a termite mound and from it comes the cutest squeak of a Lion cub it is only two months old. It is a small ball of cuteness, plump and still covered in its rosette markings. Its mother gets up and greets it with a low call, the cub squeaks back, it is an endearing sight. Then the other Lioness jumps up alerting the Lion, she has seen the Topi with the baby, both Lionesses and the Lion start to run after them. The Topi runs but the baby is too young and the Lioness catches it with ease clamping her powerful jaws around the babies’ throat instantly strangling it. She walks off with her kill the Toto Topi’s lifeless body dangling from her mouth. The Lion wants her kill as his breakfast and starts to chase the Lioness for it. They run across the plains it is a magnificent sight but as they leap over a ravine she drops the kill into the water. The Lion is shocked he paces around the ravine but he will not go into the water to retrieve the kill. The Lionesses walk off she will retrieve it later. The Lion gives up and joins the Lionesses.
The Lioness re-joins her cub it is delighted to see her; it leaps on her and plays with her tail. She is a good mother and plays with her cub. It squeaks and starts to play with a ball of dung, rolling it around. There is only one cub so we can only assume the others were killed by Hyena. These are the Cheli Lionesses but the Lion is from the Marsh pride, they recently deposed the Cheli male and took over the pride. The Lioness sits down and the cub settles on her paws, it is so beautiful seeing its tiny body lying on such magnificent paws.
A short drive away we see an Elephant (Tembo in Swahili) grazing in front of a herd of Zebra (Punda Milia in Swahili)) and Topi. It is an idyllic scene of peace. The herd turn and start to stare as they spot two adolescent Lions of around a year old lying under a tree. They are both male they have the start of a fluffy mane. Their protective mother sits a short distance away. A commotion starts a short distance away a troupe of Baboons have grabbed a baby Thompson gazelle, they try and tear it apart but before that happens a Hyena runs in and chases the baby and pulls it down. We think it is over but the adolescent Lions see the commotion and run it and grab the baby and kill it swiftly. The young male walks off with the gazelle dangling lifelessly from its mouth. The Lioness watches with pride as her cubs tear apart the kill and have a small morning snack. The cub that caught the gazelle eats the lions share; he crunches even the soft skull and bones nothing will be left not even skin. The other cub tries to get the other to share but he will not, this is the survival of the fittest.
The Baboon who first caught the gazelle approaches the cubs screeching as it wants its kill back as Baboons prize meat but the cubs will not give it up. His screeches clearly tell the cubs he is not happy. The Baboon shimmies up the tree and watches the cubs from the branches, there are no scraps of flesh left. The Lioness watches protectively.
After their morning snack the cubs head for water, they bend their muscular frames and lap up thirstily with their raspy tongues. When they finish they join their proud mother, nuzzling and greeting her. One cub nestles next to her so she can lick his mussel clean of blood. His face shows sheer delight as she grooms her baby. Even though the cub is a year old and almost as large as her he loves his mother being so attentive and affectionate. He then starts washing her face, she is contented. The cubs will remain with her until they are two years old.
Female Water Buck graze by a beautiful architectural fallen sun bleached tree, they are one of the largest gazelle but rarely eaten by Lions as they have oily meat and give off a pungent odour when chased.
A journey of Giraffes graze on the tops of Acacia bushes, their extraordinary long tough tongues can rip off the thorny tufts and eat them. The bushes are low so they splay their legs to reach down and steady themselves. The escarpment towers behind them in the distance, the hills are covered in luscious green bushes against a perfect cloudless azure blue sky. These are Masai Giraffe and they graze alongside Topi in a perfect utopia. The sun is now beginning to warm the earth and I feel the peace and tranquillity of this blessed land.
We stop for breakfast at the river, it is a stunning setting as the sun is now fully risen and it is shining on the river, the water glistens like a million diamonds. Hippos wallow in the cool water, splashing and laughing. We put out our chairs and sit and eat breakfast enjoying the peace of our surroundings. It is incredibly idyllic as Zebra, Elan and Giraffe graze on the opposite bank. We talk about our eventful morning; we agree safaris are more than seeing animals it is about the experiences. It is about how the Masai people live on the land and share their lives with the wildlife. As we finish breakfast nature gives us a truly wonderful experience.
On the opposite bank a safari of over fifty Giraffe arrive at the edge of the river it is a stunning sight, intermingled with them is a small herd of Zebra, they are clearly wanting to cross. The Hippo watch them and it is quite safe as there are no crocodiles in this part of the river. Three Zebra tentatively walk down to the edge and start to cross, in the middle it is quite deep but they carry on walking and successfully cross to the other side. The Giraffes elegantly start to cross; they are slow and deliberate with their footing as the rocks on the bed of the river are slippery under their hooves. They cross as a group tightly packed to support and guide each other; I am in awe of their grace and beauty as they navigate across. It is our very own Giraffe migration and a rare sight I feel most privileged to see it. As the Hippo watch on the Giraffes successfully climb the opposite bank to reach new fresh bushes and trees.
We drive away from the river and follow the safari on Giraffes. Under the shade of a Leathery Leaf Safro tree the two one year old Lion cubs relax after their breakfast. The Giraffes spot the cubs and holt in front of them staring at them. The cubs stay seated and stare back, both know there is no threat as the cubs are so young but there is still wariness from the Giraffes. The dominant adult Giraffes stand in front of the others to protect them and assess the danger. The cubs look relaxed as they cannot hunt these Giraffes. Lions in general are wary around Giraffes as they have a powerful kick. After a while the Giraffes move off leaving the cubs to sleep in the morning sun.
It is a very hot day, the sun beats down on us, and I love the warmth. A group of Elan sleep under the shade of a tree and Zebra, Impala and Topi decide in the heat to take similar shade.
Topi compete for the rights to the top of the termite mounds; they give them great advantage points for checking for predators they have wonderful eyesight. On one termite mound we see three Topi competing for the top.
We decide to try and find Leopard; this is not an easy task as they are so elusive. We drive through beautiful forests of trees and croton bushes but even if they are there they are difficult to see, they could easily be looking at us but they can camouflage themselves well. We see a heavily pregnant Topi who is looking for a spot to give birth; it is risky in the bushes with Baboons and predators around as we saw this morning.
A male Impala makes a warning call and the rest of the herd look in that direction. A predator has been spotted, we hope it is a Leopard but it is a Baboon. It has killed a baby Impala and sits in the bushes eating it alive, they are not clean hunters like the cats they make their kill suffer which is very hard to see. It is hard watching the Baboons large canines tearing at the flesh of the very small baby Impala.
We stop for lunch under the shade of a Euphorbia, the shade is welcome as it is early afternoon and the sun beats down so hot. We have stopped later than usual as it has been such an eventful day already. We talk about our wonderful day so far and how the Masai Mara compares to other safaris. That answer is simple there is nowhere like the Mara for the outstanding wide open plains, diversity of the wildlife and the large quantities of predators and prey.
We drive past herds of grazing Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo. I love the rich tapestry of life here; it is often like a scene from the Lion King, Kitabu Yawanyama (in Swahili a book of the animals). They graze together for safety against predators.
Down in the area where the salt lick soil glistens white against the beige soil we see a young Lioness of around 2-3 years old laying peacefully waiting for prey to come to enjoy the salty soil, it is a cunning plan.
Across the plains we find the three Cheetahs frolicking and playing with each other, the setting sun warms their bodies and they are quite frisky. They lick each other and play with each other’s heads batting each other gently. They are around two years old so probably not long separated from their mother to fend for themselves. Thompson Gazelle graze nearby but they have seen the Cheetah and keep a wary eye on them. The warm glows of the sun lights up their distinctive markings it is so stunningly beautiful. They roll around on their backs enjoying having fun.
The sun sets on another glorious day on the Mara North Conservancy. As we drive back to camp the sky is lit up with the warm glow of reds oranges and golds, the sky is a perfect blue splashed with the paint strokes of the sun rays. I tilt my face up and feel the warmth of the sun, I feel so happy and at peace.
Back at the stunning Serian Camp I take a shower in my lovely tent and join Sofi the manager for drinks in front of the fire and we talk about my day. It is lovely just relaxing and reflecting on how blessed and privileged I am to be spending this time again in this stunning environment with these amazing animals born free and living free.
After a delicious dinner I return to my tent and sleep peacefully listening to the sound of the river.
This is my Africa my blessed home.
Day 3 –
Today I leave the beautiful Serian camp and head down to Nkorombo camp on the Mara River. I sit on the deck outside my tent to drink my morning coffee before sunrise and watch the Hippos in the river below. Across the river I can hear the throaty roar of the river pride of Lions calling to each other after a nights hunt.
I dress in my stunning Masai dress and jewellery and head to my vehicle and my wonderful guides Mark and Sam. We drive out as the sun begins to rise; it is a very clear morning so as the fireball rises magnificently over the hills the colours flash pink, purple, orange and red, it is inspiring and life giving, a perfect Monet painting. Elan, Impala and Thompson Gazelle stretch their bodies in the glow of the warmth. They are perfectly silhouetted against the sky. An Acacia tree sits on the horizon its thorny branches twisting like claws in a perfect black silhouette; it is quite stunning with the vibrant golden red sunrise colours behind it.
Hyena stretch out and yawn as they leave their dens to warm their bodies in the warm glow. As they yawn you can see their strong jaws open wide and their sharp canine teeth, they are not just scavengers, they are powerful hunters in their own right. Young adolescent pups timidly alight from the den their fur still pale due to their age.
Impala and Topi trot across the plains warming up their limbs, they are happy to survive the night as this is when Lions are most active hunting.
