The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a savannah of 1,510 km² of outstanding natural beauty; this untouched wilderness is in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border. It is home to hundreds of animals born free and living free including Lions (Simba), Cheetah (Duma), Leopards (Chui) Elephants (Tembo), Zebras (Punda Milia), Giraffes (Twiga), Buffalo (Losokwin) Wildebeest (Nyumbu) and Hyena (Fisi). Wildebeest traverse its plains during their annual migration from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara. The landscape has grassy plains and rolling hills, tall architectural Ballanite and Fig Trees dot the savannah and are crossed by the Mara and Talek rivers. The area nearby is dotted with villages (enkangs) of Maasai people.
The landscape takes my breath away as I fly over it; this rich natural beauty stretches out before me promising to reveal its secrets. Life is a safari and everyone is different. Every time I come here I think there cannot be anything more it can reveal but each time I am in awe of what nature gives me. There is always some treasure to be revealed, some secret to learn, some experience to feel. Here you can free yourself from the restrictions of modern life, immerse yourself in nature and connect with yourself and the environment. Lose yourself in the moment, see with not only your eyes but your heart, open up yourself to new possibilities. Life is better experienced fully immersed rather than as a spectator. The safari begins …
Day 1 –
It is New Year’s Day so where best to spend this day of new hope and happiness but in my spiritual home the Maasai Mara. John the lovely owner of Malaika camp and my guide on this safari greets me, the camp is now a second home for me. At the airstrip some of lovely Maasai ladies in their colourful dresses and jewellery are selling the Maasai jewellery, they are so incredibly talented; the designs are unique to this culture.
The savannah is very green and luscious due to the recent rains; it is almost unrecognisable from three weeks ago when I was here last when it was dry and arid. The grass is so fresh it has taken on a vibrant luminosity, it reflects the early morning light. White delicate tissue flowers are pushing up through the moist earth; there are signs of new life everywhere.
The Maasai Mara is rich in wildlife, it is so beautiful and untouched, animals flourish here, it is however the wild and that has it challenges. A beautiful female Cheetah is relaxing in the shade of a croton bush. The sun is hot and she requires some shade. She is lithe, athletic and beautiful with her coat of dark gold with black markings as unique as a fingerprint. She scans the plains for possible prey to hunt. She also looks for predators who could potential steal her kill. Cheetahs are the fastest cat so she must preserve her energy for the hunt ahead.
The find the Enkuyanai pride of Lions, one of the dominant males and a female with cubs. The male Lion is stretched out in all his full majestic beauty. He is an older male so he nose is no longer pink but darkened with age. His impressive mane of golden hair is also staring to darken into a glorious burnished bronze and black. He is the king of this wilderness but the queen lying next to him is the real power that keeps this pride strong. She is the huntress, the mother and bond that ensure their survival. The rest of the pride, the small cubs and sub adults of varying ages lay out with another Lioness in nearby bushes. They are all restless because of flies, their tails beat the annoying insects away and their sharp teeth snap at them in annoyance.
It is always a pleasure watching sleeping Lions in the heat of the day. They are constantly rolling over, limbs tangled with each other, lying in amusing positions. One sub adult gets up, stretches and tries to find a more comfortable position so it sits right on top of this sibling. Of course this is usual cat behaviour, it sibling just shifts, sighs and goes back to sleep. One of the larger sub adult males with his mohican mane, the start of adulthood, uses a bush as a chin rest; he looks incredibly comfortable and relaxed.
The prey are happy and healthy, there is an abundance of grass and water after the rains. Topi are sitting down in the grass, they cannot detect any predators, they have excellent eyesight, so they feel at liberty to relax. Nearby Hartebeest graze, they are very beautiful with their short shiny beige coats, elongated faces and stunning curved horns in the shape of a heart. These antelope are very similar but the shape of the horns distinguish them from a distance. Various species of Antelope often graze together it provides greater protection.
We stop for lunch under the shade of a Ballanite Tree the sun is now hot and we need the shade. It is just some a privilege just laying out a blanket and eating your food surrounded by prey in the middle of the bush. It gives you a wonderful sense of freedom and harmony with nature. We talk about the changes in the landscape over the last few weeks and how it affects animal behaviour and transforms the savannah.
It is such a privilege to find three of the Musketeer male Lions with a Buffalo kill surrounded by vultures sat high in the trees. These males are around twelve years old and have full burnished bronze and black manes. It is easy to distinguish Hunter, Sikio and Morani from each other, they each gave defining characteristics. The Buffalo stretches out its legs stiff in death; it is a fascinating but morbid kill. The heat is making it decompose quickly and the smell is pungent. The heavy scent of the croton bushes and wild mint masks the smell. The Lions are hot and have eaten their fill; they will sleep until late into the evening when it is cooler again and eat.
Luluka the beautiful female Leopard is mating in the bushes. She is around four years old and has never had cubs. Mating is very fast and aggressive, we can hear them growling and snarling at each other. After each copulation they part company then come together again when Luluka is ready to mate again for just seconds. She is keen to get impregnated but there is no bond with the male, she viciously swipes her claws at him after each session, she chooses her male for good genes and strength. Luluka is a beautifully unusual female her territory is large and she travels far rather than staying in a small area. When you see the male and female together the size difference is very noticeable, she is small, muscular and beautiful whereas he has a much larger muscular frame, a thick bullish neck and wide dominant face. Despite the size difference, the female is in control.
Then suddenly a large male Lion appears and the Leopards run at high speed and leap across the river. The Leopards are shocked and terrified at the unfortunate disruption to their mating. The Lion could easily kill them. The lion tries to chase the Leopards but they are too quick, another male Lion comes into view and we see these are Kaka and Maridadi from the fig tree pride. Maridadi means handsome in Swahili and he certainly is a large attractive male, they both walk through the bush with the strength, authority and regal bearing you would expect.
Across the river the Leopards once they assess they are out of danger start to mate again in the bushes. Luluka does not want to stay with the male any longer than necessary, Leopards are solitary cats, but she must endure this mating is successful and she is impregnated. The gestation period of Leopards is 90 – 105 days, it needs to be quick as she must hunt and the heavy swollen state of pregnancy reduces her hunting ability. When she has given birth she will hide the cubs and resume hunting within days. This is risky as they are prone to being killed by scavengers and Lions.
The sun is setting on this incredible first afternoon. Leopards, Lions and Cheetah, we have been most fortunate in our experiences. We now enjoy the final warmth of the rays of the sun. The sky is a stunning natural light show of red, orange, purple and yellow light, a vibrant luminosity. The sunset for me is about peace and reflection, a time to look back on the day and count your blessings and give thanks for the beauty in every moment. Today has been particularly special.
