Day 1 -
Africa is in my heart and soul, there is nowhere on earth quite like it. The beauty of the vast open Savannahs takes your breath away. You have to experience it, breath it, see it, to truly love and understand it. Every season brings new delights from the past furious pace of the migration to the calm serenity of birthing season. The harsh desolate dry soil in high season to the torrid rivers and tall golden grasses during the rains. It changes so fast and man and wildlife must coexist in such uncertainty and extremities. It is wild, free, life giving, connected and peaceful. You will always find yourself here because away from technology, modern living and stress your mind can open to all possibilities. You become connected to nature, the land, the animals and the environment. Where else can you look into the eyes of a Lion with just pure fresh air between you and not feel afraid, your heart beating at one. Or be surrounded by thousands of honking and braying Wildebeest but just hear peace. Life is so natural here, falling to sleep under the stars with the sound of the wild around you breaths life into your very soul. To quote a great writer…
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Ernest Hemingway.
This is my first trip to Samburu and it is very hot and dry but there are surprisingly green and luscious trees and bushes as their deep roots are fed by the Ewaso Nyiro River. My eyes take in the glorious plains as we fly over. When I arrive at the airstrip, beautifully dressed Samburu guides and ladies are selling jewellery, they are a myriad of colours and designs. Some sit by and dextrously sew together the beads, it is fascinating to watch their skill.
Stunning mountains with rocky outcrops fringe the savannah, millions of years of winds and rains have created such incredible formations, they are like sleeping giants protecting the plains and wildlife within. The first animal I see are Gerenuk Gazelle unique to Samuru, they have very long necks, large ears and big eyes. They are very pretty but shy like Impala. We watch them gracefully and serenely graze on the juicy grasses.
Luscious Palm Trees grow along the Ewaso Nyiro river which means brown water, this runs all the way down into the Mara river. It is high season so it is hot and the river is low. The trees somehow feel at odds with the dry soil. It is a wonderful oasis of succulent of leaves and tall thick trunks. The river gleams brown against the exposed banks of golden sand. Troops of Elephants bask and drink in the shallow river. Baby Elephants using their mothers for shade. The water is so low they can cross the river. A Elephant finds a tree stump scratch its face then bum. They are very relaxed and at one in their environment. An Elephant wraps its trunk around its tusk to rest it.
In the bushes DikDik parents and a baby graze on the bushes, they are constantly alert for predators. These are my favourite antelope and the smallest, their monogamy is unique. When they see us they scamper into the bushes for protection their large doe eyes ever watchful.
A safari of Reticulated Giraffe walk slowly and peacefully against the stunning backdrop of the mountains. They are a sub specie of Giraffe indigenous to northern Kenya. A giraffe’s spots are much like human fingerprints. No two individual giraffes have exactly the same pattern. Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. Male giraffes use their horns to sometimes fight with other males. They are as quiet as they are graceful.
Grevy’s Zebra are also indigenous to northern Kenya. The Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), also known as the imperial zebra, is the largest living wild equid and the largest and most threatened of the three species of Zebra. They are quite unique with their thin stripes which from a distance can merge and look grey. They affectionately rest their heads on each other’s backs to bond and protect each other.
We lunch by the river, it is a perfect setting with its white sands and sun bleached dead tree trunks providing perfect seating. White backed Vultures are basking on the sand, they open their wings wide to enjoy the heat. Further along a large troop of Baboons are foraging and squabbling, two break away and start chasing each other. They are unperturbed by our presence which makes our experience so peaceful and relaxing just being at one with them.
After lunch we find two Lionesses with four cubs around five months old with an Oryx kill. The long straight horns of the Oryx point up to the sky, all that is now left is a carcass and skin. They get up and walk in a line with the Lioness calling the cubs. They head to the river to drink, the meat would have been salty and they need to quench their thirst. The water is so low the sand is exposed and golden white and soft. Sun bleached trees lay next to the water. The Lions golden fur blend so well into this golden environment.
The sun begins to set throwing a golden red glow over this stunning scene. As we drive back to camp I watch the sun setting over the rugged mountains, a bath of golden light picking up the greens, reds and yellows in the grasses and bushes growing out of the rocky outcrops. It is quite mesmerising. Back at camp we sit around the camp fire within these mountains and discuss our amazing day.
I fall to sleep content in the sound of the wild all around me.
This is my Africa, a rich beautiful natural bio diversity.
Day 2 -
The camp is set in the mountains, I wake to a stunning view of the rugged outcrops with Gerenuk grazing on the steep slopes. The sun is starting to cast is golden glow over the tops of the mountains, it a multicoloured light show of vibrant oranges, reds and blues. The tent is set on one of the rugged outcrops and underneath there is a small cave, as I walk down past it to go to my vehicle I see distinctive pugmarks of a Leopard. These mountains are the perfect territory for their hunting so I am not surprised the Leopard uses the small cave as shelter from the night cold. The early morning is crisp but not cold, it will heat up very quickly.
Back down by the Ewaso Nyiro River we see Elephants crossing, their large legs thick as tree trunk splash up the waters. The young bulls start rolling over in the refreshing water splashing themselves to cool their already hot bodies. Vultures fly over head to sun bathe on the banks. The river provides such good water to the plants here it is always a rich utopia of animals wanting to drink and eat. The Elephants draw in large quantities of water and through their trunks to either drink or spray over themselves.
Giraffe feed off of Yellow back Acacia trees where Weaver nests hang like decorations. The rich yellow and green plumage of the birds are in contrast to their black faces. They flutter in and out of the nests in busy preparation for laying eggs. Their nests are so intricately woven hence how they became known as weavers.
We stop to admire the stunning Acacia trees with vines twisted artfully around the trunks. These are natural architectural works of art, the designs are just so beautiful and natural. The reality is the vine will eventually strangle the tree and it will die, it brings a new meaning to the phrase dying for your art. The vine will thicken and the twists become more elaborate and captivating.