We are looking for Lions coming back from their nights hunt. In the distance we see a lone Lioness walking across the plains, she is striding purposefully probably to join the rest of her pride. We start to drive in her direction to see where she is headed but nature really gives this morning…
Sam calmly says Chui (Swahili for Leopard) immediately Mark and I adjust our gaze as a Leopard is walking to our right just out of a ravine. It is a male, strong and powerful with a thick fighter’s neck. As he walks I can observe his powerful muscular body, he moves confidently he is not shy like most Leopards. We start to follow him from a respectable safe distance. There are Thompson gazelle and Impala grazing in the distance and he is heading for them. They have seen him though and start making alarm calls.
The Leopard comes to an Elephant Pepper Tree and uses his sharp claws and powerful arms and shoulders to climb the trunk it is most impressive and exciting to watch. He carefully picks his way along one of the thick long branches and lays down on it, one back leg and his tail with the distinctive white tip dangling. This is the perfect vantage point to watch the herds of Impala and Thompson Gazelle.
Leopards are very patient ambush predators so he will choose the right moment to pounce. Of course he needs to conserve his energy so he rests his large powerfully built head on his impressive paws and looks across at us with his stunning green eyes before closing them and taking a cat nap. He does not rest long and occasionally lifts his head to check the status of the herd.
He is restless so he gets up and stretches his powerful muscles and walks back along the branch and grips the trunk with his claws and jumps down from the tree. The herd are alert and wary and make alarm calls. We follow him at a safe distance to give him space to hunt. The herd scatters in all directions but he knows they can outrun him so we carries on walking. The herd are all around him keeping him in their sight. We go ahead of him and watch him walk in our direction, it is most fascinating watching a herd of Impala and Thompson gazelle follow behind him.
He walks straight towards us and to my pleasure and privilege he stops right next to me less than two feet away looks up and sits right next to the vehicle. Leopards are the most dangerous and unpredictable of the large cats but I am respectful and just sit calmly and look down at him drinking in every detail of his distinctive black rosette covered golden fur. He exudes power but also a peace and calmness and I feel perfectly at one with him.
After a small rest he gets up and walks around our vehicle and heads towards a forest. Leopards like the dense vegetation as it is easier to ambush unsuspecting prey as they graze. We follow him at a distance into the forest. He scent marks several trees to mark his territory and finds a shady clearing to rest from the now hot beating sun.
My heart is bursting with love and respect for this magnificent powerful cat and I feel so privileged and honoured to spend nearly three hours in the presence of such awesome beauty and powerful. I have nothing but respect for such incredible cats living free in the wild.
We head for a late breakfast reluctantly and leave this Prince (Nyayo) amongst cats to sleep peacefully in the cool of the shade. We do not go far for as we will return to the Leopard. We find a lovely spot under a tree and enjoy a delicious breakfast discussing our great morning so far.
The Leopard has not moved as it is now getting hot and it is shady under the canopy of the trees. He is stretched out, his muscular frame elongated across the soft cool grass. He looks peaceful so we drive off to see what else nature will bring.
Not far away we see Hyenas cooling their bodies in a shallow watering hole. They have blood on their faces so they have either made a kill themselves or been scavenging a Lion kill. They are full and contented and do not even move when we drive past.
In the distance we can see Vultures and Marabou Storks circling in the sky, as we approach we observe at least thirty hopping around the ground. They have smelt blood. In the bushes is an almost full eaten Elan and next to it is a male Lion, three Lionesses and three cub of around four months old all looking full and contented, this would have been a large meal for them. The legs of the Elan are untouched but all that is left of the body is a cage of ribs. The vultures want to pick clean the carcass but the Lions will chase them off if they get too close.
Close by a herd of all female Elephants graze on Acacia bushes, they use their long trunks to wrap around the branches and tear them off. There are three baby Elephants in the herd of only around 3-5 months old, they stay close to their mothers for protection as they are very small and vulnerable at this age. One of the cheeky babies starts running around waving his willy like a typical little boy.
Across the plains we see Masai herding their cattle, a natural sight on the edge of the Conservancy but rather beautifully a male Cheetah strides past them belly full after a Thompson Gazelle kill. He has learnt to live with the Masai and cattle and does not disturb them. We follow the Cheetah across the plain until he rests under the shade of an Acacia tree. He lies down and relaxes, belly full and quite contented. He rolls over a few times to get a comfortable position. He really is quite elegant in his posture.
We head back to the Cheli pride Lions with the Elan kill. The three cubs are now rather cutely clustered together under a tree. They rest their sweet fluffy faces on their paws. They look up at us as we approach with their big golden eyes, so inquisitive. The Lionesses are close sitting under a tree.
We find the shade of a tree to sit under for a late lunch. It is very hot still and the gentle breeze is welcome. We watch the prey grazing around us, it is an idyllic setting.
As we drive across the plains we see an Elan sat under a tree ruminating, it is very peaceful and relaxed. It is the largest of the gazelles and is an impressive animal. Rather strangely sitting right next to it is two Black Back Jackal, they seem very content. To complete the scene a Tawny Eagle sits in the low branches, it is quite a picture.
Further across the plains we drive through herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Buffalo. The grass is greener after last week’s rains and so they have more vegetation to graze on.
We drive down to Leopard Gorge my favourite part of the Mara North Conservancy. At the entrance to the rocky gorge a stunning architectural Fig tree stands with its thick twisted trunk and claw like branches giving way to rich green leaves. Its branches are thick and are favoured by Leopards to sit on.
The gorge is green and luscious with grey rocky outcrops either side, home to the rock Hyrax. The rock formations are large boulders with trees and plants growing out of them. Fig trees grow within the gorge twisting beautifully lending character and shape to this scene. There are no Leopards sitting in the gorge today but it is stunning to drive through anyway.
We leave the Conservancy and head down to the Reserve. The terrain changes from rocky to flatter plains as we reach the main reserve. On the side of a hill we find the part of the River pride of Lions, five females and four cubs lay on the grass sleeping in the warmth of the late afternoon.
The hills are the luscious green backdrop to the Mara River which in the late afternoon sun glistens like diamonds. As the sun sets its rays light up the hills with a stunning light show of oranges, reds, purples and golds it is beautifully reflected on the river.
We drive down to the Mara River where Nkorombo camp is nestling. It is a beautiful camp right on the river. Moses the wonderful camp manager and my long term friend greets me and we sit and chat on the bank of the river in front of the fire. The sun sets over the river, it is stunningly beautiful.
That evening after a shower in my beautiful tent right on the river we dine under the stars. It is a warm evening and I enjoy looking up at the starry night.
I sleep well listening to the flow of the river; it is quite high now because of the rains and is fast flowing. Hippos laugh and wallow as I fall to sleep.
This is my Africa, my peace and happiness.
Day 4 –
I wake to the sound of the river and the smell of fresh coffee. Whilst I sit in bed drinking my coffee I wonder what nature will bring us today.
We head out before sunrise and watch the prey graze on the plains around camp; they stretch their cool bodies as it is chilly at this time of the morning. The sun starts to rise bringing with it the hope of a beautiful day. The sky is a soft blue and the sunrise splashes soft pinks, purples and reds across its blank canvass, nature’s art work.
Close to the main crossing point on the Mara River we see the River pride, three Lionesses and cubs of around six months old are eating a Topi kill. Their faces are covered in blood as they have eaten most of it already. Their beautiful golden fur is lit up in the glow of the sunrise. It is still cool so they are very active still. The cubs are playful and one picks up the horns of the Topi and starts running around with them. As the carcass is nearly eaten the Lionesses snarl and swipe each other with their sharp claws over the last of the scraps. After they have eaten they will head for shade. Jackal, Hyena and Vultures hover in the background hoping to pick up any scraps of meat left and to pick at the bones.
Across the bank of the Mara River we see two of the Notch male Lions and a Lioness they have killed a Hippo in the early hours probably when it was returning to the river from its nightly graze. We can see the grassy content of its stomach spilt on the ground, they have ripped open the body and eaten most of the contents including all of the soft organs. The Lions sit panting it would have been hard work to kill the Hippo and then rip it open. The Lions are about ten years old their manes have darkened with age.
We drive across the plains to the Majiyafisi area we pass large herds of Wildebeest and Buffalo as the area is green and luscious. Ahead we see a female Leopard crouching in the long grass she is stalking an Impala. She crouches down in a hunting pose and assesses the situation. It is a lone Impala but it detects the Leopards presence and starts to run through the grass to safety. The Leopard sits up as she is an ambush predator and does not have the speed or endurance to chase the Impala.
We head further east west across the plains to Hammercop area and we find the five male Cheetah coalition. These Cheetahs are around three years old and have joined together to hunt larger prey. As individuals they can only take down small prey such as Thompson Gazelle or baby Topi or Impala but as a coalition they will have greater success and be able to kill Wildebeest or Impalas. They are walking across the plains their bellies full from a kill. They head towards a bush to rest from the heat of the sun. They look like they want to head towards the better cover of an Acacia tree but there are Lions sitting underneath.
The Lions too want to have shade and we see a Lion and Lioness lying in the bushes sleeping after their nightly hunt and the rest of the pride are sleeping under the tree. This is the Hammercop pride.
It has been an eventful morning so we head for a very late breakfast under the shade of a tree. It is lovely just to be still and reflect on our incredible morning.
After breakfast we drive towards Malima yamawe area, it is now midday and the plains are warm. We see in the bushes two Lionesses relaxing in the shade. One gets up and starts calling she must have cubs nearby. As we drive slightly further on we see another Lioness babysitting ten cubs of just a couple of months old, they are so small and fluffy and covered in distinctive rosettes. She hears the other Lioness and stands to walk over to her and greet her. The cubs wake and squeak their delight at being reunited with their mother. The third Lioness starts walking too and all three Lionesses greet each other by rubbing heads. The small cubs are joyful and excited and start rubbing up against their mothers. The mothers bend down and start washing their cubs. It is a joy to watch. They all head back to the bushes to sleep together.