On our way back to camp we are beyond blessed with a sighting of a Serval cat leaping through the long grasses. It looks like a very small Leopard but with large ears and long legs which is uses to leap on prey. It main diet is mice, rats, hates and birds. We watch it leaping through the long grasses; it is so graceful and elegant.
In camp I am greeted by the wonderful team, it really feels like home here. I sit in front of the camp fire and reflect on my wonderful first day. The flames from the dinner leap and crackly in the cool night air, I stay here and eat my dinner as I love the stillness of the night, the beauty of the sky with its blanket of a million stars and very importantly the sounds of the wild all around me. The camp in set in the bushes in the middle of the plains, there are no barriers to the wild. My wonderful Askari are here to protect me, they sit with me, Maasai warriors dressed in their shukas and holding their spears. I feel such a sense of peace as I connect with nature. I sleep so soundly in my camp, connected, safe and at peace.
This is my Africa – natural, wild, unpredictable and peaceful.
Day 2 –
I awake to the sound of Hippos snuffling, grazing and honking outside of my tent, they have come out of the water to feed on the dewy grass. The room steward kindly brings delicious aromatic coffee to my tent and I sit in bed breathing it in as I listen to the sounds of the wild all around me. My heart and soul is free and happy as I contemplate what nature will provide me today.
It is still dark outside as I greet John at the vehicle, the air is crisp and cool as we bundle up in bright coloured Maasai blankets. As we drive out onto the plains I breath in the heady scent of wild herbs, it makes you feel so alive and connected to nature.
The sky is painted with impressionist pastel shades, the breath-taking paint strokes of soft colours merge into each other. There is a new moon, a slither of crescent light and one star bright against it. It is a perfect picture of natural phenomenon. A lone Giraffe is beautifully silhouetted against this soft sky.
I breathe in deeply the scent of croton bushes and wild mint, for me this is the perfume of the wild and it is intoxicating and addictive. The heady scent fills me with happiness and calm. Elephants are grazing on the rich dewy pastures, they are large peaceful animals, and I feel their calm serenity.
We see a beautiful Serval cat crouching in the tall grasses, its stunning gold and black spots and stripes in contrast to the red, green and gold grasses shimmering in the morning sunrise around it. Its large oval ears attuned and flickering for the smallest sound and its sharp eyes picking up the tiniest movement of grass. As quick as a flash it leaps its long legs elongated and it pounces on a mouse and eats it in a couple of bites with its sharp teeth. It will hunt mice, rats, small birds and lizards throughout the day, small meals to keep it satisfied. The beautiful cat crouches down again folding its long legs underneath itself and closes its eyes in perfect cat contentment.
This morning we drive into the Mara Triangle, the scenery here is stunningly breath-taking, with the recent rains it is green and fertile with rich bio diversity. It is a perfect oasis, herds of Buffalo graze on the luscious grasses next to herds of Zebra, Topi and Hartebeest. The view is an endless utopia of nature’s bounty and richness. In the far distance escarpments rise into the misty sky.
The short emerald grasses shine with diamond tipped tops as the early morning light is captured in the dewy tips. The grass is interspersed with small white tissue flowers that only grow after the rains. Baboons love eating these sweet delicate flowers. It is most idyllic with Zebras sat contentedly on the plains with Thompson Gazelle leaping excitedly around them.
We drive along the border between the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti, it is a seamless invisible border, just a white stone is embedded in the grass indicating that we cannot cross. Of course the wildlife freely crosses between the plains, for this is the wild, free and untamed.
Two male Cheetahs lay under the shade of a Ballanite tree, the tree has the perfect shadow reflected on the grass. The Cheetahs lay out their long lithe elongated bodies stretched in feline contentment. Their distinctive black spots against their golden fur are in perfect contrast to the vibrant emerald grass beneath them. Their bellies are swollen from clearly a good hunt earlier. A hungry Jackal hovers around them to see if there is any food left, the Cheetahs are unperturbed by this small dogs presence. Jackals look like small Alsatians, tan and black with long faces, they are tiny and fast, they run at the smallest sound. They are also come across as being quite cheeky and brave as they scavenge from the big cats.
The Jackal sits contentedly near the Cheetah, the sun is high in the sky now and the bright rays light its fur so it gleams. He rests his perfect small head next to a pretty Sodon apple flower plant; it is a picture perfect moment. The Cheetah opens their sleepy amber eyes and look over quite content with his presence. They yawn giving me a lovely view of their sharp canines, roll over and stretch into a comfortable sleeping position enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Two beautiful Lionesses walk across the plains maybe to join the rest of their pride after their nightly hunt. It is growing hot now and they will look for shade. The glow of the morning sun lights their fur reflecting the burnished golden colour. As the Lionesses walk you can appreciate their large muscular frame, especially their powerful shoulders which are essential to pulling down and holding large prey. They are strong, impressive females.
We breakfast under the wide umbrella of a Ballanite tree; all around us is a rich display of the prey on the Mara Triangle. Buffalo, Zebra, Topi, Impala and Thompson Gazelles graze together. The sun is hot in the sky now and the light highlights all the rich colours. We are surrounded by the towering hills of the escarpment covered in thick bushes and trees. The rich savannah spread before us is vibrant emerald green, thick and plentiful. The prey are healthy and happy with this abundance of good grasses.
We see two very excited Jackals running across the plains, it is clear they have spotted something, we look around and spot rather surprisingly a large Serval cat running through the grass, it has either spotted something to hunt or it is running from the Jackal.
We pass a herd of Elephants slowly marching through the plains, they kick up with their large feet small bushes and tug the lose stems with their trunks. As they flap their impressive ears to keep cool you can see the distinctive shape of the African Elephant, it is a perfect map of Kenya. The shoulders of the Elephant are broad to carry its heavy head, trunk and tusks.
Nearby a huge herd of Buffalo enthusiastically graze on this rich bountiful grass, as we stop several look up and gaze at us with their comically angry expression. Incongruously they stare open mouthed with grass hanging half eaten, making them look both angry and funny. The herd like Elephants are led by a matriarch; she will decide the direction of the herd.
We stop and get out of the vehicle to appreciate the landscape. At the bottom of the escarpment dozens of Ballanite trees rise beautifully out of the fertile marshy area. They grow so well here as when it rains the water flows down from the hills to nourish the plains. It is beyond breath-taking, I am in awe of this natural beauty, the peace and serenity connects you to nature.
A lone Buffalo stands on a termite mound casually chewing grass with the rest of the herd around it. Colourful Oxpeckers birds leap about its head picking at ticks and dead skin whilst a white Egret elegantly stands at its feet. It is an interesting group enjoying the advances of each other, nature assisting nature.
Perched on the top of a thorny bush a vibrant iridescent midnight blue Starling sits next to a rich emerald green Cinnamon Chested Bee Eater. Their colours look stunning together against the backdrop of the azure sky dotted with soft white clouds. The Bee Eater flies off quickly then returns suddenly with a large cricket in its mouth, it taps the cricket on the branch to subdue and eat it as it squirms in its beak.