I love the forests with the Gnarly old trees with thick trunks, the growths on the tree trunks look like old men’s faces, the wild man of the forest peers out at me like a poem. You can see how people in ancient times thought the trees were alive with mythical powers, your imagination could run wild here. As a photographer these growths and knots are the perfect picture.
Grey Rocks rise from the ground like ancient sleeping giants, they are covered in moss and the light captures the vivid greens. We breakfast by the river, Elephants graze nearby and walk into the water to drink and use their trunks to spray water over themselves to cool. It is so relaxing and peaceful.
We find a young female Leopard around 2-3 years old up a tree dangling all four legs and her tail over a thick branch. She is very contented and asleep. She stretches giving us a beautiful view of her stunning bluey green eyes, so vibrant and alert. She then climbs to a higher branch for more shade. Her coat is so soft and silky with her stunning markings. She lays over another branch and views us inquisitively, she does not seem shy but curious. When you find a Leopard you insistently feel at peace in its company as its solitude creates an aura of calm serenity. Leopards for often called shy and elusive but that has not been my experience of them. Because they live alone and have wonderful camouflage fur they are more difficult to spot but when you do I find them to be quite relaxed as long as you do not invade their personal space.
We lunch in the forest amongst the beautiful trees, the late afternoon sun is so hot and we need the shade. My eyes pick up the patterns and artwork in the knotted trunks of the trees. I am captivated by the beauty of the environment here, it is so hot and dry but the forests are so green and beautiful. Birds nest between the twisted branches and sing sweet songs, it is so calm and tranquil.
Later in the afternoon we find a young male Lion of around 3 years old sleeping next to some bushes. He has a tagging collar on so the conservationists can track the pride. It is a debatable issue whether this is worthwhile I have heard both argument. He is away from the rest of the pride which means they are close or he has recently been ejected from it so he can learn to hunt and defend for himself until he starts his own pride in a couple of years.
We drive past herds of Elephants walking towards the river to drink and bathe. The hot sun beats down on them. Elephants may spend 12-18 hours a day feeding. Adult elephants can eat between 200-600 pounds of food a day. As herbivores, elephants consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily. Elephants can also drink up to 50 gallons of water a day. It is no wonder this herd nearly seems to wander far from the river and the lush vegetation surrounding it.
The sun begins to set as we drive back to camp, I love feeling the heat of the sun rays as it slowly sets behind the mountains. The whole savannah is lit up in a glorious technicolour of reds, oranges and golds. It is bathed in such beautiful light it feels just magical, there is nothing like an African sunset.
In camp we enjoy the warmth of the camp fire although the air is still warm, the mountains protect us from the night chill. As we sip our red wine we look up at the stars and see thousands burning bright against the inky blue black sky. It is almost a full moon and it is bright and celestial. It is quite the light show tonight. All around us we hear the calls of the wild reminding us of the fact we are in nature, we are part of this glorious wild exciting but peaceful environment.
There is a Leopard in the camp right next to my tent, apart from the flash of amber night vision eyes it stalks off to hunt. I am not it’s prey so of little interest to it and not in any danger. It is remarkable how if you allow yourself you can become part of this beautiful environment. I sleep so peacefully dreaming of hunting Leopards, stealthy, powerful and quick, such incredible ambush hunters.
This is my Africa, wild, untamed and free.
Day 3 -
I wake to the sound of rustling next to my tent but on inspection it is just the Gerenuk foraging in the bushes. Considering there is a resident Leopard here this particular Gerenuk seems to calmly graze around camp everyday and is almost domesticated.
Today I leave camp to head home to the Maasai Mara, Samburu is beautiful but not rich in big cats. On the way to the airstrip we pass the herd of Elephants heading to the river. African Bush Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. Males can grow up to 13 feet tall at the shoulders, measure up to 30 feet from trunk to tail, and weigh up to 14,000 pounds. Perhaps that explains why Elephants are the only mammals that cannot jump. The African elephant is not just the largest living land animal but it has an enormous brain size to match. Their brains can weigh up to a whopping 5.4kg and are, without doubt, the largest brain of all animals living on land. African elephant ears are, rather helpfully, the shape of Africa. I watch them march down to the river to drink and bathe. Elephants can get sunburn so they must cover themselves in mud to protect their skin.
We see an Oryx standing with a Grevy’s Zebra, two of the indigenous animals in north Kenya. As we pass they both stop drinking and look over their shoulders to watch us. They are both such striking animals, it is lovely how prey graze together for protection against predators, they unite against a common threat.
I board the flight down to the Mara and take my last view of this rich savannah and breathtaking mountain tops, it is quite glorious. We fly over Samburu villages and see woman and children tending cattle and sheep and the men dressed in their colourful shukas with vibrant headdresses and colourful beads.
We land back in my spiritual home, the uniquely beautiful Maasai Mara, unrivalled in its captivating plains and richness of wildlife especially big cats. My wonderful friend and guide Tony greets me, it is so wonderful to be back. Within thirty minutes of landing the Mara rewards my faithfulness by allowing me to find a stunning Lioness looking to hunt next to a herd of Zebra. Her beautiful golden fur is lit by the yellow noon sunlight, her powerful shoulders are hunched forward and her body prone ready to hunt. She is patient and waits to decide which Zebra she will hunt. Once decided she uses her powerful back legs to propel herself forward and chases a Zebra, she catches it digging her sharp claws into its rump but the Zebra kicks back and the Lioness releases it not wanting to get injured. It was an impressive attempt which she will try again later.