Heading towards the Lookout area we see two gorgeous adolescent male Lions of around three years old sleeping on the grassy bank. They are almost fully grown but they only have half manes still light and golden with youth. They are sleepy and lazily gaze up at us and then lay their magnificent regal heads back down on the soft grass.
The plains are quiet and peaceful; Topi, Zebras, Impala, Elan, Hartebeest and Wildebeest graze together in perfect harmony. They watch out for predators as there is safety in numbers.
On top of a small mound we find two female Cheetahs relaxing we believe they are around two years old and are Malika’s cubs now fending for themselves. They will stay together until they want to breed then head their own way. They are beautiful sinewy cats with elegant athletic bodies built for speed and stamina.
It has been such a fantastic big cat day so we head for a very late lunch by the Mara River. We sit and watch the Hippo wallowing in the river and Redneck Spur Fowl cluck around our feet pecking at the crumbs of bread from our lunch. It is most idyllic and peaceful.
Down by the river we see two Lapped faced vultures sitting on the ground behind them we see why a Marshall Eagle has caught a baby Impala and is clutching it with its large talons. It is most impressive. The eagle eyes us warily with his sharp yellow eyes.
We drive through the open plains past herds of grazing Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Hartebeest and Topi. The sun is setting on this idyllic scene and the sun’s rays light the sky with a vibrant glow of reds yellows and oranges, it is spectacularly beautiful.
Tonight I am the only guest in camp so I eat with my wonderful friend Moses who is the camp manager. We talk about my incredible day and what he gets to see from camp during the day as it is completely open to the wild. The food in camp is always so delicious and plentiful and I thank the chef for treating me so well again.
I return to my tent happy and contented. I sleep peacefully to the sound of the Hippos laughing in the water and the steady flow of the Mara River.
This is my Africa my peace my home.
Day 5 –
The morning breaks bright and clear, I can hear the sounds of the wild outside of my tent. Hippos walk down the bank back into the river after their nightly graze and birds sing in the trees. I take it all in as I sit in my tent in my tent in bed drinking my morning coffee, the aromas awaken my senses.
Sam, Mark and I bundle up warm as we head out. The beauty of the camp being on the Mara plains is you are already in the middle of the bush so enjoying and appreciating nature. I breathe in the fresh crisp air of the morning, I feel alive and happy.
The dawn is breaking and the animals stretch out their cold limbs as the sun starts to warm them. The grass is covered in dew that shines like a million diamonds in the glow of the morning light. There are clouds in the sky from the night rains which makes for a stunningly awe inspiring sunrise. “Glorious” is the only word I would use like the hallelujah chorus. The vibrant glow of the sunrise lights underneath the low clouds with all the colours of the rainbow, a vision of glorious technicolour, I have never seen anything so breath-taking. It is nature’s most spectacular impressionistic painting yet.
The river prides of Lions are lying on a mound enjoying the warmth of the sunrise after their nightly hunt. There are four Lionesses and seven cubs sat up their golden fur glowing red, blonde and gold in the shimmering light. The grasses sway around them in the gentle morning breeze, as the light catches each blade it shimmers purple, yellow and green, it is so beautiful. The landscape looks so luscious after the rain. The Lions relax and enjoy the time just sat together. They groom themselves using their large paws to wash their faces and their long raspy tongues to lick the moisture off their fur. They then turn to wash each other, they are a close family.
Across the river one of the Notch Lions is lying next to the Hippo carcass from yesterday protecting it from Hyena, Lapped Faced Vultures and Jackal. By now the carcass is rotting and rancid but the Lions will still eat the rest today and just leave the bones and skin to the scavengers. It is not a pretty sight all dissected and disembowelled.
On Mara river fifteen large crocodile including one of around six metres long lay on the banks of the river next to the main crossing. They are cold blooded reptiles so need the heat of the sun to energise them and give them life. We get out of our vehicle and walk to the edge of the river and look down at them, they are most impressive. Crocodiles only have to eat twice a year as they tend to eat large prey such as Wildebeest or Zebra as they cross the river. They cannot chew so they twist the prey and swallow it whole. Their body will then take months to completely digest their kill.
The most famous Lion on the Mara is Scar and we find him sitting in long grass by himself. He is not an attractive Lion he is around thirteen now and has many battle scars including the long scar across his eye from which he gets his name. He is dominant male and known for being a good father to his cubs, he is often seen taking care of them when the Lionesses go out to hunt.
We find part of the Marsh pride sitting on the rocks above the plains, two Lionesses and six cubs of a year old, four of which male with cute Mohican manes. They are surveying the plains for potential prey. I absolutely adore the adolescent male cubs that have the cuteness of youth with the part manes of their power and potential to come. They are quite mischievous and are playing with part of a kill.
Just further off we see another of the Lionesses in the long grass chasing Pumba. Of course Pumba are very quick and can twist and turn as they run, for a Lioness to catch one she usually has to take it by surprise. Not surprising she does not catch this one.
Down by the main crossing point of the Mara River we see a large herd of Zebra and Wildebeest. It is past the main migration season but animals still cross the fast flowing river to get to the green grass on the other side. We can see several large crocodile swimming in the river so if they do cross the crocodiles will have a feast. On the other bank we see seven Topi also looking to cross, they gingerly walk down the bank to the river and assess the fast flowing water. Topi are good swimmers but they too are aware of the dangers that lie beneath the water. One Topi at the back nuzzles the others to encourage them to cross first but they become skittish and run back up the bank. They set about chasing each other in the most amusing way.
To our left a Lioness stalks through the grass towards the herd of Zebra, if they see her it will set them running away from the river. She decides to bide her time and finds a group of bushes to crouch down in and wait for an opportune time to ambush them.
The morning is wearing on but we are keen to see of the Wildebeest and Zebra will cross so we decide to eat our breakfast in the vehicle. This not uncommon if you are caught up in some action. So we pass around the bowls of delicious food and enjoy breakfast down by the river so we can watch the herds.
After two hours the Zebra and Wildebeest cross the river. The steady thunder of hooves can be heard pounding down the sides of the bank as a hundred or more Zebra and Wildebeest make their way to the water’s edge. With the rest of the herd behind them they have to cross the fast flowing dangerous water. The current is strong and the Zebras walk fast in the shallows trying not to slip in the algae covered rocks under the water. In the middle deeper part they start of swim and leap to keep their heads above water. You can feel the fear and panic as the current could sweep them away or a Crocodile could pull them under the water. Several Zebra lose their footing and are nearly swept away but they are strong swimmers and they manage to swim to the other side. The braying is loud as they communicate to each other; along with the sounds of the rapid water it creates much tension and suspense as they all cross. Wildebeest follow the Zebra into the water, they cross closely but there is no safety in numbers as we see the large hungry Crocodiles advancing up river. The Wildebeest and Zebra jostle each other in panic to get to the other side; drowning and broken limbs from the panic are also the other dangers to a large crossing. This time they do all cross, the Crocodiles arrive too late and the Zebra and Wildebeest graze on the far bank relieved to be crossed.
After all this drama and tension we head back to camp for a late lunch as it is close by. We have a lovely lunch discussing how fortunate we are to have seen a crossing after the migration; it really is a unique experience.
Rested and fed we head to the famous Marsh area of the Mara. It is a luscious green area filled with Marsh plants and herbivores. I enjoy just driving through this area as it is so beautiful. We see herds of Buffalo, Zebra, Elephant, Impala and Topi graze on the moist grass. Tall trees provide much needed shade from the heat and prey peacefully graze. A troupe of Baboons sits on the plains foraging for flowers, berries, seeds and insects. It is quite a utopia, it just feels so relaxed and peaceful late afternoon, the air is cooler and you can just relax and take in the beauty.
We find part of the Marsh pride in the Marsh lands. Three Lionesses and one Lion lay out in the long grass sleepy from the day’s heat. They lay on their backs legs spread wide relaxing in the cooling part of the day.
The drive back to camp is beautiful; the sun sets over the hills casting vibrant flashes of colour across the sky. I sit back and take it in; the day has just been stunning. Back at camp I sit with Moses by the camp fire watching the final glow of the sunset over the Mara as it flows in front of us. The colours reflect in the water a perfect masterpiece. This one of my favourite parts of the day, after a long exhilarating day just relaxing in the open, under the now dark sky lit by a thousand stars being warmed by the embers of the fire and drinking red wine. I feel so relaxed and at peace.
Moses and I enjoy a wonderfully delicious dinner discussing the incredible day. Nature really does just keep on giving and giving here. Each safari I go on is just so very different, I never know what wonders I am going to behold, and adventures I am going to have. Life really is a wonderful exciting exhilarating safari.
I sleep so peacefully that night, I have happy and content.
This is my Africa, my peace, my rest.
Day 6 –
I have had five full amazing days out so as it is my last day in my favourite camp I have decided to have a lie in. This is unusual for me but I am going to recharge for the next part of my amazing safari. I lay in bed listening to the sound of the animals around me, picking out the distinctive sounds of the Hippos, Wildebeest and Lions. This camp is so beautiful nestled on the banks of the Mara River. Each tent is situated on the river with a small deck in front. The tents are large and luxurious and so very comfortable.
I have breakfast outside by the river with Moses. It is an idyllic setting. We are totally spoilt by the chefs who lay on quite a feast. It is just heavenly watching the Hippos in the river, birds fly overhead and prey graze on the opposite bank.
After breakfast I take photos with my wonderful guides Sam and Mark who have just been great company and made my safari so interesting. Sam, Mark, Moses and I pose in front of the Mara river and it captures for me a moment in time of pure happiness and friendship. I thank Sam and Mark for being so amazing.
I relax the rest of the morning in camp just taking in the beauty of my surroundings. The camp is on the Mara Reserve so you never know what animals could just wander into camp. Obviously there is vigilant staff around, but I love the thrill of the fact any could and have. Of course this is rare during the day as there is staff walking around camp which discourages animals.