A large herd of Elephants peacefully walk towards us, they are slowly grazing. Half a dozen white Egret follow them at the Elephants attract insects which the birds can eat. It is stunning watching the Egrets fly around the Elephants and often land on them, their dazzling white plumage in stark contrast to the dark wrinkly skin of the Elephants and long beautiful ivory tusks. The Elephants march in a line, very focused on finding good pastures. There are several large herds here. A lone Giraffe stands tall watching the precession, its long lashes eyes beautifully observant and quiet.
A lone female Cheetah walks through the long grasses, silently her long sinewy body undulates. She is probably looking to hunt as she scans the plains with her deep amber eyes, always alert for both predator and prey. The female Cheetah live alone whilst the male Cheetah tend to stay together. She is a stunning cat, so lithe and breathtakingly beautiful with her small face with its long black lines from eyes to mouth to stop the light reflecting in its eyes. Cheetahs are the only cats not to have retractable claws; this is believed to be as the fastest cat it needs to have a smooth footing on the ground.
We lunch under the shade of the trees by Sand River, it is hot and dry here and the river bed is dry and sandy hence the name. We sit out on blankets whilst we eat our lunch and discuss our incredible morning. It is so peaceful being at one with nature, this is why I always Safari for a full day as I like to fully immerse myself into my environment.
Along the tracks we see Leopard tortoise near the small watering holes, as soon as we reach them they quickly tuck their head into their shell for protection. They are slow and can be easily missed amongst these large predators and prey but their shells are so beautifully decorated armour.
A Lilac Breasted Roller sits eating a cricket on a low branch. Next to it sits its baby chirping frantically at it as it is hungry. The mother feeds the baby by regurgitating some of the cricket for it and depositing it in the babies’ beak. It is a very endearing scene. The bright colours of the birds glint in the sun, especially the vibrant iridescent green wing feathers.
In a deep ravine Elephants use their long trunks to draw up water, they need to consume around 50 gallons of water a day. They then put their trunks into their mouths and drink the water. A young baby Elephant lies on the bank resting, it uses it small trunk to ideally play with a clump of grass. Its mother calls up and it rolls over and gets up and trots down the bank to drink with the others.
Out on the plains we see three male Hippos fighting out of the water. They are chasing each other with open mouths giving us a view of their large rows of teeth capable of crushing a man. They are quite aggressive and often inflict terrible injuries on each other. They are surprisingly quick running on land considering their mighty bulk. They run down the bank of the river back into the water and resume the fight in there.
We have a mini crossing, Topi cross the river to enjoy the fresh grasses on the other side. Topi out of all the Gazelles have the most incredible eyesight hence why you often see other prey grazing with them, they rely on them to stop predators coming.
A swine of eleven Pumbas run through the grass, it is an unusually large family. They have so many predators they constantly run away when they see people as they want to stay safe. The parents run with their tails high in the air in order for the piglets to be able to follow them in the long grasses.
Female Waterbuck graze near a watering hole; they like to stay near a source of water. They are beautiful long haired large antelopes with pretty faces. Nearby a herd of shy Eland meander, considering they are the largest antelope you cannot get too close to them, although ironically they are the most easily habituated. You will often see them wandering through camps or communities getting used to the presence of people.
The sun is beginning to set and the vibrant glow sets the whole of the plains on fire with burnished colours. Impala with their golden coats are brilliantly lit and quite dazzling; they enjoy the final warmth of the sun before the cool of the night sets in. The predators will begin to wake so the Impala will have to stay alert.
We drive back to camp in the sunset; it is like the red closing curtains of a theatrical production. The calmness of the fiery warmth brings such peace and serenity and focuses your thoughts on what nature has provided.
At camp I warm my body in front of the fire gazing as the sparks fly up into the cool air. The blue black sky is now littered with a billion stars it is most ethereal, nature’s perfect light show. I enjoy my dinner sat here chatting to the Maasai Askari about my amazing day. I sleep so peacefully with the sounds of the wild around me.
This is my Africa – wildly perfect calm and serenity.
Day 3 -
I wake to the rich throaty sounds of Lions roaring in the distance, they have probably hunted in the night and are calling to each other. As we drive out the sun rises a deep rich artistic pallet of reds, oranges and yellows spread across the sky in broad brush strokes. Above these deep vibrant colours the sky is a deep dark blue. The crescent of the new moon and two stars hang perfectly above, symbols of new life and the hope that it brings.
A herd of Impala stretch their cold muscles after the coolness of the night and start to leap around. Others lock horns in mock battle. They are all beautifully silhouetted against the sunrise. A lone Giraffe walks across the horizon his silhouette such a distinctive shape. On top of a bush a Secretary bird perches to beadily watch for insects to feed on.
In the glow of the heat of the sunrise we find two Lionesses from the Rekero pride sat next to each other on top of a large termite mound surveying the savannah. Their fur gleams gold in the red golden light. They are the queens of the Maasai Mara; their beautifully strong faces are a picture of peace, contentment and serenity. The Lionesses form a strong bond and these two sit one behind each other staring into the sun rise their deep dark golden eyes so focused and stunningly beautiful. The Musketeer coalition of male Lions now takes care of this pride.
Down by the Mara River we find the King of the Maasai Mara in all his majestic regal handsome glory, Scar. He is royally laid out under the bow of a bent Gardenia tree, its twisted trunk and thick leaves providing him with perfect coverage from the heat of the sun. He looks up at us with his gorgeous golden eyes and is quite content with us paying him homage. One of his eyes is black due to the long scar across it, hence his name. His mane is thick, full and long, a perfect blend of deep golden and black fur. He is even in his old age of 12 years an impressive Lion; he still holds the dominance in the Musketeer coalition.
Scar is contented the whole coalition killed a Buffalo yesterday and spent the day eating it. His belly is rotund and he is struggling to sleep as he needs to breathe heavily to regulate his temperature in the growing early morning heat. We are so close to him we can hear his deep heavy sighs. The scar over his eye looks bloody and fresh again, when hunting they can sustain many injuries. He occasionally looks up at us, when he does you can feel his strength and majestic presence.
Even closer to the roaring torrid Mara river we find Hunter, Morani (ear) and Sikio (hair) laying under the shade of a small Gardenia tree. They are the other Musketeer boys; they are also beautifully majestic regal male Lions with full manes of burnished gold and black. They are hot after their morning walk away from the Buffalo carcass; they have eaten their fill so the Vultures and Hyenas came in to finish eating it. Hunter sits up he is the most handsome of the four males, his face is strong and muscular and he looks at us with a confident golden stare of a dominant predator.