The quite stunning lithe athletic female Cheetah Imani is standing by some bushes with her three beautiful cubs, their fur is still fluffy around the backs of their necks. She spots a lone Thompson Gazelle grazing nearby, quite surprisingly it has not seen her. Imani stealthily walks through the grass, her body prone, she treads carefully not making a sound, she uses the long grass as camouflage. She gives chase, the Thompson Gazelle is startled and starts to run. Imani is a Cheetah so built and endurance, she is the fastest land mammal. I am captivated by the speed and dexterity with which she runs. She sprints fast her long sinewy body stretched long covering the ground quickly as the Thompson Gazelle weaves through the grass. It is no match for her speed and she reaches it using her long powerful legs and claws to pull it down by its rump. She then quickly grabs the neck and throttles it by clamping her powerful jaws around its windpipe, the Thompson Gazelles kicks its legs in a futile attempt to escape the inevitable. After just moments it’s eyes glaze over in death and its legs lay still. Once dead she pants for a while then she picks it up by the neck and drags it between her legs. It is heavy so she changes position and pulls it backwards towards the bush to her cubs. They squeal and join her, prancing around her in excitement. At the bush she drags it to the shade and rests, the cubs grow impatient and start playing with the legs, then one grabs the genitals and starts pulling. Imani gets up and rips open the soft meaty rump for them and they start eating, gnawing and chewing and making soft contented mewing noises. Imani joins in eating with her cubs. A cub try’s to eat where she is eating and it is told off with a growl and gentle slap of her paw. The other cubs are rewarded with a lick for being good. Imani licks the dripping blood from the earth nothing should be wasted. All four eat together and one cub manages to get a portion of the intestines wrapped around its head like a gory bonnet. The whole Thompson Gazelle body is now ripped open and you and you can see the internal organs spewing out. They have to eat fast as the smell of blood will attract predators and scavengers who can easily take the kill from her and attack the cubs.
We spread a blanket on the grass by the Ntiakitak River (a collection of streams) and enjoy a delicious lunch in the shade. It is so peaceful and tranquil here listening to the burbling water. After such an exciting start to our safari we lay out and discuss the abundance of wildlife the Mara is home to.
If nature had not provided enough we see a Lioness chasing a Leopard up a tree. They are competitors, they both hunt the same prey so they will try and eliminate each other. The Leopard climbs to the top of a Kenyan Greenheart tree knowing that even though the Lioness can climb she is very cumbersome in doing so so is unlikely to follow. The Lioness languishes at the bottom of the tree whilst the Leopard camouflages itself within the lush foliage until she leaves to probably hunt.
To our excitement down stream we find a very large male Leopard sleeping in the shade of the banks of the river. He is probably the largest Leopard I have ever had the fortune to see. He is stretched out, his strong muscular frame covered in his distinctive black and gold rosettes. His neck is thick and powerful, he is built for strength as he is an ambush hunter. His tail is a thick long rod of pure muscle as it enables him to balance as he climbs up trees with a kill often much heavier than him. For now he is sleeping quite peacefully just occasionally using his mighty paws to swipe flies off of his face.
We drive back to Imani but as the sun is setting and they have eaten their fill the Cheetahs head off to safety for the night and leave it to two keen Jackal. The Jackals greedily feast over the remains pulling sinew off of bones and fighting over scraps of flesh. Jackals are such efficient scavengers and pretty little dogs. Lapped faced and White back Vultures hop around in the back ground squawking and fighting waiting for their turn to pick clean the final remains of the carcass. The sun is setting on this beautifully gory scene, the sun rays cast a almost romantic red and gold glow over this place.
As the sun sets low the animals are silhouetted against the deep reds, golds, yellows, purples and blues of the sun set. The clouds are moody dark grey and create artistic shapes across the sky. The preys eyes become sharp and wary as it is now time for Lions to hunt, who will survive the night? The air starts to cool and I breath in the fragrant scent of herbs and I fill my lungs with the soft freshness.
We are greeted so warmly as friends back at Malaika camp, this is now home from home, the camp has such a wonderful family feel. We sit by the camp fire and enjoy a glass of red wine whilst revelling in the warmth of the crackling flames. It is a new moon and it sits amongst a blue black blanket and a million twinkling stars. There is nowhere in the world for me more beautiful than the African star at night. I feel so at one with nature, connected and free.
Dinner is kindly served by the fire so I can carry on enjoying the stillness whilst listening to the sounds of the wild all around me. My soul takes flight as I connect with this beautiful land and let go of all my stresses and strains of the outside world. I sleep so well listening to the sound of Lions roaring across the river, I feel so at peace.
This is my Africa, my perfect serenity.
Day 4 –
I wake to the sound of Lions roaring and calling to each other after their nightly hunt. They are gathering the pride together. No doubt they were successful as the prey is still plentiful. As I leave my tent I breath in the crisp cold air and draw in the scent of croton bushes. I instantly feel alive, awake and excited to find out what nature will give me today. I greet the Askari by the crackling fire and warm by body as I drink my hot aromatic coffee.
We bundle up against the morning chill in Maasai blankets and start our safari. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace, happiness and serenity. The prey stretch their cold muscles glad to be alive within a sea of golden green grasses. They are beautifully silhouetted against the dawn light. Dew clings to the top of each blade and looks like a million diamonds as they catch the suns glow.
The sun rises through an artfully stripped brush of thin clouds creating the most stunning, mesmerising and romantic sunrise. Strips of red, yellow, gold and orange breakthrough the slithers of white soft clouds. The horizon is dark but lit with dark burnished coppers and golds, the scene is breathtaking.
The sun rises quickly to a bright round red fireball, as we cross the Talek river the grey boulder rocks glisten in the light. The trees and bushes around the river are reflected in the still shallow waters. It is so calm and peaceful, I love this time of the morning, it allows you to open your mind and free yourself.
We find the beautiful female Cheetah Imani with her three cubs sitting on a termite mound, her athletic sinewy body is stretched out, her golden body perfectly lit by the sunlight. She stands and surveys the gold and green plains stretched before her and calls her cubs to follow. The cubs because they are only a few months old are still fluffy like honey badgers, this protects them against predators as honey badgers are notoriously aggressive. The fluffy cubs run after their mum and start playing chasing each other. They are frisky and energetic, they are practicing their hunting skills on each other by stalking and chasing to pull down their sibling by the flank or neck like they are prey. Imani keeps on walking so they decide she is now their prey and they chase her and jump up at her neck wrapping their tiny paws around it and trying to bite her in mock suffocation like they will when they are older to choke a Gazelle. She is affectionate and patient with them and plays with them batting them away her paws and pretending to bite them back. It is most joyous watching the interaction between them. The cubs run, chase and play for a while, play is so important for their development especially when they will have to hunt alone.