After a delicious lunch with my wonderful friend Moses outside by the Mara River it is time to say goodbye at Nkorombo camp. I am so sad to be leaving as my stay has just been just so memorable, thrilling and exciting. I thank Moses and all the team for taking such great care of me.
Dan my guide from Asilia Rekero Camp arrives to take me onto the next part of my adventure. This will be the third time Dan and I have safari together this year. We always seem to have such amazing sightings, so I am intrigued to see what nature gives us this time.
We drive out into the wide open plains and drink in the beauty of the scenery and talk nonstop about what Dan has seen since my last visit and how the prides of Lions have changed and what dominant males are in charge of what prides. In just six months since my last visit there has been so much change.
The Ronkai pride is sat out in the grass in the cool of the late afternoon. There beautiful fur lit up by the blaze of the setting sun. I love the warmth and colours of the late afternoon sun. The deep orange makes everything look so warm and beautiful. The Lions stretch and yawn after their day sleeping. They open their jaws wide showing off their impressive large canines and sticking out their long pink tongues covered in small bards. Both tongue and teeth are lethal to prey. They start to cat stretch showing off their powerful muscular bodies, awakening their muscles for their nightly hunt. They affectionately groom each other which are so important in cat bonding. They look so happy and contented.
The drive to Rekero camp is so scenic in the sunset; the plains are bathed in red and gold light. I feel the last heat of the day on my face and look up as the sun gives way to the moon which is full and bright tonight, quite spectacular.
The Rekero camp is also on the camps of the Mara River. It is a beautiful location. I am thrilled to be greeted by Della, Richard and Jackie that are such great managers and I always enjoy my time in camp with them. I am also greeted by my fabulous Askari Simba and Isaac; they are such lovely men and always protect and keep me safe around camp at night.
I head to my tent to shower the day away and join the rest of the guests around the camp fire to drink red wine and discuss our adventures of the day.
Dinner is as always delicious and plentiful. It is so lovely meeting people from around the world and finding out what brings them on safari. Everyone has a different story and it is lovely to hear them. We share our adventures and give each other recommendations.
I walk back to my tent with my wonderful Askari Simba; he is very chatty and amusing. On route he spots a Chameleon resting on a branch and points it out to me, it is very sweet. I sleep that night so peacefully to the lullaby of the river.
This is my Africa, my adventure, my passion.
Day 7 –
There was rain in the night I could hear the soft tap on the roof of my tent is was quite soothing as I laid in my nice comfortable warm bed. It will moisten the dusty soil making the plains greener and more beautiful. Yesterday was vumbi mengi (very dusty in Swahili). I sit and enjoy my delicious Kenyan coffee and muse what adventurers we will have today.
As we drive out on to the plain the sun rises a technicolour of glorious vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and golds. Hot air balloons are silhouetted against the sky. They float gracefully over the Mara plains.
There are three species of Jackal in Africa: the Common or Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), found in East and North Africa and the Black-Backed (Canis mesomelas) and Side-striped (Canis adustus), that are more widely spread over the continent. A beautiful I believe Golden Jackal runs past us, it is quite stunning, we usually see the black-backed. Jackal pairs mate for life and they are very territorial. They are also excellent hunters as well as being extremely cute, intelligent and cunning.
We find Miale the female Cheetah with her one cub, stalking Impala by Ronkai River. She is sleek and beautiful in the sunrise, her coat catches the light. I love watch Cheetah’s hunt they are very successful, fast and efficient. Unfortunately on this occasion they spot her and start making an alarm call and move away from her.
A short distance away the Ronkai pride is laying in the bushes with six month old cubs. They would have had a busy night of hunting and have come back to rest for the day in the cool away from the now warming sun. Croton bushes are favoured by most of the big cats as they provide natural insect repellent. I love watching sleeping Lions, the way they curl up together, paws across each other, head to head, limb to limb.
It is a busy morning as it does not take us long to find the five Cheetah boys coalition sleeping under a bush near Survey Hill. It is quite early still so they will not start hunting until after 11am when they know the Lions are asleep, as they cannot compete with them and will not want their kill taken. They stretch out their long limbs, rolling over on the course sandy earth riding themselves of ticks and licking each other in affection. They are not brothers but they have come together so they can hunt larger prey.
My favourite of all the large cats, we spot two adolescent Lions of around two years from Ronkai pride they are stalking a Warthog with six piglets. They give chase but the Pumba are too quick for them, they dart and swerve and the Lions give up. The Lions are hot and tired so head under bush to sleep for the rest of the day unless a tasty opportunity like this arises again.
With this in mind we decide to see if they will so we decamp from the vehicle under a tree and set out our breakfast not far from the Lions under the bush. It is quite safe and it is exhilarating being within viewing distance of my favourite cats. We have a delicious breakfast and chat about our eventful morning. But after about an hour it is clear they are going to sleep for the day, they are peacefully lying on their backs, bellies heaving with a look of contentment on their faces, so we pack up and head off.
Malika the much loved female Cheetah is with her two cubs of around a year old, they are stalking Thompson Gazelle. However one of the cubs gets excited and sees a scrub hare and starts chasing it alerting the Thompson Gazelle to their presence and they run off. The cub catches the hare and quickly strangles it. It excitedly carries the lifeless body in its mouth and then sits down to eat it. Its sibling comes up to it to ask for a share but the cub does not want to share as this is survival of the fittest and just a small snack. The cub starts tearing at the flesh, blood spilling onto the ground. It licks at the open incision and starts chewing the flesh to access the soft internal organs. It eats quickly as scavengers could smell the blood and try and take it away. The flesh and bones are soft so it makes easy work of crunching even the skull. The cubs’ sibling moves closer and rubs up against the cub and manages to steal a small amount of flesh. There will be nothing left of this kill. Their faces are covered in blood and they use their long tongues to lick themselves clean.
The beauty of large herds of Zebra is you can observe the interesting family structure. I love the solidarity; they rest their heads on each other’s backs, one looking one way the other looking the other for all round protection. It looks incredibly romantic with their necks entwined. Zebra are such peaceful but intelligent animals. You usually see them grazing with Wildebeest and Topi, safety in numbers.
I am surprised to see such large herds of Buffalo. Their gazes amuse me; they look so angry and aggressive all the time. They stand or sit like cows ruminating. Oxpeckers stand on their faces or backs eating ticks and dead skin and alerting them of potential predators. They keep their calves in the middle of the group for protection. It is the matriarch of the herd so decides where the herd grazes.
We stop for lunch down by the Mara River it is an idyllic setting with Hippos grunting in the water and prey grazing on the banks. We relax and watch nature around us; it is always such a privilege to be out in the wild.
We drive past Impala duelling; the alpha male in charge of the female herd is fighting off a contender for his position. The two males lock horns and duel with these sharp deadly weapons. It is more a show of strength but can end in a battle to the death if they are evenly matched. Usually the weaker Impala will concede to the stronger male as neither wants to be fatally injured.
Warthogs or Pumba (Swahili for stupid) as of course named by the Lion King run frantically in all directions as we pass. It is hard to take photos of them as they have so many predators after them they bolt as soon as they sense danger. Their tails high in the air so their piglets can follow them easily to safety.
The Talik River is one of my favourite parts of the Mara Reserve with its stunning rock formations and lush vegetation. As we pass by to my absolute delight and pleasure we see on the opposite bank Bahati (Swahili for peace) the most loved and famous Leopard on the Mara. She is lying on the grass under the shade of a tree. We observe her for three hours; sleeping, yawning, rolling over and playing. She is just so stunningly beautiful, she is small but muscular with a pretty face and large green eyes. She has adolescent cubs but no doubt they are sleeping in the bushes. She then walks down the bank of the river and starts to drink. She bends over the water her muscular shoulders hunched up as she dips her beautiful face forward to lap up large quantities with her raspy tongue. She looks up with her big green eyes, always on the lookout for threats. She slowly and carefully walks up the other side of the bank up to us and walks right next to our vehicle, she is quite confident and used to vehicles. She walks like she wants to hunt so we follow her at a respectable and safe distance to give her space to hunt. It is such a privilege to spend time in the presence of such a beautiful cat. Rather amusingly we follow her right back to Rekero camp but as it starts to rain so she hides in the bushes. We leave her to rest peacefully.
The drive down the bank and across the Talik River over the large grey boulders and up the other side is very slippery and we almost do not make it. It is a thrilling ride as we slip and slide on the sticky mud. The rain creates flash floods, rivers of water flow in tyre tracks making grip difficult. We drive carefully as the rain will not last long.
Up in a tree a Fish Eagle perches looking for prey to kill. It a beautiful bird, black and white with large talons and an impressive hooked yellow beak. On the ground a large flock of Guinea fowl are chirping, scurrying around looking for seeds to eat.
As we drive back to camp we see a Hippo in a bush, he has come out for his nightly graze. It is cool now and he will enjoy the lush grass.
Back at camp I am greeted by the wonderful team here and my friend and Askari Simba walks me back to my tent so I can shower off the dust and heat of the day. I love the camp here it is so peaceful and the setting is beautiful. I stand on my deck overlooking the river and enjoy the peacefulness before joining the rest of the guests around the camp fire for drinks then dinner.
I sleep peacefully after such a wonderful day with the big cats. I am always so grateful for the privilege of spending time with such magnificence and beauty born and living free.
This is my Africa, wild and beautiful.
Day 8 –
I sit in bed drinking coffee listening to the morning low roar call of the Lions. It is a beautiful sound. Their call can travel up to six miles so it is impossible to tell where they are but I jump out of bed eager to find out. We drive out at dawn as the sun rises I love the crisp freshness of the air this time of the morning and the beautiful technicolour light show of the sunrise.