The Mara flows next to us, the strong current means the water flows fiercely over grey rocks jutting out. Small Palm trees grow out the edge, the river is quite low even after the rains. Hippos honk in the river, a large pod of about thirty, they are quite aggressive as they constantly fight amongst each other. They are the most dangerous, unpredictable animal in Africa.
Back to Scar he is still laid prone, he lazily opens one eye and surveys us and closes them again. He is hot and restless so opens his legs to cool his belly then slowly rolls over to try and get comfortable on his other side, the whole process of moving is so languid.
A tall dead tree stands straight and sun bleached its starkness in contrast to the luscious green plains around it. Perched on top are two beautiful Fish Eagles, they have white plumage on their heads and chest and very dark brown and black plumage on the rest of its body. Their face is yellow with a small sharp black beak. They are surveying the river for fish to catch. Around the base of the tree Egyptian Geese waddle around the marshy waters, they have beautiful grey and ginger plumage. I suppose I should mention behind them stands two Marabou stalks, known as one of Africa’s ugly five. They really are quite repulsive to look at.
We breakfast down on the beautiful Mara river with Hippos splashing and honking in front of us. You can really feel the energy from this fast flowing dynamic living river, it is home to hundreds of creatures and is the source of life for these wild plains. It is wonderful watching predators and prey come down to the water’s edge to drink, they are every wary of the dangers lurking beneath the surface, a crocodile can swim silently unseen and quickly snap prey in its jaws and pull it under. It is also a place of calm and perfect serenity where you can rest and immerse yourself in nature.
Two Crowned Cranes walk through the grasses trying to find insects to eat, their stunning plumage is so vibrant against the grey dry soil, the crowned plumage on their heads is beautiful.
A gorgeous young male Cheetah is striding across the plains, he has focused determination, he clearly wants to hunt. His beautiful amber eyes scan the plains for suitable prey. In the distance we can see Thompson Gazelles which are perfect for him to hunt but unfortunately they are grazing with Topi who will see him straight away and alert the others. He stops under the shade of a Ballanite tree, his beautiful coat dappled in the sunlight through the branches. He pants and lays down never taking his eyes off of his surroundings. He yawns and rolls over and shuts his eyes for just one moment and flicks them open again. Cheetah never sleep for long as they have threats from scavengers and other cats who would kill them as they are competition for food.
The late afternoon is hot so we find shade by the river under the canopy of trees. The river is still here and I love the tranquillity and coolness. We eat our delicious lunch sat on blankets and enjoying viewing nature all around us. Starlings fly around singing to us, it is quite idyllic.
In the Kaboso area Baboons graze on the tissue flowers, they are excited by the quantity and pick hurriedly putting one in their mouth after another. It is a large troop but they walk along quite peacefully, they have very good eyesight. There are also many Pumbas grazing, the grass is plentiful and green here. Then we hear Vervet monkeys making an alarm call.
We drive over to the thick wooded area around the ravine, the Vervet monkeys are jumping through the trees shrieking they have seen a Leopard, we drive round and round but the ravine is deep and the bushes dense we cannot see it. Of course we know this is a popular area for the Kaboso female Leopard but she is being classically elusive.
Not far away in the Ridge area Bella 2 a stunning young female Leopard, Baharti’s daughter is languishing on the branches of a tall Ballanite tree, she is perfectly poised on the thick branches her tail hanging down and her beautiful head rested on her paws. The foliage provides perfect cover from the heat but allows her to view the prey on the plains around her. She sits quite contentedly the air is cooler now and from the height she is seated she will be enjoying the breeze. Her coat of burnished gold with distinctive black rosette spots are beautiful lit by the late afternoon light. Leopards really are strikingly beautiful and elegant.
After a while she sits up and looks around and jumps down to lower branches and between the v in the tree she scans the plains. She uses her impressive muscular physique which is built for strength and ambush to launch herself down the high vertical trunk of the tree. She lands perfectly softly and elegantly on the grasses below. She walks across the plains; she is only young around 2-3 years old so still quite small but so stunningly beautiful. Her blue round eyes scans around her as she walks looking for opportunities and threats. As she approaches some bushes a lone Hyena appears and starts to chase her. Bella runs at high speed away from him as it could injure her or even kill her. She darts back to the Ballanite tree and with great dexterity climbs the vertical trunk using her sharp strong claws.
Bella stands again in the v of the tree and watches the Hyena lop off in the distance, it has no interest in her now. Her eyes are round, striking and watchful, she perches in this position for a while until she is happy she is safe. She then steadily climbs to the top branches of the tree. She decides on a slopping thick branch and dangles her back legs either side of it and loops her front legs over the top, it is a very sweet almost comical position. She rests her head prettily on her front paws and closes her eyes. The sun sets over this beautiful scene casting a golden red light.
We drive back to camp under the glow and heat of the sunset. There is low cloud cover so the dark vibrant burnished reds, oranges and yellows spread through the dark moody grey clouds, it is very dramatic. At camp I warm myself in front of the warmth of the camp fire enjoying watching the fire sparks in the cool air. I can hear Hyena laughing and calling around me, this is perfect serenity. Tonight I will sleep well.
This is my Africa – wildlife born free, living free.
Day 4 –
I wake to the sound of Lions roaring near my tent, it is a beautiful morning alarm call for me, it reminds me I am camping in the wild, there are no barriers between myself and the raw, untamed, unrestricted wild.
The sky is thick with dark grey heavy clouds, the sun rises between the density shooting moody dark reds and oranges between the oppressive darkness. We bundle up with blankets and hot water bottles; the mornings here can be very cold. There is an impressive tower of Giraffes and their distinctive shape is silhouetted against the horizon.
We drive along the Talek River and find part of the Fig Pride of Lions. There are three females, cubs and sub adults. As it is cold and gently raining they are out in the open on the plains as it is too cool to go into the bushes yet. They clearly had a kill in the night as they seem well fed. The cubs and the sub adults are very playful and active; they practice their hunting kills by leaping and jumping on each other. They bite at each other’s necks pretending to suffocate the other in a mock kill. Two of the sub adult males of around eighteen months old look like twins; they have the start of their manes and are incredibly affectionate with each other, constantly rubbing heads bonding. One day they will leave the pride together and form a coalition and their own pride. The rain stops and a beautiful rainbow appears behind the pride it is so ethereal.
Over at the double cross area, Lolpapit (hairy) one of the dominant males of the Enkoyanai pride is walking towards the bushes. His name is very appropriate as he has an unusually long shaggy mane, very dark russet brown; he is incredibly handsome, regal and majestic. His eyes are dark golden, he is constantly watchful around him observing his domain. He would have enjoyed a kill in the night so he wants to sleep now; he disappears into the bushes and will stay there until night until it is time to hunt again. Male Lions can sleep up to twenty hours a day.