A group a Elans graze in an everglade, the sunlight is lighting the grass making it look very vibrant. Two DikDik come out of the bushes to graze also, this gives us a wonderful view of the largest and smallest antelope together. It is very tranquil and peaceful, a stream burbles behind them giving them a good water source.
We almost miss a Bat eared fox lying on the grass, because they are very nocturnal. It is a very small fluffy Fox with extremely large ears and beige in colour. It has small eyes as it relies on its hearing to feed at night. It is an insectorvor, which means it only feeds off of insects such as beetles and termites. It puts its ears to the ground to hear where they are scurrying so it can dig up the beetles to eat. The Bat eared fox is basking in the sun next to its den which is in a termite mound so conveniently also a good food source. It gets up and walks to the den and greets its partner. They sit together at the opening and start to groom each other. Bat eared foxes are monogamous and pair for life.
Topi are on centry duty on top of termite mounds whilst small herds of Zebra, Wildebeest and Impala graze on the short green grasses. An old Buffalo alights from the bushes it had no horns from years of fighting, it has now left he herd and is living alone until it dies or most likely killed and eaten by Lions.
We find one of the six male Lions from the new coalition which has entered the Mara. They are all from the same pride but are of different ages so most likely cousins. These boys are looking to take over the Marsh pride from the Musketeer male Lions. This male Lion is sitting with a Lioness from the Marsh pride looking to mate. He sits next to her, his mane mane fully grown magnificent and golden, he is majestic with a powerful regal bearing, a true king in the making. There is also a serenity and gentleness about his countenance. It is growing hot so he rises showing us his muscular frame and height in all its full glory, his powerful shoulders bear the weight of his large head as he slowly walks into a ravine to find water and shade.
Not far away we find part of the Topi pride, four adolescent Lionesses and an adolescent Lion of around three years old. It looks like the females made a kill and the Lion eat it all as he is fat and full and they look hungry, they sit away from him. The females are affectionate with each other. One Lioness has only one eye probably from fighting or from a hunt. She sits by a tree and rubs it on the rough bark. The Lion sneezes and the whole pride jumps in shock, it is most amusing. The Lion moves to the tree and also starts rubbing his mussel against the rough bark. They are such a gorgeous golden group.
We breakfast under the shade of a nearby tree so we can carry on watching the pride. It is so lovely being out of the vehicle so close to them. They are hot and panting hard in the heat. The Lion tries to pretend to mate with one of his sisters but she bats him away. This is why in a year or so he will be ejected from the pride as he will try and mate with his sisters which would weaken the genetics of the pride. He will have to make his own pride elsewhere. The Lion is restless he cannot get comfortable as he has eaten too much, he props a leg up on the tree. He then gets up and stretches and scent marks the tree. The Lionesses growl at him they are clearly annoyed he eat all of the kill. As he walks away to find shade his large rotund swollen belly swings low.
In the distance a mating pair of Ostriches are undergoing a courtship dance with their impressive wings outstretched and their long necks low. The female squats on the ground and he dances behind her before copulating. The mating is over quickly and they walk away from each other.
We lunch by the river it is a beautiful setting. As we get out Baboons climb down from the trees to see what we have for lunch. They grunt at us but do not come close as we lay our blanket out. Mongoose on the over side of the river rise on their hind legs to see us then scurry off. The sun is hot and we enjoy the shade in the tranquil everglade.
Maridadi (handsome) one of the male Lions from the Fig tree pride sits under a croton bush. It is very hot and he pants heavily, he looks full like he has eaten earlier. He has a fresh cut over his left eye quite possibly from fighting. His mane is full but mainly dark gold, he is very handsome.
Not far from him we find a beautiful young female Cheetah, she is resting in the grass looking into some bushes. Cheetahs like to hunt on wide open areas so it is unlikely she is looking to hunt but just checking no Lions are coming her way. She sits up stretches and yawns and looks around. When she is satisfied she is safe she lays down again. Cheetahs do not sleep much as there are many threats to her safety.
We drive through herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, Topi and Impala. The great migration is now over so most of the Wildebeest have headed back to Tanzania, it is only the resident herds that remain. The Mara does have great herds of Buffalo, as we pass them they look up with their bad tempered faces like they are annoyed we disturbed them. The small Buffalo babies huddle in the middle of the herd for safety.
The Kaboso area is very green and luscious, herds of Impala and Thompson Gazelle graze on the fertile grasses. It is no wonder it is the home territory of my favourite Leopard family, a stunning female, an older male cub and two younger cubs. Laying under a very small bush we find the older male cub. As we approach he looks up at us with his big soulful green eyes, he is quite the handsome prince. When he is around two years old he will leave his mother and live alone. He is scanning the plains for small prey to hunt. He sits up affording me a wonderful view of his simply stunning black and gold rosette covered fur, he really his quite breath taking.
It is late afternoon and the winds start to blow and it starts raining very fast and heavy. The Kaboso male Leopard hunches down under the small bush to try and take shelter. His beautiful fur is oily so he stays dry but his expression clearly tells us he is not enjoying this wet interruption to his hunting plans. As soon as the rain eases he gets up and shakes the rain from his fur scattering the droplets. He marches off to warm his muscles and get ready to hunt. He practices his technique by prancing on movements in the grass, it is wonderful seeing him being so playful and active. The light is however fading and we must return to camp.
We have a fun drive back as the tracks are sticky and slippery from the sudden rain downpour, the Talek river is higher so our crossing is more dramatic as we slip and slide. The sky is dark with moody clouds, we cannot see the sunset behind it but it is still lovely. As we near camp it is dark but we see two Lionesses off on their nightly hunt. The prey are preparing themselves for the risk of being hunted. This is nature, the circle of life.