We find a den of Hyena; the matriarch is laying on the edge of the den suckling four very young pups of around two weeks old. The pups are very small fluffy and completely brown, they look more like brown bears than dogs. Older pups run around in the glow of the sunrise. Another female comes out of the den and picks up one of the pups in her mouth and carries it out of the den onto the grass, it stumbles as it is so young. It is beautiful to watch the pups clamouring all over the mother and suckling on her. Hyena puppies are born with all their teeth as they need to develop their strong jaws young. They are also born with their eyes open. Watching them it is interesting to observe that the pups have good instincts about danger. The matriarch is the leader of the pack so if there are at least two females in the litter they compete from day one for the hierarchy. Female Hyenas are larger than males and have almost the same level of testosterone, the matriarch leads the pack. It is often hard to distinguish the females from the males as the female clitoris is almost as long as the male penis. The Hyena plays an important role in this eco system as they are very efficient hunters in their own right but also scavengers to clean up carcasses.
A herd of six Elephants walk across the plains. The matriarch has a small baby boy of around six weeks; it is very playful and runs around the adults who protect it between them. The gestation period of an Elephant is twenty two months then she will suckle it for two years. She will then want to mate again, when she does she will sing a low frequency song to attract males who will fight sometimes to the death to mate with her. She will only mate with the strongest to give her offspring the best genes. The females become sexually mature around ten years old but the males about twenty five. The males are rejected from the herd around twelve to stop them breeding with their sisters or mother. The males will then form a bachelor herd. One of the males in this herd walks around with his penis swinging almost touching the ground it is most amusing. The baby flaps his ears to keep cool and runs under his mother’s belly when he feels in need of her protection.
The Topi pride of Lions, five Lionesses and three adolescent Lions lay out in the dawn sun warming their golden bodies. One of the adolescent Lions has caught a baby Pumba and is devouring it in front of his siblings. You can hear the tearing of the flesh and the crunching of the bones. His siblings sit close to him hoping for some scraps. The Lions have the weakest bite of all the large cats but are still efficient at strangling their kill. Large cats have barbs on their tongue, the first lick with soften the flesh, the second lick will soften the skin and the third lick will draw blood. That is why you will see cats licking their kill to penetrate the flesh so they can tear open the flesh easier. It is a cooler morning after the nights rain so the Lions are enjoying the warmth. The adolescent Lion eating the baby Pumba kill is making its siblings hungry and they sit touching him, both siblings on either side manage to grab a morsel and start to chew.
The two Lionesses move away from the pride and sit on top of two high termite mounds to survey the plains for prey. A Pumba with just one piglet left hovers in the background but runs off when it spots the females. Thompson Gazelle graze nearby but they keep an eye on the Lionesses. One of the adolescent Lions climbs the termite mound to watch with his mother, it is narrow on top so he sits right on top of his mother, they look conjoined. They scan the plains together.
We drive down to the river for breakfast it is very scenic and green so we choose a sit under the shade of the trees. On the other side of the bank two Twiga graze and watch us with curiosity but are not disturbed by us. We enjoy a delicious breakfast just chilling out, enjoying the scenery and talking about our fabulous morning.
The Ankuyanai pride is lying under croton bushes. Three Lionesses lay on their backs, legs apart resting their feet on the branches. They like the croton bushes as they have natural insect repellent. There is a lovely breeze so they lay quite contented.
Two more of the Lionesses lay in the bushes by the river. Above them a juvenile Fish Eagle sits on the branch of a tree, its eyes sharp looking for fish in the river below. It is quite a utopia on the Ntik Ntik plains as Wildebeest, Zebra, Thompson Gazelle and Topi graze quite relaxed in the morning sun.
By the airstrip we find Lipstick and Blackie the two alpha male Lions of the Topi and Ankuyanai prides. They are sat under a croton bush with a Wildebeest kill, showing that the males do hunt for themselves. They are strong powerful males of around ten years old with almost black full manes. Their muscles ripple as they bend their heads together ripping apart the carcass. It is most unusual to see two males head to head eating like this as they do not like sharing. You can hear the tearing of flesh and sinew and the crunching of bones. They snarl and pant heavily as they competitively eat. They are two powerhouses working together. In the midday heat the carcass smells quite rotten but it does not put them off eating, nothing will be left. They use their huge strong paws to hold down the carcass as they pull apart the flesh. The head of the Wildebeest lays between both Lions powerful paws, eyes blank in death. The Lions use their long raspy tongues to lick the softer internal flesh and lick up the blood. Flies buzz around excited by the stench. It is exhilarating seeing the males snarl up their faces at each other a friendly warning to keep sharing. The carcass is now fully ripped apart between them as they lay each side of it; the ribs jut up in the air stripped clean of any flesh. So little is left as Blackie stands up his stomach rotund from his feast, Lipstick keeps his large paws on the carcass and carries on licking it.
We head for lunch in a beautiful forest clearing it is so quiet and relaxing; we chat and listen to the song of the birds. It is lovely to just sit and listen to the sounds of nature around you. As always lunch is delicious.
Driving past a forest of trees we see a large troupe of Baboons, they are such interesting primates. I enjoy watching them groom each other and run around playing. The babies stumble around copying the actions of their older siblings, swinging on branches and play fighting. Some naughty older siblings tease and grab the babies wanting to make mischief but they get scolded by their mothers. A large male Baboon stands and has his bottom groomed by a female, it is not long before he has an erection that moves up and down from his enjoyment, they head into a bush. A Pumba joins the troupe as he knows Baboons have great eyesight for foraging the best seeds and berries. It is a happy sociable group.
The Ankuyanai pride lay out in the open as it is cooler this afternoon. Most lay on their backs legs splayed open cooling themselves; it is very peaceful and idyllic. Occasionally one will roll over and lay its paw on another. I love the affection they show each other, they are so peaceful and loving when they sleep. The sunsets behind them the warm golden glow of the sun lighting up the rich goldness of their beautiful fur. I sit and watch them, their full round bellies gently rising and falling, I feel as happy and content as they are.
We drive back to camp in the glow of the sunset and as we arrive the sun gives way to the moon and the inky blue/black sky is dotted with brilliant stars, it is so beautiful. After I shower I enjoy sitting around the camp fire with the rest of the guests drinking wine and gazing up into the beautiful night. There is nothing like an African sky, the stars seem brighter here. We go to dinner and enjoy a feast as always, I love African cooking it is incredibly delicious.
I fall to sleep with my usual beautiful lullaby of the flowing river and sounds of the wild.
This is my Africa my blessing and peace.
Day 9 –
I wake after a wonderfully peaceful night’s sleep, the river burbles in front of my tent and hippos laugh and grunt. I drink my morning coffee on the deck outside my tent over the river it is so peaceful and idyllic.
Simba and Isaac my fabulous Askari meet me outside my tent to walk me to my vehicle where I meet my wonderful guide Dan. We take photos together in the sunrise before heading out onto the plains.
The morning is clear and air fresh and crisp I fill my lunges with the delicious scent of dewy fresh grass and the croton bushes.
At the Rekero crossing we see two sub adult Lions of around two and a half years old, they have almost full blonde manes, they are stunningly beautiful and majestic. I believe they may be Angel and Red who I documented eighteen months ago who are cousins. I totally fell in love with them then as they really are very beautiful. They are lying together on a mound quite contented in the morning sun, their fur aglow golden and radiant. They are very affectionate with each other, rubbing heads and sitting touching. I love the bromance of the male Lions when they have a close relationship. These boys are two young to have females yet but they will probably in the next eighteen months. Behind them three Hyena walk across the horizon.
They stretch and yawn in the sun and get up and walk over the dewy cool plain looking to hunt as these boys feed themselves. There is prey about but they are fairly inexperienced still so will choose the easiest prey. We see two Pumba grazing by some bushes; they have not seen the Lions. The Lions start to stalk in that direction around the bushes, the Pumba graze totally unaware. Over the course of fifteen minutes the Lions are stealthy and stalk slowly then the ambush chasing a squealing Pumba into the bushes. They catch it and bring it down. One of the Lions tries to strangle it but the Pumba has a thick neck, whilst the other holds down the back legs and starts to tear at the tough flesh sadly whilst the Pumba’s legs are still moving. It stops moving and both of the Lions start to tear it apart with their sharp canines, the internal organs are exposed and they gorge on the softer internal flesh.
It is a small kill for two sub adult males so it does not take long for them to eat most of the flesh. As food is more scarce this time of year they will eat even the tough flesh. We can hear and see the crunching of bones, the Lions snarl and moan as they eat and compete with each other for the last scraps. They each hold down their end of the Pumba so the other cannot run off with it. They are affectionately close boys but when it comes to food it is always survival of the fittest.
We drive over the plains and see Malika the beautiful female Cheetah and her two adult cubs, they are viewing the prey. Nearby Impala graze and a Topi and Thompson Gazelle sit on the grass, they have not seen the Cheetah. A Giraffe comes out of the bushes and it straight away sees the Cheetah and stares at them giving away their position to the Impala who start to snort an alarm call. The Topi and Thompson Gazelle get up and head across the plains to safety and the Impala head to the bushes. The Cheetah head into the bushes and give chase to the Impala. We see the herd of Impala frantically run out of the bushes but the Cheetah do not catch any. The Cheetah sits back down again to conserve energy and consider their next hunt.
It is late morning and it is growing warm so we drive to a nearby tree to have a late breakfast, we do not want to go far as we will return to Malika to see if she will hunt with her cubs again. It is wonderful eating breakfast out on the plains surrounded by game.
Malika has moved but we find her and her cubs not far away, they are walking and scanning the plains for an opportunity to hunt. There are Buffalo sat on the grass who will give away their position so they move on. Further past they find a small pool of water and lean forward their muscular shoulders and lean lithe bodies next to each other lapping up the cool waters. They use their long raspy tongues to lap up the water then they sit up and affectionately lick each other, it is an endearing sight of Malika with her cubs. They sit on a grassy bank nearby and groom each other. They frolic and roll over in the warmth of the sun enjoying a break from hunting.