A short distance away from him an Enkoyanai Lioness with two small cubs of around three months old are out in the open with several other Lionesses. The young cubs are playful but stay close to their mother. They are still so small and are covered in their camouflage of rosettes. They gently leap on each other, even at this age they are learning valuable hunting skills. The Lioness is ever watchful over them as their main threats are Buffalo and Hyena. They mew at her and she grunts and leads them to the bushes to where the rest of the pride is relaxing. The cubs nettle between her large paws and she washes them affectionately with her long raspy tongue. The cubs and Lioness both have a look of pure contentment on their faces.
The Lionesses are excellent mothers and fiercely protective, when one of the sub adult cubs comes towards her small cubs she growls a warning not to come any closer. The sub adult cubs can be quite boisterous with the young cubs when they play.
Out in the middle of the plains we see the impressive male Lion Orbanoti of the Enkoyanai pride, he is with one of the queens of the pride, a stunning Lioness. They are sat closely together, him behind her. The Lionesses despite decades of misrepresentation are the real dominant cats in the pride. They do most of the hunting, they raise the cubs, they protect the pride against threats, they will risk their lives to protect the cubs against a take over from other male Lions and they decide when and where they will mate. The males’ role … just to mate. The male Lions form an impressive bond with their brothers and cousins, they are incredibly affectionate with each other, I have never seen this bond between a Lion and Lioness.
This is perfectly represented in this mating pair. They are sitting hundreds of yards away from the rest of the pride, he sits close to her so he is ready to mate when she is but she is the picture of indifference. She stretches and yawns and crouches in front of him indicating she is ready to mate, he gets up and starts licking her back, she looks uninterested and waits for him to mount her. He mounts her and bites her neck, she looks round and snarls and growls at him. After a few quick thrusts he has ejaculated and she turns and swipes her claws at him and bites him on the face. She then rolls over and uses her powerful front and back legs to actively push him away from her, she no longer has need for him. She rolls over to encourage the flow of sperm then gets up and walks away. He follows her and tries to sit close to her but she growls at him, she is not interested in his presence.
Mating between Lions happens in the first day every fifteen minutes, then over another three to five days they will continue to mate but with longer time intervals between the copulation. Each time is quick, aggressive and functional. The male Lion has barbs on the end of his penis so mating is neither pleasurable nor comfortable for either, it is about ensuring the growth and survival of the pride.
Queen Kaboso I believe is the most beautiful, confident Leopard on the Maasai Mara, she is a successful mother, she has raised three litters of cubs in the last two years and is an impressive hunter. She has in the last week given birth to another litter, it is unknown as yet how many as she will hide the cubs in a tree or thick undergrowth for a few weeks until they are stronger. We see her striding confidently through the forest and emerge on the other side, she is in hunting mode, her stunning green eyes are focused. She is a larger female with an impressive muscular body and a beautifully attractive face. When she looks directly at you her strength and beauty really is reflected in her eyes. We follow her movements as she is confident and self-assured and is not concerned by our presence.
We are in a quiet green everglade; the light is being gently dappled through the trees. All of a sudden Kaboso‘s ears flatten and her shoulders hunch and she pounces on something in the undergrowth, a hare shoots out and she chases it at top speed, dust flying, she catches it in her impressive jaws. The Hare dangles kicking its legs desperately in a futile bid to escape these jaws of certain death. Kaboso nonchalantly walks with the fighting Hare in her mouth until it stops moving, she successfully strangles it. She walks over to the shade and sits down depositing the Hare between her two front paws to hold it steady whilst she rips into the flesh.
Fur flies everywhere whilst Kaboso disembowels the Hare, she looks most perturbed when she has a mouthful of Hare fur, she spits it out in disgust. She rips the fur from the body and licks the flesh to tenderise it, blood spills out and she enjoys devouring the tender flesh. The Hare is a small snack for her so she crunches the bones, you can see her uses her side teeth to grind them down. Nothing goes to waste. When she has eaten every piece she gets up and continues on her journey to find more satisfying food.
She walks across grey smooth rocks down to the water to quench her thirst after her salty food. Her face is perfectly reflected in the murky water. Her long pink raspy tongue laps up large quantities, droplets of water splash around her face as she drinks. Her eyes never stop scanning around her as she drinks; she is always looking for opportunities to hunt. Her muscular shoulders are broad and stretched forward as she drinks, she is an outstanding beauty.
Kaboso continues her journey, as she alights from another group of bushes she darts again to catch a Hare but this one she misses, she does not get into full speed for such a small morsel. She seems quite playful as she occasionally leaps on small rocks and clumps of grass. She eventually disappears after more than two hours with her into a dense forest, the morning is growing hot and she will seek the shade to rest before she hunts again.
We take a late breakfast under a Fig Tree; it is growing warm after the very cold rainy start this morning. The Fig trees are architectural with their twisted gnarly trunks giving way to thick branches covered in emerald green small leaves. The Fig Trees are in fruit so fronds of green round figs cluster together ready to fall to the ground. It has been such an eventful morning, nature has really provided. It is always such a privilege to spend quality time in the company of these wild, free, amazing cats. Literally every moment is different; the adrenaline rush of observing these cats in their natural habitat never fades.
A herd of hundreds of Buffalo graze in the plains; they have dozens of young calves. As we approach the mothers turn to glare at us and shield their babies, they are very protective. The main threat is Lions, it is an ongoing conflict with the prides and Buffalo are one of the biggest killers of Lion cubs.
We drive now near the main crossing point of the Mara River, on route we see the male Cheetah from yesterday sat in some croton bushes. He is playfully rolling around probably relieving himself from insects. This is a fertile area and there are great herds of Impala which no doubt he will try to hunt. His beautiful amber eyes stare up at us from the bushes and we wait to see what his next move is.
Before I can find out in the distance a female Cheetah called Musiara has made a baby Impala kill, we quickly drive over and see she has is firmly between her front paws and is using her sharp canines to rip it open. Her mussel is covered in blood as she gorges on the soft flesh. The Impalas head lolls to the side, its eyes glazed in death. Behind the Cheetah a large group of White Back Vultures have descended seeing the blood. They patiently wait behind her waiting for her to eat her fill; they hop about squabbling amongst themselves. It seems Musiara is hungry as she is devouring every last morsel leaving just bone and skin. A lone Jackal hovers on the periphery also hoping for the last scraps, it is tiny but quick and yaps at the Cheetah impatiently but will not approach.
Musiara is obviously aware of the scavengers but is unperturbed by the commotion behind her. The Vultures decide too she is going to take her time so they rest on the ground, wings stretched in a sun basking position. Ruppel Griffin Vultures fly in to land next, their impressive wing span hovering on the breeze. They come in to land and fight with the other Vultures for feeding rights. Finally Musiara has finished eating and walks away, the carnage starts, the Ruppell Griffin the largest of the Vultures dives in first quickly followed by the others, pecking at the sparse remains. The solitary Jackal barks at the Vultures which are much larger than him in stature and number but they ignore him. Then to our surprise he nimbly dashes in and steals the whole carcass. The scant carcass limply hangs from his jaws as he runs off with it and is chased by the Ruppell Griffin Vultures, he escapes.