An Verux Eagle Owl flies in front of our vehicle it’s great wings outstretched. It’s sharp yellow eyes are scanning the grass for rodents and rabbits to feast on. It has a high pitch cry that reverberates through the darkness.
At camp the rain eases so we sit by the fire, the flames dance and lick the air with its red and yellow vibrant sparks. The flames warm our bodies and as the sky clears we can see the stars against the dark moody sky. We take dinner by the fire as the air is so fresh after the rain. We hear the sound of Lions roaring in the dark, the call to gather in hunting. That night I sleep so peacefully, I feel so connected to nature.
This is my Africa, nature in harmony.
Day 5 -
I wake feeling so content and rested, I sit in bed drinking my hot aromatic coffee and thinking on the wonders the last couple of days have brought. I dress quickly as the pre dawn is cool. In the vehicle we bundle up in our blankets and head out into the beautiful plains.
The grass is moist and glistening in the sunrise, each blade topped with dew. The sun rises through a thin bank of clouds, a beautiful artistic strip of pastel colours. The prey are stretching their cold muscles and prance and leap to warm up. As we cross the Talek river we see a male and female Kingfisher perching on a thin branch looking to fish. Their wings are a stunning vibrant iridescent blue and black against a lovely red chest and beak. As they fly off the sun catches their colours which shine so beautifully.
Up in a small Ballanite tree we see two Tawny Eagles, they have plain fawn coloured feathers with a crown plumage on their heads. Their eyes are piercing and sharp, their sharp Tallons grip the branch as they scan the plains for rodents, lizards and hares to hunt.
A Juvenile Black Chested Snake Eagle is also perched in a nearby tree, it is probably waiting for its parent to return, it has a beautiful white head and a dark chest. It is part hidden in the canopy of the tree.
We drive to the Bilashaka area which means with no doubt as their is always plenty of prey in the area. This is not surprising as it is a wide open luscious green plain next to the vibrant green Marsh area. The prey have an abundance of luscious grasses to feed on. Tall Palm Trees border the Marsh drawing up through its roots plenty of moisture. It is a very beautiful area. Herds of Elephants graze contentedly ripping up large clumps of grass and roots with their trunks.
A Hippo is walking to the Marsh waters, it is large, grey and pink, it looks so cumbersome walking through the grass. It’s large wide frame is somehow being carried by small stumpy legs. It’s grazes on the luscious grasses, long pieces stick out of its mouth as it chews. When it reaches the Marsh it heaves it’s hefty bulk into the water to cool its body.
In the bushes we find the beautiful Lioness Yaya she has two young cubs of around three months old, they are suckling from her. When they finish she starts to wash them with her raspy tongue but the cubs want to play and start batting her face with their small paws. They roll on their backs and try to chew their mums face so she starts to play with them mock biting and chewing them back. They love this game and playfully roll between her large front paws and play with her face resisting her licking tongue. Lionesses are wonderful mothers, they will protect their cubs with their life. The cubs get up and start chasing each other and play pretend hunting. They are such small fluff balls of golden hair, they are still covered in light rosettes which camouflage them at this vulnerable age.
Close by another Marsh pride Lioness stalks through the grass she looks like she needed to hunt. She starts to grunt for her cubs and on hearing her call her two young cubs come out of the bushes and call back. They greet their mother by joyously rubbing heads they are so pleased to see her. She takes them back into the bushes for safety.
We breakfast by the swampy vibrant green Marsh covered in pond plants. A family of Egyptian Geese paddle through enjoying the cool waters. As we set out our lovely breakfast a herd of Elephants pass in the near distance they are unconcerned by us so we relax and eat. It is so stunningly beautiful and tranquil here.
Driving through the Bilashaka we come to the Paradise plains aptly named for the beauty of this area, it takes us down to the Mara River and the main crossing area. In a group of small croton bushes we find part of the Paradise pride of Lions. They are quite sleepy as it hot in the morning sun. They have clearly made a kill today as they have large rotund bellies and they are panting heavily. One of the Lionesses is sat within a bush looking at the crossing point of the river hoping Wildebeest will cross so she can kill again. Lions are opportunistic hunters. Very interestingly we believe it is a group of Lionesses but one rolls over and we can see from the genitals it is a adolescent male of around three years old. As this age he should have a small mane but he just has a small tuft of fluff on the side of his face like a young cub. He is very large but a genetic mutation may mean he will not have a large mane.
A small herd of Hartebeest walk by us, their horns beautifully curved into a heart shape. Close is a group of Elan, they also have impressive curly horns. When the males walk you can hear their joints click. In this Bilashaka area is also a herd of stunning tall male Waterbuck, they stop to look at us , side on they are very impressive. The whole area is teaming with game, there are hundreds of Zebra mingling with Impala, Thompson Gazelle and Topi. Zebra strengthen their bond by resting their heads of each other’s bodies in the opposite direction.
A group of Baboons forage in the grass, they have good eyesight. Young babies ride on the backs of their mothers whilst others play fight. Couples sit peacefully grooming each other, they can spend hours thoroughly and thoughtfully picking ticks and salt from within their fur. This can make the males quite excited, one male attempts to mate with a female but she is more interested in foraging.
We lunch under a tree it is very hot, the sky is a clear azure blue and heat beats down on us. All around prey graze as we lay out on our blanket enjoying the peace and tranquility of this utopia.
Sometimes the simplest scene can bring the biggest surprise. We see a Lioness sat in the long grass by herself, she seems very content in the open grassland even though she has no shade and it is very hot. Just five metres away from her we see the reason for her satisfaction. A Giraffe must have given birth this morning because the Lioness has killed a very small baby Giraffe. Giraffes are poor mothers only sixty percent survive to adulthood as the mothers will often give birth then move off to graze leaving the baby at the mercy of predators. This must be the case here. Looking at the Giraffe carcass it is clear the Lioness grabbed the baby by the face and crushed it with her powerful jaws. It is very sad but nature at its rawest.