We drive over the plains through croton and wild mint bushes, the intoxicating scent of both fills my lunges and I feel so happy and peaceful after an amazing privileged morning with these stunning cats.
Elan stands ruminating they are impressively large. As we approach they trot off the large flap of skin under their necks flapping. Ox peckers fly in and catch a ride of their backs nibbling on the dead skin and ticks.
The Talik River is rising with the rain we have had so the drive carefully over it is lovely as it is deeper. The grey rocks jut out from the flowing waters and brightly coloured Agama Lizards scurry over the rocks.
Across the other side we drive past Rekero camp and through the plains past the Mara River, we can see a small herd of Wildebeest want to cross at the main crossing point but we do not stop as we are heading to the Marsh area.
Just as we get to the Marsh area we are distracted by a lone Hyena near a herd of Thompson Gazelle, he has a kill. As we draw near we can see he has recently caught a Thompson Gazelle which is quite impressive for a lone Hyena. He eats rapidly as he knows there are Lions about. His mussel is covered in blood and he uses one of his paws to steady the kill as he tears off lumps of flesh. He gorges on the meat and soft tissue and then starts pulling off a leg, the bones cracking as it come away from the joint. The blood can be seen from the air and Vultures start circling overhead. Lappet faced vultures start to descend wings impressively outstretched as they land behind him. The use their number and size to try and intimidate the Hyena but he eats quicker, you can hear their ghoulish screeching. As they circle around him he chases them off but their numbers increase, he has to eat faster. Then two of his pack comes in chasing off the Vultures and they want their reward and take a share of the carcass. The Hyena squabble over the remains and chase each other with limbs and skin hanging unattractively from their mouths, dripping blood and body fluids. The Hyena run around in their distinctive lopping gait and manic laughter, it is almost comical. The Vultures peck at the ground picking up the left flesh and blood.
The Marsh pride are now dispersed to the Mara North Conservancy and is now the Gorge Pride, Rafiki and Karibu are the two dominant males with this pride and the Cheli pride. The males here in the Marsh area are the Warrior boys, a coalition of six brothers. At present they only have two Lionesses but it will not take long for them to form a strong pride.
Two of the warriors Lions are laid on the grass in the Marsh area they are only about three years years old, they are incredibly beautiful light blonde males with almost full manes. Their faces are almost unscarred from the lack of battles they have fought so far. One gets up and stretches his large muscular body and uses the trunk of a tree to sharpen his claws. He turns, urinates and joins his brother to sleep out in the afternoon sun again. It is late afternoon and we have had quite a full on day with the cats so we decide to eat lunch in our vehicle watching the Lions.
The rain comes in heavy and the poor males sit out in the rain they look so miserable with their manes wet and plastered to their faces. One stands up and walks across the Marsh area, he sits heavily down on a clump of grass and looks around , he is unhappy to be wet and lays his dripping head of his large paws looking quite dejected. It starts to thunder and light flashes the sky, the rain will help to replenish the rivers and the grasses to grow but it is hard on the cats.
The drive back over the plains is very slippery as the heavy rain has caused flash floods on the drive soil. The tyre tracks are rivers of water so we drive slowly. As we pass herds of Topi they stand with their backs to the lashing rain. Fortunately close to sunset as we reach camp the rain stops. The sun starts lowering in the sky and the great fireball throws vibrant reds golds oranges purples and deep blues across the night sky. The billowing clouds take on a beautifully eerie hue of bluey greys quite stunning. We stop to watch the sunset it is like looking at a stunning impressionist painting, the horizon is awash with every stunning colour like an artist has dipped his brush in every paint tin, a lone tree is silhouetted and the clouds reflect all the colours of the suns final glow, it is simply breath-taking and a gift from nature for my final night on the Masai Mara Reserve. I am so happy and at peace.
At camp I hug and say goodbye to my wonderful guide Dan and thank him for another wonderful safari. We have had such a great time on the Mara Reserve again together. I feel sad but I know I will be back next year to see how the prides are developing. The opening song in the Lion King is the Circle of Life and seeing the real gift of nature here is just such a privilege, I am blessed.
At dinner I enjoy time with the managers and the guests talking about our experiences of the Mara but my mind is on this beautiful land I will soon call home. This country is a beautiful blessed gift to me and nature gives so much and I truly appreciate it.
I fall to sleep to the sound of the Mara river flowing in front of my tent I thank nature for all the blessings I have been given.
This is my Africa, blessed land.
Day 10 –
The morning breaks bright and clear after the night rains and the air is crisp and fresh. I sit and drink my coffee in bed and enjoy the delicious aroma of the Kenyan coffee. Hippos laugh happily outside in the flowing river. I leave my tent and hug Simba my wonderful Askari who has looked after me in camp making sure I am safe as it is open to the wild, even Baharti the Leopard comes in at night. Today I sadly leave camp in the Mara Reserve and head to the Naboisho Conservancy. I hug the wonderful camp managers’ goodbye; Della, Richard and Jackie have been wonderful looking after me.
The dewy grass in the glorious morning sunlight looks like dazzling shining diamonds, it takes my breath away how beautiful it is. The plains before me are vast, green and luscious. I love the sense of freedom here. The Kaboso area is just lovely and we find the pride of Lions that dominate the area. They are sat out on the plains in the sunlight warming themselves after the cool night of hunting. They stretch and yawn and clean off residues of blood from their nightly kill.
This is clearly a good big cat area as not far away we find a beautiful female Cheetah with a baby Impala kill. This would have been a good opportunistic kill for her and a small breakfast snack. She sits with the kill between her front paws and crunches the soft bones, even the skull, she will leave very little of this for the scavengers.
It is such a beautiful morning we breakfast under a tree. The plains stretch before us and as we enjoy our delicious breakfast we gaze at the stunning diversity of prey grazing around us. It is so wonderful being at one with nature. We sit and relax and feel the sun on our faces as the morning warms up. The grasses sway in the gentle breeze glistening purple, green and yellow, the dew is mesmerising.
To get to Naboisho we drive through the Olare Orok Conservancy and see an adolescent Lion of around two years old. He is sat on a termite mound and is viewing his surroundings maybe looking for an opportunity to hunt. He is absolutely gorgeous with his cute Mohican mane, no longer a cub but not yet a full grown male Lion.
A group of Hyena sit in a small watering hole, it is a hot day and they want to cool off their bodies. They have short course hair and it is now caked in mud from the water. They usually move as drive past but as it is so hot now they stay in place and just stare at us.
A stunning green, pink and blue male Gamma lizard sits on a rock also warming its body in the sunshine. It is a reptile so a cold blooded animal and needs the heat of the sun to energise it and warm its blood. It sits so still waiting for insects to fly past or land near it so it can flick out its long tongue and eat them. The female Gamma lizard is grey and can easily be undetected when it is sat on a rock, it is very camouflaged.
I am returning to the MAA project today, I am so pleased to be able to support such a wonderful charity. Resian and the team here work so hard to create such beautiful jewellery, gifts, home wears and bags. The goods are all handmade and such beautiful quality. 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 women 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. 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.”
As we leave the trust we see two Masai children with a herd of sheep of over fifty sheep. The children are on their school holiday so they are entrusted to take care of the herd. Children here have a great work ethic and really value education. We stop and give the children drinks and chat to them in English as they are learning it at school. They are an absolute delight to talk to and enjoy practicing their English on us.
We pass an unusually large herd of Eland; both sexes have horns with a steady spiral ridge. They are the largest antelope here.
The Naboisho Conservancy is very rocky and hilly very different to the reserve, it is so beautiful. There are a few Maasai villages on the outskirts. I love the Maasai huts and the animals grazing around. It is such a beautiful simple life living alongside nature. But also very harsh as they have to take their cattle, goats and sheep to graze whether there is grass, sometimes travelling a long way.
Young Acacia trees have been pulled over by Elephant as they tug at the branches with their long trunks and kick up roots. It looks destructive but the fallen Acacia do actually carry on growing and provides shad and homes for animals who like to live on the ground. Under one fallen but growing tree we see some Vervet monkeys enjoying the shade.
A troop of Vervet monkeys are sat up a tree picking berries and insects from the branches. Monkeys love to forage and spend their days in this peaceful tranquillity. Others groom each other, eating flakes of skin, salt and ticks from their bodies using their dextrous fingers to part the fur.
We stop for lunch in the shade of a beautiful clearing. The day is hot so the shade is most welcome. We are surrounded by large architectural trees with twisted branches and vines growing around their sturdy trunks. Just above us we do not see a troop of Vervet monkeys but they see us and hurry down the trees and run off to another tree. It is an idyllic setting and I lie out and relax and look up at the azure blue sky. Lunch is delicious and I feel so happy and relaxed.
As we near a ravine we can see a Leopard kill up a tree it is a carcass of a sheep, it must have stolen one from the Maasai. Up the opposite tree we can see another Leopard kill, it looks like an Impala but it is a few days old so it is dry and leathery. These are old kills so the Leopard is probably not around. If they were fresh we would have waited as the Leopard would return to eat the rest. Instead we drive down the ravine through the waters and up the other side. I drink in the beautiful of this area.
As dusk starts to fall we find a Lioness with a Topi kill and three cubs, one male, two female of around six months old. They are sat under the shade of some bushes. The kill was probably from much earlier in the morning as there is little left but some skin, bones and horns. The cubs enjoy chewing on the bones and playing with the horns. They will still be suckling from their mother but the meat will help them grow quickly. The Lioness sits with one of the cubs and starts to clean its face; its mussel is covered in blood. Both of their faces hold a look of pure joy, love and contentment.