On his escape the Jackal drops a leg of the carcass and a Tawny Eagle swoops in and retrieves it, surprisingly the Ruppell Griffin now fly off to make chase with the Tawny Eagle in the air. It is a battle for food in the skies! The Tawny Eagle is smaller than the Vultures so are forced to drop the leg and the Vultures swoop in to retrieve it.
Meanwhile the drama continues and the Jackal has carried the rest of the carcass across the plains and has deposited it securely and cleverly under a fallen deep sun bleached tree trunk. He cowers underneath checking for Vultures before feeding on his prize. Jackals like foxes are clever little dogs, they are the cunning scavengers.
We decide to drive back to the male Cheetah but just as we are about to reach where we left him we see the stunningly beautiful famous female Leopard Baharti walking across the plains. She has been elusive the last couple of months as she is raising cubs but here she is her usual confident beautiful self. She is around seven years old and has successfully raised so many beautiful cubs. She is graceful and elegant as she walks towards the bushes, she clearly wants to hunt. We follow her at a respectful distance observing her behaviour and just revelling in her beauty.
The male Cheetah has left the bushes so we head to the Hammerkop area. Within minutes of reaching it we see the lovely Lorian another beautiful female Leopard has jumped down from a Ballanite tree and is walking through the long grass, she is confident and self-assured. She is clearly looking to hunt; her stunning green eyes are sharp and focused. Periodically there is group of small bushes and she knows there is a high chance they may contain a scrub Hare. As she approaches each group of bushes she slowly crouches her shoulders and flattens her ears in hunting mode. On occasion she pounces on moving grass in case it is food. She does this for over an hour, it is wonderful to observe her hunting behaviour; it seems both playful and serious.
In the distance we spot a Reedbuck standing by some bushes, it does not take Lorian long to spot it to. She flattens her back and stalks slowly through the long grasses which camouflage her, as she nears the Reedbuck it catches her scent and movement and literally flies through the air in long stretched leaps over the grasses, it is staggering the height it can jump and the speed in which it does so. Lorian looks disappointed but gathers herself and carries on hunting inside bushes, she is very determined to find food.
Perched on the edge of a tree a male and female Butler Eagle stare beady eyed across the plains also looking to hunt. They are beautiful birds with red, yellow and black plumage.
We drive to the Ronkai area to look for the pride of Lions there. There are many beautiful Sausage trees and Fig trees here perfect for Leopards to relax in along the ravine. Of course after already seeing three Leopards today which is unusual so we don’t expect to see any more … we were wrong. To our surprise lying over the branch of a Fig Tree a huge male Leopard is relaxing with his limbs and tail hanging down. We do not need to see his testicals to know this is a male; he has a very thick neck, broad shoulders, a very large muscular body and a round powerful face. He is also not pretty like the females; in fact he has one bad eye and quite flat battered ears. He looks like an old boxer; his face has seen many battles, with males over territory and females whilst ferociously mating.
The male Leopard is sat high in the branches surrounded by dense foliage, his ugly muscular face is softened by a halo of fig fruits, the scene reminds me of a Roman painting with Caesar throned with laurel leaves and being fed figs. The setting is perfect for him as he is a warrior and seen many battles. He gets up and stretches giving us the perfect view of his extremely large muscular frame. He stands confidently on the thick tree branch and views the plains for potential hunting. Satisfied there is nothing to hunt yet he turns and incongruously lays his head in the v of the tree branch, he looks very cute for such a big boy.
We drive back to camp under the setting sun; the plains are bathed in red, gold and orange light. The architectural Ballanite trees so synonymous with Africa are silhouetted against the skyline. The blaze of the sunset has such dark vibrant tones painted in brush strokes across the sky emerging with the dark clouds. A large herd of Impala look burnished bronze in this light; they graze silently waiting for night to fall and the predators to become active. The air cools but the night is electric. Back at camp I warm myself around the camp and look up at the stars thanking nature for such an incredible day.
This is my Africa – beauty beyond compare.
Day 5 -
I leave my tent before sunrise; it is dark, cool and still outside. Hippos honk and grunt in the river near my tent. As we drive out in the cool breeze the sun begins to rise, there are no clouds this morning so the colours quickly spread across the skyline a beautiful palette of pastel shades, a Monet watercolour of soft brush strokes. Nature is using soft pinks, purples, yellows and blues to create its perfect masterpiece. The mist softens the shape of the hills blending the sky with the landscape. The Ballanite trees perfectly silhouetted punctuate this pastel watercolour with twisted dark shapes along with the distinctive form of Giraffes meandering across the plains.
Herds of Buffalo, Giraffe and Elephants are the giants of the plains, it is a majestic sight and the Africa people think of. Between these great giants, small bush Hares, Bat Eared Foxes and Banded Mongoose scurry about their day. It is the idyllic composition of all creatures great and small.
Female Waterbuck cautiously watch us; their pretty faces on top of a fluffy body are quite exquisite. Nearby a small herd of Eland slowly walk, their knees clicking and fatty flaps under their neck swaying. The Maasai Mara is home to around twenty species of Antelope and Gazelles, each quite unique and very interesting to observe. It is quite easy to see them as just large predator food but each is so beautiful once you study their form and unique characteristics.
Down by the main crossing we find three of the Musketeer Lions, Hunter, Morani and Sikio. Hunter is laid out by the river his belly is extremely large and rotund, he is breathing heavily. As we approach he sits up his glorious burnished bronze and black mane bathed in golden light. He sighs deeply, it is such a deep sound, he is trying to get comfortable to sleep but he is too hot and full. His golden eyes are sleepy and lazy; he is not concerned by our presence. A few hundred yards away Morani walks towards the long grasses, he too looks well fed, his belly swings low.
In the long grass we find Sikio with the source of his brothers overfed bellies, he has his great paws on the remains of a Zebra kill. In the early hours of the morning the Lionesses made the kill but when they started eating the males came along and chased them off. Sikio is finishing off the rest of the kill, he is using his sharp canines to rip from the bones large pieces of flesh, he chews them greedily, blood and juices spill down his chin. The body of the Zebra has been fully eaten so Sikio is gnawing at the skull, it is most macabre watching the face of the Zebra, its skull half exposed, eyes gauged out and teeth bare of lips being eaten. The Zebra face is being held in the paws of the Lion, flesh torn from bone. To remove the skin from bone Sikio often has to take the skull in his mouth and shake it, it is sickening and fascinating to watch. The two Hyenas sat in the distance will have very little to scavenge from this kill.