I later learn from another guide that the Giraffe was actually running away from the Lioness with her foul and she tried to kick the Lioness but instead kicked her foul killing it. Such a tragic accident but this is nature.
We find the Five Cheetah male coalition, they are sat in long grasses as it is late afternoon and still quite warm. These boys can over 40km over night so will often move from the reserve into one of the conservancies or even the Serengeti. They are much successful hunters, as a coalition of not even blood they have learned about strength in numbers and they can bring down large prey such as Zebras and Wildebeest. They have not made a kill today yet but it means they will wait until after sunset to make a surprise kill. It is lovely such to sit and watch them, they are quite content washing themselves and each other. Considering they are not genetically linked they are very affectionate with each other.
The light begins to fade and we head back to camp. I feel quite content after seeing such beautiful cats today and be able to observe their behaviour. The sun sets it beautiful glow over the plains, the sky is an artists dream artfully washed with vibrant, russets, reds, yellows and purples. I love how the colours are shot through the clouds which are thunderous grey and brooding.
At camp we are greeted with red wine to warm and revive us. The crackling fire dances with sparks of red and gold into the cooling air. They camp often uses croton branches on the fire which has such a heady divine scent along with its insect repellent use. I feel content just warming myself and looking up at the stars. You can see such clear constellations against the inky black sky. We hear Hyena laughing in the background no doubt following the Lions hoping they will hunt so they can scavenge the kill. Lions roar into the night gathering the pride together to hunt. We dine by the fire enjoying the cool evening air and enjoying the sounds of the wild. Once again I sleep so peacefully.
This is my Africa, heart breaking, heart warming but never the same twice.
Day 6 –
I wake to the strangest sound outside my tent, it sounds like an engine. It takes me a few minutes to focus on the sound, it is a Hippo grazing outside but for some reason being very vocal. I sit in bed and drink my coffee amused at the strange alarm call. Nature is waking after a long cold night, the sounds of the dawn chorus is all around me and I feel so connected to nature.
The sky is clear so the sun rises in such an ablaze of vibrant reds, golds and oranges. It sets the plains alight, the long grasses are aglow a sea of golds, greens and reds. Architectural Ballanite trees rise like islands in this beautiful sea of gold. As the gentle wind blows the grasses shimmer and flow, rippling with such splendid glamour.
A female Jackal with her three cubs play around the opening of their den, the cubs are very fluffy and frisky chasing each other around. Close by a grey dead tree stands stark against the clear azure blue sky, on top sits Vultures surveying the plains for carcasses to pick clean, they can see the blood from several kilometres. It is not long before we see Hyenas laughing and squabbling over a carcass, only limbs are left. Vultures hop about on the grass picking at the entrails and scraps of skin and meat. The Hyenas chase at the Vultures if they get too close sending them rather amusingly flapping.
We finally find two of the Kaboso male Leopards, they have encountered each other and were fighting. They are now running in opposite directions. They are impressive muscular males with thick necks and powerful shoulders. The morning is growing hot so they seek shade now. We watch them march through the long grass their eyes sharp and observant. It is difficult to predict the movements of a cat so we sit and observe where it will go. Leopards really are quite breathtakingly stunning with their powerfully built bodies, rosette covered fur and big round green eyes. Their elusive beauty is what makes them so exciting to see.
Part of the Enkuyanai pride are sitting by a group of croton bushes, it is hot and they need to stay cool and protected from mosquitoes. There is about eight females and cubs, they look up at us with their deeply beautiful golden eyes, mesmerising. Some roll onto their backs to cool their bellies. I watch and feel at peace watching Lions they have such a calm serenity about them when they are resting. They are also so incredibly affectionate with one another. A lone male Buffalo grazes very closely to these bushes but it has not seen the sleeping Lions.
We have breakfast by the Double Cross area, large boulders of shimmering grey rocks rise like giants from the low waters. It is a tranquil area surrounded by trees and bushes. We set out our blanket and eat our delicious breakfast whilst enjoying the peace and stillness.
Elan walk over the plains, they are so impressive in stature. Their curly horns look beautifully sculpted. They have a distinctive flap of skin under their neck which sways as they walk, it is a fatty deposit. Nearby a herd of Elephants with young calfs kick up roots of small bushes with their large feet and pull them up with the sensitive ends of their trunks like fingers.
Two Jackal run through the grasses looking for carcasses to scavenge, they often follow the Lions as they know they will hunt. They are such cute little dogs with a high pitch bark. They can of course hunt for themselves smaller prey such as baby Thompson Gazelle or Hares. However they do rip their prey apart and eat it alive, this is not a pleasant sight.
It is growing hot so most of the animals are seeking shade. Hyenas wallow in shallow pools of muddy water. They are undisturbed by us as they pass as they are enjoying the refreshing sensation. We think we see a cat under a bush but it is a Pumba seeking shade from the hot sun. Nearby however we do find the Topi pride under bushes, they are sleeping mainly on their backs, their limbs tangled together. They are conserving their energy for hunting time later.
Lunch by the river is always so peaceful and tranquil. There are no Baboons to disturb us today just birds flying around and singing in the trees. The sun is so hot now we need the shade to cool us too. We talk about our wonderful morning and how each safari brings such incredible experiences. Each season here is so different, it is lovely to experience all of them and the surprises they bring.
Imani sits in the grass with her cubs, she looks like she wants to hunt. She is such a beautiful female Cheetah and her cubs are strong and healthy. She scans the plains for opportunities to hunt, there are Impala grazing nearby but they have seen her and start to snort a warning call to the other prey that a cat is in hunting mode. She walks stealthily through the long grass with her cute fluffy cubs running after her. She will continue to find opportunities to hunt, the game is plentiful here.