As the sun sets we drive to camp, it is in the centre of the conservancy, such a beautiful setting. I am greeted by Sammy the lovely Maasai camp manager. This is my first time to this Asilia camp and it is very beautiful. My tent is just lovely, spacious and comfortable. After a much needed hot shower I join the rest of the guests around the camp fire to talk about our experiences. I love sitting next to the burning embers of the fire, feeling the heat on my face as the night air cools around me. I gaze up at the blue black sky, the moon is nearly full and bright and million stars sparkle so clear and bright. The air is scented with croton bushes and jasmine; it is intoxicating and makes me feel so relaxed.
Dinner is a feast of delicious Kenyan foods and lovely wines. The chef is so wonderfully talented; I thoroughly enjoy everything placed in front of me. At the table is a lovely group of people, the managers, guides and guests, it is such a lovely mix. I do enjoy getting to know new people.
That night I fall into a peaceful sleep with the sound of the wild around me.
This is my Africa, wild and free.
Day 11 –
This is my first morning in camp and I wake to the sound of birds singing in the trees outside of my tent and Lions roaring in the distance. There is a wide open plain in front of my tent and it is luscious and green. I am told a female Cheetah has given birth to cubs a couple of weeks ago and she has hidden them just across from my tent in a group of bushes. I sit in bed and enjoy my aromatic coffee for a few moments.
I join my wonderful guide Evelyn by our vehicle and give her a big hug, this will be our third safari together this year, she a great friend and an excellent guide. We are joined by Nashipai a trainee guide who I have asked to join us as she will enjoy the day with us and I am sure contribute to finding the big cats.
The morning breaks bright and clear and the air is fresh. The scenery here is just so stunning, I love the twisted Whistling Acacia and the tall Yellow Back Acacia trees that glow iridescent green and yellow in the morning light. The terrain here is rocky and wild; I love the large boulders and rocky outcrops. We spend the first hour of our morning appreciating nature and how beautiful it is here.
A female Leopard with two cubs one male one female around eight months old is spotted in the bushes eating a kill. She came into the Naboisho Conservancy about two months ago. I am naming her Sidai (MAA for beautiful). I can just see her in the bushes with one of her adolescent cubs. After about an hour Sidai comes out of the bushes into the clearing and washes her beautiful fur, she is full and contented from her breakfast. She rolls over and looks up at us with her stunning greens eyes and then rolls over into her back. It is beyond gorgeous seeing her laying on her back, tail curled and all four legs in the air her front paws curled. She looks so peaceful and content. She is a confident Leopard so we just sit and watch her lay out on the grass in the sun.
After a while she grows too warm and walks into the bushes she finds a hollow by a tree and we drive in further and look down onto her. She will probably sleep for the rest of the day now. The sun lights up the white fur of her belly with her black rosettes and the dark gold of the rest of her fur covered in black rosettes as distinctive as she is. We think she is around four years old as this may be her first cubs.
We have a late breakfast under the shade of an Acacia tree it is now growing warm. We talk about the landscape and animals but also about Maasai culture. It is still deeply ingrained in tradition and I find it very interesting. Both Evelyn and Nashipai are both Maasai and it is interesting hearing the views of educated Maasai ladies who have had to really work hard for an education and now work in still a very male dominated industry. Women here are still very dependent on men so I completely respect and admire these women for really pushing for an education and career.
Giraffe graze on the tops of bushes and low trees, they are silent and graceful. They glance down at us their big beautiful long eyelashed eyes surveying us. A female Giraffe is suckling its baby, it is quite large so really has to bend down, it uses its head to butt its mother’s teats to stimulate the flow of milk.
The Naboisho Conservancy is very rocky with stunning Yellow back Acacia trees growing architecturally on the side of the hills. It is exciting driving over the rocky outcrops. In the distance we see three cubs lying on some beautiful grey granite rocks. They are around two months old and they warm their small bodies on the heat radiating from the rocks. It is so cute seeing their little fluffy bodies splayed out, their cute little faces resting on their paws. At the bottom of the small rocky outcrop a Lioness rests with two other cubs around three months old. All the cubs have full round bellies and are quite active as it is gently raining. The Lioness starts to groom one of the cubs, she licks its damp fur and the cub just looks so happy and contented, it is incredibly endearing. The very young cubs frolic on the rocks chasing insects and looking curiously up as birds fly noisily overhead. The other cubs jump on each other, chewing each other’s ears and tails and practicing pouncing and hunting on each other. This is the Sampu Enkare pride. The gestation period for a Lioness is three and a half months.
The smaller cubs come down from the rocks and start pouncing on their older cousins, they are fearless and to want to practice pouncing and hunting. They chew the backs of each other’s necks and try to hold each other down. When one tries to sleep they go over and lay right on top of it waking it, being very mischievous. One goes over to the Lioness as she sleeps on her back with her legs splayed wide but she growls and snarls and bats them away, she wants to sleep. They move away knowing better and start to play with a clump of grass, chewing and fighting with it.
The smaller cubs trot over to a tree and start playing with its loose bark and scratching their claws to keep them sharp. They look up in curiosity as birds screech at them overhead. They lay down together batting each other’s faces and competing for dominance even at this early age. I love watching them roll around chewing each other’s feet and paws and tails, whatever they can get their teeth on. Up on the rocks other cubs find small pool of water and gently lap up the cool rain water.
As the light rain stops the sun comes out and small Gamma Lizards start scurrying over the rocks to heat their bodies. The cubs are now sleepy as they are so young so go into the bushes to sleep.
Behind the rocks we can hear some groans and we see another Lioness emerge with another cub of around three months old. She and the other Lioness is on alert as a herd of Wildebeest arrive over the ridge, their hooves pounding the dry earth. One of the Lionesses gets up and walks down into the ravine to stalk the herd. This alerts the cubs and they emerge to see what is taking place. The Lioness disappears into the ravine and the Wildebeest seem confused as they run in several directions, they then start running down into the ravine and the Lioness gives chase, she is disorganised and chases several so brings down none. She needed to be patient and chase one. The other Lioness just watches on not assisting. All the while the cubs in the commotion run up onto the rocks to safety. As the Lioness returns she is greeted by her sister and the cubs, it is most endearing as they squeak at her vying for her attention. The cubs rub against her and she licks them affectionately. They all lay down peacefully on the grass tired from the action.
As we spent several hours with the Lions we have a very late lunch under a tree. It is just so serene and peaceful lunching with prey grazing around us. We have the most stunning view the scenery really is so spectacular. We continue our discussion about Maasai culture, marriage and women’s rights. It is a fascinating conversation.
After lunch we see Banded Mongoose run over the plains alert for predators such as birds of prey. Then to our surprise three adolescent Bat eared foxes run past. They are still quite light in colour as they are young and they run quite quickly as they are nocturnal so it is most unusual to see them out of their dens this time of the day. We try and follow them but they are quick.
Pumba and Topi graze peacefully on the fresh green grass, it is very luscious here. Slender tail Mongoose with their thin red fur bodies scurry from den to den whilst Fish Eagle sits high in the branches looking for the opportunity to hunt.
We drive back to the Lionesses and cubs and are pleased they are all lying out together on the grass by the rocks. The sun is warm and some of the cubs are contentedly suckling on their mother. Other cubs are lying sleepily next to the other Lioness whilst others gently play. It is only late afternoon so they still sleepy they will conserve their energy until night when the Lionesses will hunt.
We leave the sleepy Lionesses to try and find the three male Lions who have now taken over the pride. We drive around but it is a large Conservancy so they could be sleeping under any bush. On our safari we do observe Hartebeest and Impala grazing near croton bushes and large herds of Wildebeest.
As the sun begins to set we drive back to camp, it has been a wonderful day. The manager Peter greets me back at camp and I hug Evelyn and Nashipai and thank them for such a fabulous day.
I go to my tent for a much needed shower and then join the other guests around the camp fire. The glow of the fire warms my face and I gaze up at the clear starry night. There is nothing like the African sky for me and I feel so happy and peaceful.
Dinner is as always a very social affair as it is a group dinner with a guide hosting. The food is delicious and the discussions are around what we have all seen and experienced during our days safari.
I sleep that night so peacefully listening to the sound of the wild just outside my tent.
This is my Africa my wild free home.
Day 12 –
I am woken around 4.30am, a Baboon is screeching a warning call outside my tent so either the Cheetah is hunting or a Lion has come into camp. About an hour later I hear the roar of a male Lion. I love awakening to the raw sounds of the wild it is exhilarating and exciting and prepares me for what nature may give me today.
I drink my aromatic coffee in bed at 5.30am and meet Evelyn and Nashipai at the vehicle at 6am for our full day game drive. I feel excited at the prospect of what we will see as every day is so very different.
A herd of Wildebeest graze on the dewy dawn grass. Wildebeest mate in July and August and have an eight month gestation period so will then give birth in February and March. Most other prey mate and give birth all year round.
Ron2 one of the four male Lions walks past a herd of Topi and Zebra they start snorting their alarm call. He is around nine years old he has a majestically full almost black mane and a black nose, this tells me his age. He has been fighting as he has fresh scars on his face. He stops to scent mark a bush marking his territory so other males know he is around. We follow him to a group of croton bushes; he is most likely coming back from a nights hunt so is looking to sleep for the day.
Across the valley we see a Lioness so we drive in that direction. When we arrive we find the three Lionesses with the seven cubs. Four of the cubs are around six months old so they will be feeding on meat and three are around eight months old these are all male. In the cool of the morning they are laid out on the grass by some bushes. They have made a Wildebeest kill in the night and one Lioness has a limp so we suspect she was kicked by the Wildebeest and another of the Lionesses has a nasty cut under her armpit so maybe from the Wildebeests horn. We see the carcass it is just a head and skin. Jackal, Hyena, Tawny Eagles and Griffin Vultures are now scavenging near it so one of the Lionesses goes over it to even though there is really nothing left and drags it to the bushes. As she drags it the cubs sees this as a chance to play and jump on the moving carcass and start to bite and attack it like they are hunting it. It is very amusing to watch. The Lioness drags it into the bushes away from the scavengers and the cubs follow her in and start to play and chew on it. The scavengers go to where the carcass was but there is only blood a lunge and small bits of meat left. The Lions watch them and decide I believe for fun to run after the birds and see them flap and fly in panic, the Lionesses do this several times, the poor Vultures panic each time. I love watching the Lionesses jump in the air after the birds as you would see a domestic cat do. She scratches at the ground to cover up the blood from the kill.