On the ground in front of Sikio the skin, intestines and bloody fleshy remains of the Zebra lay, a jumbled mess of sinewy carnage. Sikio starts crunching the skull of the Zebra, this gives us a great view of the Lions teeth, considering he is around twelve years old they are healthy, most likely due to the bones they eat. He chews also on the soft sinew, pulling it like chewing gum, long white stands from the carcass to his mouth. Even though he is clearly full he is determined nothing will remain.
On the plains a beautiful female Cheetah called Anashe (meaning sister) daughter of the famous Amani (meaning peace) sits on top of a termite mound. She lays elegantly, her legs stretched behind her and her front paws slightly crossed. Her small face dominated by her round amber eyes and black lines that run from her eyes to her nose. She is looking to hunt but there is no prey to hunt directly in front of her. The termite mound provides the perfect viewing platform to look for food to hunt.
Not far away we find a male Cheetah called Olchore (Maasai word for friend) he is very hungry. Cheetahs are very athletic and sinewy but his stomach is very concave, he needs to hunt. We follow him at a respectful distance as not to disturb his hunting pattern or affect his behaviour. It is always fascinating to predict the movements of a cat, the short answer is, it is impossible. After a long walk through the long grasses he spots some Thompson Gazelle, he crouches and observes then when he thinks the time is right runs at top speed his sinewy frame elongated, his body twisting and turning as he runs. The Thompson Gazelle too are fast and unfortunately outrun him. He stops and breaths heavily and finds a place for some shade and rest.
Within a short while his hunger beckons him to try again, he gets up and surveys the plains. He is motivated by a growling stomach; he must find food as the last chase used up a lot of energy. Fortunately he sees a scrub Hare in a bush and runs and pounces on it, it is not much food but it will energise him for a bigger hunt later. He takes the Hare into another bush and he will eat every scrap.
We eat our breakfast in the vehicle as there is so much Cheetah activity we do not want to lose a second of time with them.
We drive back to find the beautiful female Cheetah called Anashe; she has walked across the plains and is also in hunting mood. She is crouched in long grass and a family of Pumba walk in striking distance of her. She does not hunt the Pumba even though one of the piglets would be an easy snack as the mother with her long tusks would aggressively attack her probably causing great harm. No, her focus is a small herd of Thompson Gazelle a few hundred yards away. She bides her time and watches and waits patiently. The Thompson Gazelle have not spotted her; they graze quietly and even more closer to her. Anashe assesses the difference and takes her opportunity and gives chase, her is directly behind the Thompson Gazelle who is directly in front of me giving me the perfect view of the dramatic chase. It is the perfect dance of predator and prey, swerving and changing direction. Anashe comes within feet of pulling down the Thompson Gazelle but it escapes her clutches. She misses her opportunity but the chase for me so exciting, fast paced and dramatic to watch, I feel completely privileged.
Anashe must hunt so she finds a termite mound and sits on top to survey the plains. She then walks down the side and sits under the shade of a bush growing out of it to regain her energy. Two old Buffalos walk towards her; they do not care about her presence as she is no threat. They walk close by her both acknowledging each other’s presence but neither having to change their activity.
Lunch down by the Mara river is peaceful, as we sit on our blankets we watch Hippo splashing and honking in the river. Superb Starlings with their iridescent midnight blue plumage fly down from the trees and start singing to us; they are clever and know it is lunch time. I break up bread and throw it to them; they love to get quite close. A large herd of Impala walk near us; it is so beautiful to be out of the vehicle and at one with nature.
Anashe has started to walk and finds a large herd of Impala, by now she is very hungry and has used a considerable amount of energy. This is an interesting turn of events as she is now within several hundred feet of Olchore the male Cheetah but he is asleep in the long grass so they cannot see each other. Anashe gets closer to the herd of Impala and starts to chase them, she sprints at full pace, her body elongated as she twists and turns to catch an Impala. The Impala are also long limbed, agile and fast, they scatter in all directions, Anashe must decide which one to focus on. She is covering the plains at speed but the Impala remains just out of reach. She exhausts herself; she is running on empty so walks back to the termite mound to rest.
The Impala scattered right past Olchore but he did not wake, only after the commotion does he raise his lazy head from the grass to observe the plains. By this time Anashe is out of sight. The two Cheetahs are still only a few hundred yards apart but the grasses and termite mound stops them seeing each other. Anashe recently lost her only cub so it is likely she is in oestrus. After a rest Anashe starts walking to find new prey, she walks in the opposite direction to Olchore so they will not meet.
Over the ridge unbelievably we see yet another Cheetah it is observing a bachelor herd of Impala. These large male Gazelle have large horns and are fast sprinters, the Cheetahs chance of catching one of these and successfully bringing it down is very low odds. He sits and waits behind a bush but one of the Impala sees him and makes an alarm call, the rest of the Impala herd look up and are alerted to the threat.
The sun is low in the sky as it is late afternoon in the Gunia area. Lying on the bank of the river we see three sub adult Lions and a Lioness around two and a half years old. The males already have good manes so it will not be long before they are kicked out if the pride and will form a coalition. They are gorgeous boys; their faces have yet to bear the brunt of battle or mating so are beautifully clear of scars. The males are incredibly affectionate with one another they are a tangle of legs, paws and tails. As one rolls over another just snuggles into its belly, they have an incredibly close bond that will last for life. They are very sleepy even through the sun is about to set.
Next to the Lions an Ossimum bush is giving off a wonderful fragrance. It is like a wild mint and can be chewed. When you have a group of bushes like this it can really mask the pungent smell of rotting carcasses which is quite useful. The sleepy sub adult Lions raise their heads for a moment to give us a glance of their dark golden eyes and mohican mane then they flop back down again to sleep until it is time to join the rest of the pride to hunt.
The sun is setting as we drive back to camp; I enjoy the heat on my face as the air begins to cool. I breathe in deeply the scent of moist soil, wild mint and croton bushes, the scent of Africa. The sky is awash with the vibrant tones of reds, burnt orange, purples and deep blues. It is the perfect African sunset with architectural Ballanite Trees silhouetted against the sky.
It is my last night in Malaika Bush Camp, it feels like home now. I love being greeted every evening as I return to camp by my lovely Askari who escort me to the fire. As I approach the camp fire I love seeing the cracking dance of sparks in the cool night air and feel its welcoming warmth. The sky is deep blue black and covered in a billion stars like glittering diamonds. I sit and enjoy my Gin and tonic by the fire and chatting to the team here, everyone is so friendly and warm. I love having my dinner outside, the peace and serenity of being in the wild is such a privilege.
After dinner the wonderful team here who are all Maasai and wear traditional dress sing and dance traditional Maasai songs. I am still sat by the fire and they dance around me, I adore the passion and energy of this wonderful culture. I am overcome with happy emotion as I enjoy my final evening in camp. I sleep so well, happy and content and at one with this environment.