Down in the almost dry river we see Lioness drinking, she has mud on her chin from the muddy waters. She looks up at us she looks most comical. She looks well fed so it is likely her pride make a kill earlier that morning and she is quenching her thirst. She looks up at us with her golden eyes aglow in the bright sun shine. She walks up the bank to join the rest of her pride.
Back in the Kaboso area we find a truly majestic, regal, powerful male Lion with a full golden and black mane sat upright watching the large herd of Wildebeest on the plains in front of him. His jaw hangs down and he is salivating at the sight of such delicious prey to eat. His large golden eyes are alert and excited at the prospect of his Lionesses hunting one later. His chin is blonde but he has a dark patch of hair in the middle of his chin making him look like he has a beard. He is not disturbed by our presence he is so mesmerised by the scene in front of him.
Close by two Lionesses no doubt from his pride are also surveying the plains for hunting opportunities. They are large powerfully built muscular Lionesses quite possibly the matriarchs of this pride who lead the hunts. Their sharp eyes calculate the scene deciding on the formation the Lionesses will hunt it and the Wildebeest they will target. Lionesses are very intelligent, fast and focused, watching Lionesses hunt is always exciting, fast and thrilling.
Even with the Kaboso area being taken over by Lions we find the stunning Kaboso female Leopard. She is neither shy or elusive, she is beautiful, elegant, graceful but also sharp and powerful. Her cubs are growing and becoming more independent so she has clearly decided it is time to mate again. The male Leopards this morning obviously detected she was ready to mate and were fighting over the right to do so. She will only mate with the strongest Male to ensure her cubs have good genetics. She has chosen, for in the deep ravine we see her with one of them. He is impressively large and powerful but in her domain she calls the shots. She flirts with him rubbing her body up against him and then crouching before him so he can mount her. Then she changes her mind and walks ahead of him, teasing him with her scent. Surprisingly they walk up from within the bushes and come out into the open right in front of us. Here she starts frantically rubbing up against him then crouches down for him to mount her. After a seconds hesitation he does so, he thrusts a few times whilst they both growl and snarl. The mating is over in less than ten seconds and when he withdraws she immediately turns round and snarls at him swiping him with her lethal claws, he jumps back high in the air to avoid being attacked.
They have clearly only just begun their mating as within minutes she is rubbing up against him again. She crouches down in front of him again and the mating lasts seconds, she seems even more furious this time and she swipes round and strikes him with her sharp claws as he jumps high back. She needs to ensure she is impregnated this is the only role of the male in her life. She is ferocious and demanding with him, it is a very dramatic mating ritual which they repeat several times more before heading back into the bushes. They will no doubt continue in there. This is the first time I have seen Leopards mating and it was so tense, exciting and dramatic. The Kaboso females energy and dominance is to be admired, she is focused and driven in the process.
After a dramatic end to the day we are awarded with a dramatic pure golden sunset. We stop by a Ballanite tree and have our sun downer in front of the tree. We sip red wine and watch the sun turn from gold to red and the light shoot dramatic radiant colours across the horizon. The Ballanite tree is in perfect silhouette against the stunning fiery sky, the perfect sunset picture. I love how the sky darkens after the sun has disappeared and the colours become more dark and dramatic, turning
Day 7 -
This morning I am woken by a very different sound, several Buffalo are grazing and mooing outside of my tent. It is such a privilege to wake up to the sounds of the wild all around. The birds stretch their wings in their nests and sing their dawn chorus then take flight across the cool morning sky. Lions call to each other across the river, they join together after a night of hunting.
We drive out into the golden plains, the sun is starting to show a red fireball magnificently rising over the horizon. Prey are perfectly silhouetted against this blazing backdrop. The air is very cool and crisp and I breath in the scent of the wild herds and heady croton bushes. I feel so alive, my body, mind and soul is connected to nature and I am excited at wear it will give me today.
What a gift, the stunningly beautiful Baharti (Swahili for Lucky) alights from some croton bushes. She is the most famous and loved female Leopard on the Mara. She is small but very a powerful successful huntress. She is also a good mother, a month ago she gave birth to another cub and she has it careful hidden away from predators and threats such as Lions and Hyena. Her face is a picture of unrivalled beauty with golden fur sprinkled with black rosettes and large round green eyes. She is scanning the bushes for prey as she is an ambush hunter. The vibrant gold and red of the early sunrise lights up her fur, she is breathtaking, it really highlights her true beauty. She has a cut on her side, she may have had a conflict with a predator, she will fiercely protect her cub.
As we drive across the plains, it takes my breath away the sheer beautiful expanse of golden grasses swaying in the breeze. Upon these plains sits part of the Topi pride, three adolescent males and four cubs. They are resplendent, their pure blonde golden fur is like spun gold under the rays of the sun. The adolescent Males are around two years old high means they have small soft fluffy manes, the hair on their cheeks and on their chest is long soft and golden, they are stunningly beautiful. The males have perfect faces as yet unmarked from mating or fighting.
The young Lions are rather comically sat on top of a Pumba den. They look quite relaxed but clearly want to hunt. Then all of a sudden two Pumbas shoot out of the den taking the Lions by surprise. The Lions give chase but the Pumbas have a head start and are too quick. They have to give up and head back to sitting on the den. Lions are very clever and resourceful and one male Lion cub goes down into the den. Within moments he appears with a squirming tiny piglet in its mouth, he uses his small jaws to choke the piglet. The cub then runs off with the piglet to eat it closely followed by its siblings. Of course male Lions even cubs do not share and he hastily eats the whole piglet as the whole body is soft. The other cubs sit around looking hungry and jealous. Once he has finished he goes back to the den and burrows back down inside and comes out with yet another piglet, his brothers really are jealous now. He runs off with the wiggling piglet and eats it in the long grass not leaving a scrap. From a short distance away a lone Giraffe walks over to stare quickly at the Lions antics.
In nearby bushes we find two of the Lionesses from the Topi pride, they are relaxing in the shade of some croton bushes. In the near distance a family of Pumba graze but the Lionesses are not in the mood to hunt. They pant in the growing heat and roll over into their backs to try and cool themselves.