As it is cool the Lions are active and the whole pride sits out together in a group it is so beautiful, they sit and watch the scavengers with interest, it is their morning entertainment. The cubs having watched the Lionesses chase the birds decide they would be brave and give chase too, the poor Vultures who are squabbling over scraps jump in fright which seems to amuse the cubs. The cubs start playing and frolicking with each other they are very cute. They walk up to their mothers squeaking their greeting and rubbing heads in affection. The Lionesses do not rest as they are keeping an eye on their kill in the bushes. Two Jackal approach close to the kill but the Lioness gets up and gives chase. The Jackals scurry off and the Vultures jump in fright.
The pride head down to the watering hole to drink after their large salty meal leaving one female to protect the kill. The Lionesses and cubs lean over their front paws and lap up large quantities. They sit on the edge of the water it is a picturesque sight as the trees around the water are fully reflected in the morning light, it is like viewing a beautiful painting, the cubs and Lionesses are a picture of perfection against the backdrop. Across the water we can see a herd of Wildebeest want to come down to drink but they have seen the Lions and the Lions them, the Lions look keen but they are full from their kill. The Lionesses protecting the kill decides she wants to join the rest of the pride so she drags the carcass across the grass over to the bushes next to the others. One of the small Lion cubs runs over to his mum and tries to help her. The other cubs get excited and start jumping on it. She drops it by the water and the cubs start chewing and playing with it. One of the larger cubs tries to copy his mum by trying to drag through carcass but it is heavy still. The pride are relaxed as they sit by the water.
We spend a good three hours with this amazing pride then head off to find a tree to eat breakfast under. It is quite windy and cold this morning so we use the vehicle as a wind breaker. We talk about our wonderful morning.
As we drive out we see two courting Topi, the male is doing a courtship ritual by trot around the female and dancing and jumping it is most funny but also sweet. She shows no interest but he perseveres.
Further ahead we can see the Cheetah Seneki (MAA name for a single girl). She is lying on the grass but as we approach she cat stretches showing us her sinewy lithe body and then gets up, we think she wants to hunt. Cheetahs hunt only when they want to eat, they are generally not opportunistic or take kills from others, they hunt for themselves. They tend to hunt between eleven am and three pm when the other cats sleep as they know if the others cats are awake their kill could be taken. The Cheetah of course is the fastest cat with its athlete streamline sinewy body. As it hunts during the day it has its distinctive black lines under its eyes to help with the glare of the sun. It is the only cat without retractable claws. They have a litter every two years and the gestation period is three and a half months, the cubs will stay with them for up to two years. This girl is the daughter of the Cheetah that has given birth in camp.
We follow her across the plains and she disappears down a bank we drive around but lose her in the dense vegetation. It takes a while to locate her as she has doubled back and we follow her. She clearly needs to hunt so we will follow her at a respectable distance to see what she will find to hunt. She sees Topi with a baby and she gives chase but they run into some bushes and she fails to catch the baby. She carries on walking and sits under a tree to catch her breath. When she has regained her energy she starts walking again. There are more Topi but she cannot bring down an adult by herself. A herd of Wildebeest pass but she seems to not see them. She carries on walking so we follow her.
After another hour we spot a Lioness before she does, she sits under a tree to survey her surroundings for potential prey. The Lioness is Willow with her three eight month year old cubs; they are sat relaxed in the sun. She spots them and jumps up in panic as they are only two hundred feet away and she does not want a fight with a Lioness as she would not win. She runs in the opposite direction back up the hill. We carry on following her and she comes upon the herd of Wildebeest but she is exposed there is no cover. She has to just go for it and starts to chase them. There are baby Wildebeest in the herd she could catch but in the flaying of the hooves she fails to catch on. Another miss but seventy per cent of hunts are for cats that is why they have to keep on trying. She rests under a tree to regain her energy once more. It is quite amusing as two Jackal stumble upon her and then run off barking.
The afternoon is so exciting we decide to have a late lunch in the vehicle. Evelyn, Nashipai and I laugh at the Cheetahs antics, we have been with her for four hours and she is clearly hungry but she seems to make bad decisions. As we eat the Wildebeest relax and start to graze. The Cheetah rests under the tree and will probably hunt the Wildebeest again as they will forget she is there.
The biggest piece of advice I would give anyone going on safari is patience. The majority of people I see on safari may stay observing an animal or should I say just taking photos for up to half an hour. However if you are patient and really observe the animal, and it’s environment you will see a very interesting , very special and very privileged story unfold as you have read here.
After another hour the Cheetah finally gets up and tries to hunt Impala but sadly the area is so open with no cover they spot her and run quickly off. She needs to find better cover to her not successfully.
We return to Willow the beautiful Lioness with her three eight month year old cubs. Her story is beautiful. Earlier in the year a new coalition of Lions came into the Conservancy and killed all the cubs to mate with the Lionesses. They killed several of the dominant males too. However Willow managed to hide her cubs and fend off the males. She now hunts for herself and her cubs and isolates herself from the other females and the prides. She is an amazing mother, she is healthy and well fed as are her cubs. They all seem healthy and happy.
As we approach she is laid nearby watching the cubs and the cubs are frolicking and playing by a tree. It is a joy watching them play hunting each other and play mating. They chew and bat each other’s faces pretending they are hunting each other. They are absolutely gorgeous cubs. It is nearly sunset and a Hippo walks past this happy playful group, grazing on the moist green grass. The cubs stop what they are doing and watch it with curiosity but they know it is not a threat. Once it has passed they carry on playing. Cubs are so delightful. Willow comes over and lies down with the cubs, they are delighted and start jumping on her and licking her. She is a wonderful mum and plays with them and licks them affectionately. This is a very endearing family group.
The sunset is just so beautiful with this beautiful Lion family. It is a clear evening after the earlier rain. The sun flashes red orange gold and yellow light across the sky, it is quite breath-taking. A herd of Wildebeest are silhouetted on the skyline; it is the most perfect picture of an African sunset. Tears roll down my face, this is the last evening in my home and my heart is breaking. The thought of leaving tomorrow is so hard, this is a blessed land. I really have had the most incredible safari with the most wonderful people, I feel so privileged.
At camp I sit in front of the camp fire sipping my wine looking up at the stars as the fire warms my face. I am home, at peace.
Dinner is as always delicious, I love the food here the chefs are so talented. It is as always a group dinner with managers and guests and we talk of our day.
I sleep well listening to the sounds of the wild outside my tent. I feel so blessed and privileged to call this wonderful land my spiritual home, my peace, my love. Once again nature has given me so much and I hold it in my heart. I will return soon I cannot be away for long.
This is my Africa my spiritual home my blessing.
Day 13 –
I wake to the sound of rain on the tent, it is quite a comforting sound as I am still warm and in bed. This is my last day and I am very sad to be leaving my home.
Sammy the wonderful manager takes photographs of me with Evelyn and Nashipai; it has been so great to spend such quality time with these guides and empowered women.
We drive out for the final time on this trip into the wide open plains and rocky outcrops of the Naboisho conservancy. The sun is rising casting a golden red glow over the land. It is so peaceful, wild and beautiful.
We find the courageous Lioness Willow and her three cubs resting under some croton bushes. They would have just returned from a night of hunting they look well fed as they lay on their back their bellies full. Willow is a wonderful mother; her cubs are so happy and healthy. I hope one day they will re-join a pride.
Selenkei the female Cheetah has managed to kill a baby Grand Gazelle and is crunching its soft bones. She is laid down eating it, blood covering her mussel. Behind her a Jackal walks about hoping to get some scraps. A male and female Grand Gazelle probably the babies’ parents hover looking for their baby. The Cheetah makes quite short work of the kill as the flesh and bones are so soft, she even crunches the head. The Jackal still hovers in the background and the Cheetah gets up and chases it. She is just teasing it so stops and walks off. The Jackal then runs over to the carcass and picks it up in its strong jaws and runs quickly off with it. All that is left is mainly skin but the Jackal will eat that.
Most people do not know the difference between a Gazelle and an Antelope. Types of Gazelle are Grand Gazelle and Thompson Gazelle; with Gazelles both sexes have horns. Antelopes are a collective term for example Impala, Topi, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Kudo, Elan, Dik-Dik, Giraffe and Gazelles. Antelopes have divided hoofs, they are ruminates and all the males have horns.
We only drive off a very short distance and we see Nabor the Cheetah that has cubs in camp stalking through the croton bushes. There is a herd of Impala in front of her and a herd of Thompson Gazelle on her right. She lies on the ground and assesses the risk of both hunts. Thompson Gazelle are smaller and easier to catch so she starts stalking them. Unfortunately the Gazelle spot her and start to move off but she has cubs to feed so she is determined to hunt. We decide to eat breakfast in the car so we can carry on observing her.
All too soon it is time to head to the airstrip. I make a tearful farewell to my Maasai sisters I will miss them so much. It is hard to leave my spiritual home my happiness and joy.
This safari once again has been another incredible unique experience. No two safaris are the same; I have been blessed with some wonderful action and sightings. It is important to remember this is the Maasai Mara, home to some of the world’s most fascinating endangered animals but also to an incredible people and culture. I have nothing but love and respect for the Maasai people, you come here as a tourist and leave as a friend. It is a blessed land.
This is my Africa, my spiritual home, my blessing my heart.