This is my Africa – unpredictable, untamed and exciting.
Day 6 –
Today I leave camp and the Maasai Mara, but it is not goodbye as I will be returning soon. I hug everyone and say see you soon, my heart and soul is always left in this beautiful country. As we drive out onto the plains I reflect on the incredible experiences I have been privileged to enjoy the last few days. Nature has given me Serval, Lion, Leopard and Cheetah days, stunning beauty combined with fast paced action and excitement.
We drive to the Ronkai area and see an Impala lying under a tree; its body is contorted at an unfeasible angle, its eyes staring blankly and internal organs spilling from a wound in its side, a Leopard kill. The beautiful Luluka with her stunning bluey green pretty round eyes is sat under a nearby bush guarding her food. The early morning sun reflects beautifully on her dark gold fur with its black rosette spots, her coat is so stunning. She is a confident female who unlike most Leopards enjoys roaming a large territory.
After a while she gets up and goes over to the kill, licks it then clamps her sharp teeth around its neck and drags it between her front legs and carries it up a mound and deposits it in a croton bush. She has clearly eaten her fill for now and scraps at the ground to try and cover it with more grass and leaves. She then sits in front of it to guard it from scavengers or Lions. She really is a stunningly beautiful female; her eyes are large in her pretty face as she looks around surveying the plains around her.
You would think with plenty of food next to her Luluka would be content with that but anyone who knows cats knows if there is a chance to hunt they will take it, they love the thrill of the chase. An Impala comes running past her and Luluka jumps up and makes to chase but the Impala is too far ahead so she settles back down. She is in the perfect position camouflaged by bushes to observe the plains. A herd of Zebra walk past and Luluka watches with fascination, no doubt she is salivating at the thought of them.
There are many aspects I love about just sitting watching the big cats, the peace and serenity, the thrill and excitement and sometimes just wondering what they are thinking. After fifteen years of studying big cats in the wild you learn so much about their behaviour, more so than by reading the theories in books. Of course many theories are out of date, they old adage that Leopards are shy and elusive for example simple does not apply now. This is particularly the case with the female Leopards of the Maasai Mara. Over the last three days I have had the privilege to spend time with eight different Leopards and they have all been confident. Luluka is a wonderful independent fiercely feisty female.
In the Hammerkop area not far away we see a Giraffe give birth. The gestation period of a Giraffe is sixteen months and the calf is already quite large when it is born and has to be able to stand immediately. There is blood on the calf and the afterbirth hangs out of the back end of the mother as they start to walk together. It is important the mother gets the calf to safety straight away. The mother is very attentive, washing the calf clean, sniffing it and encouraging it to walk. The calves’ legs are wobbly as it gets used to the sensation of this bright new world. The mother takes the calf down into a small dip in the plains to keep it hidden. The Giraffe already has an older daughter with her and she is also very protective of the new calf. It is an idyllic scene of motherly bonding. This is the wild however.
Literally a few hundred yards away the famous five Cheetahs coalition come into view, they are on the hunt. They spot the Giraffe and are alert to the blood hanging from it. They sit in the long grasses and observe. The Giraffe mother comes out of the dip and stands and looks around and observes the Cheetahs, she becomes agitated and starts to pace. She goes back into the dip and licks her calf to check it is healthy and safe then walks back out to check on the Cheetahs. She repeats this pattern many times, she is conflicted between being with her calf in the dip and walking up out and checking on the Cheetah. Fortunately her daughter is with her to help babysit the new calf. The sister is very protective and affectionate with her new sibling.
The Giraffe calf now its legs are stronger walks up the side of the dip to find its mother, the sister frantically uses her legs to push the calf back down into the dip. It is too late the Cheetah has now seen the calf and the five advance in full hunting mode. The Giraffe mother watches their progress and encourages her calf to follow her; they must escape across the plains. The Cheetah are now running, they have nearly reached the mother and calf. Within six feet of me the Giraffe starts fiercely kicking and roaring aggressively at the Cheetah. They surround her but she keeps the calf underneath her as she kicks with her extremely powerful legs at them. One kick can easily kill a Cheetah, they are hungry but she is fierce and they are wary. Nature is dramatic; there is nothing more dangerous than a mother protecting her baby. It is thought Giraffes are almost soundless animals, but this mother roars almost like a Lion at this Cheetah, I have never heard such a sound coming from one, it is most impressive and is used to frighten and warn the Cheetah.
The Giraffe runs with her calf and daughter and the Cheetah give chase, they can keep up with her easily but her kicking legs means they cannot get close to the calf. Another large Giraffe joins in in protecting the calf, the Cheetah see the extra threat and slow their pace. They give up they know when the hunt is futile. At the start of this I thought this was a foregone conclusion but I underestimated the fierce protectiveness of the mother Giraffe. Giraffe are such gentle, soundless thoughtful quiet animals, seeing this side of their nature has been quite incredible.
The Giraffes run off to safety, the calf is one fortunate baby. The five Cheetahs walk across the plains to find shade under a large Ballanite tree. It is beautiful seeing these five boys together. It is now midday and the sun is very hot, we too are exhausted after the adrenaline rush, but it was worth missing breakfast for. The Cheetah sniffs the tree detecting the scent before scent marking it with their own urine. They lay down in the shade panting from tiredness and the heat. They roll over playfully and lay together their limbs tangled in male bonding.
Personally I think it will be a while before my heart stops pounding from the excitement and adrenaline rush! We find a quiet tree to stop under and have a very late lunch. We are overcome by the events of the morning. That really was a unique experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a real fight of survival and be witness to the incredible strength of a mother who fought bravely and won against all odds. It truly was an unforgettable experience.
It is time to drive to the airstrip, on route we see a lovely peaceful family group of Ostrich, a male and female with five babies. The young Ostriches are pale beige in colour, perfect camouflage against the soil. The parents protectively watch over them.
I am very happy to see the Fig tree pride before I leave, three Lionesses and sub adult cubs. I adore the gorgeous male Lion around two years old with a small mohican mane; he is very sleepy as he sits under the shade of a tree.
Not far from there two Giraffes are necking, this is a form of combat for Giraffes. Male giraffes use their necks as weapons in combat, a behaviour known as “necking”. Necking is used to establish dominance and males that win necking bouts have greater reproductive success. It is fascinating watching them; it is slow but very precise determined moves. Close by a Southern ground Hornbill is eating dung beetles from Elephant dung.
It is time to leave my spiritual home, the Maasai Mara National Reserve never disappoints. This safari has been truly incredible, eventful and exciting. Once again I have been privileged to witness unique animal behaviour. It is never goodbye but soon I will return.
This is my Africa – a life force.