After all this excitement we find a lovely Ballanite tree with wide branches to shade us and we set out our breakfast. We relax on the grass surrounded by Topi and Thompson Gazelle. It is such a relaxing peaceful place to rest and enjoy the open plains. We discuss our amazing early morning, nature really has just given and given the last few days, I have enjoyed so many new sightings even after 13 years of coming on safari here. This is one of the reasons that brings me back.
Down by the Kaboso area there are large herds of Wildebeest, Thompson Gazelle and Pumba either side of the river. They want to cross the river to join the others on the other side. Three Lionesses from the Topi pride come out of the bushes and start stalking across the plains. The Wildebeest start snorting a warning call and the Pumbas run in panic. The Lionesses head to the water where the Wildebeest will cross and sit in the bushes. One Lioness seeing a group of Mongoose and playfully chases them. After a while the Wildebeest will forget the Lionesses are there and will cross giving the Lionesses a good chance to ambush.
It is stunning in this area there are such lovely herds of Wildebeest and Zebra. As we drive along we see a Hippo out of the water grazing on the plains right next to two Buffalo, they are quite content in each other’s company. Elan seem to also enjoy the fertile grasses here and good access to water. With all the trees and bushes around the water it is perfect for prey but also excellent for predators to ambush. No wonder we have seen so many Lions and Leopards here.
Down by the river we set out a blanket and enjoy a lovely lunch. Under the shade of the trees it is most peaceful and tranquil. Birds hop around in the grass around us looking for food to eat. Up in the trees they call to each other and sing melodies. The gentle breeze rustles through the leaves, the sunlight is dappled by the foliage. We talk about our amazing morning and how much fun it has been.
Perched on a edge of a bush I see a beautiful Cinnamon chested bee eater, it’s stunning vibrant green feathers are perfectly set off against the pale blue of the late afternoon sky. It is preening itself allowing me to see its full colours as it splays out its feathers to clean. It is stunningly attractive, small but just perfect.
We drive through a herd of several hundred Buffalo, they look at us malevolently, their stare steely and cold. They are of course the big five, this term comes from early hunters to Africa. Fortunately Kenya has a zero tolerance to hunting and poaching. The Buffalo herd is led by the matriarch, she will decide which direction they will travel in.
As the sun sets over these stunning plains, the sky darkens as the rain is starting to fall. The dark is a moody dark red, orange and russet and the rains in the distance create a blanket of streaky colour through the golden light, it is just breathtaking. The Buffalo who are now marching towards us are perfectly silhouetted against this dark sunset, the sun sets a perfect sphere of fiery blaze. I am mesmerised by the absolute breathtaking scene before me, we raise our glasses to the sun and give thanks to nature for such a spectacular light show.
As we drive back to camp the sky quickly darkens to inky blue black and the stars shine like diamonds on this perfect expanse. At camp we sit by the fire and look up at the perfect constellations, it is a stunning evening, it is so clear. As we enjoy the warmth of the flames from the camp fire Lions can be heard roaring in preparation to hunt. We enjoy our meal by the fire discussing our wonderful day.
This is my Africa an artistic palette of vibrant colours.
Day 8 -
This is my last morning and I give thanks for all I have seen so far, it has been an truly wonderful safari. Nature has really given this time and I feel so blessed by this trip. As the Maasai say “leave nothing behind apart but footprints, take nothing but pictures”. This is so true, being at one with nature and just enjoying what is gives is so beautiful.
As we bundle up in our blankets against the cold we drive through herds of Wildebeest, Buffalo and Impala. They stretch their cold bodies as the sun begins to rise. Some start running and leaping, practicing running away from predators. The sun rises over the plains shooting bursts of golden and red light over everything it touches. The air is crisp and cool and I fill my lunges with the clean herb scented air.
Rather excitingly we see a Hyena stealing a new born Impala kill from a Baboon. The Baboon looks outraged and even though the Baboon is a large make with long sharp canines it is no match for the powerful body and jaws of an adult Hyena. The Hyena laughs and runs off with it. Several of its pack run after him to try and share the kill but he is determined to eat this alone.
A lone male Lion is walking across the plains, his golden mane is perfectly lit by the rising sun, it glows red and golden. His powerful shoulder muscles undulate as he walks over uneven terrain. He looks well fed and sleepy, it looks like he is heading towards a watering hole to quench his thirst. When we reaches it he bends down his and uses his long barbed tongue to lap up large quantities. He looks up with golden eyes lazily surveying the plains in front of him looking for shade to sleep in as the sun is growing hot. He is magnificent and so incredible to watch, his handsome face is perfectly reflected in the water.
Two Lionesses are being affectionate towards each other as they are walking, they constantly rub their heads and bodies up against each other forming a beautiful bond. Everything is golden, the light, the grass and the Lionesses, it is simply stunning. The Lionesses are in a hunting mood they see Thompson Gazelle, Topi and Zebra ahead of them.
We breakfast with the Buffalo as we set everything out under a tree, they are not disturbed by our presence. The sun is warm now and we lazily sit out on a blanket enjoying the wide open plains in front of us. It is so peaceful and tranquil, it is heavenly to feel so at one with nature. Safari teaches you to stop, listen and breathe. Really take in what is around you, really open your eyes and see the beauty in every moment. Every blade of grass, every tree and every animal is connected in this place, each plays a part in this wonderful eco system.
Our last couple of hours are spent enjoying the vistas, from the great open plains to the rolling escarpment surrounding it. There is nowhere for me on earth like the Maasai Mara, where else in the world can you smell such intoxicating scents, feast your eyes on such splendid scenery and be mesmerised by the rich diversity of wildlife. Travelling expands our minds, opens us up to such wonderful experiences and takes us from the stress of the modern world. Nature lifts our soul and spirits and reminds us that we are part of this beautiful earth, having the chance to connect with nature and our nature is beyond compare.
This is my Africa, connected, natural and wildly beautiful.