waking to the sound of lions roar

We’ve been home for just over a week and already missing the sights, smells and sounds of the African bush. There is little better than waking to the sound of lions roar, the grunting of hippos, and the giggle and whoop of hyenas, hence why we always choose to stay in tented camps. This February, we returned to Kenya, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect trip.

In barely any time at all we found ourselves in the presence of one of the most elusive cats in Africa, just 10 minutes after arriving at Ol Kiombo airstrip in the Maasai Mara. What a fabulous way to begin our trip! :-)

High in the branches of the tree, we watched a beautiful, and evidently very hungry leopard feasting on the last remains of a reedbuck. When all the meat was gone, he gracefully jumped to the ground to rest in the shade of the tree.

It was an incredible sighting!

Late on an afternoon game drive we came across Naibor, a lioness from the Enkoyanai pride in the Olare Orok Conservancy (OOC) which borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve. We remembered her from our visit the previous year. She was alone but appeared to be keeping a watchful eye on a nearby herd of zebra who were snorting alarm calls.

We saw her again the following morning, this time with several other members of the pride, including three heavily pregnant females. As we waited with them in the early morning light, we watched Naibor stalking a reedbuck. As she slowly and carefully made her way forwards, the other lionesses following behind, the reedbuck sensed danger and made a quick and lucky escape.

We were very fortunate to spend a lot of time with cheetah mum Narasha, and her two boys. We frequently spotted them in the conservancy but our first sighting of them was in the National Reserve not far from the border to the conservancy.

Narasha is easily recognisable from the mark on her right cheek. Her cubs are almost ready to separate and find their independence so it was lovely to see them all together. Last year, when her cubs were still very young, we had watched them practicing their hunting skills on a baby Thomson’s gazelle. This year we saw them hunting again, several times, and even saw one of the boys successfully hunt and bring down a Thomsons gazelle for the three to feast on.

Spending first light with Narasha and her boys one morning, we saw hyena in the distance. They were heading in our direction, and as they came closer we could see the lead hyena with the leg of a zebra in it’s mouth. It seemed rather cruel to later watch it parade amongst a herd of zebra with it!

We were also very happy to find the three brothers, also known as Honey’s Boys from BBC Big Cat. We found them early one morning in the National Reserve resting in the shade of a tree; we stayed with them the whole day, only leaving them to have our picnic breakfast and picnic lunch.

Our patience was certainly rewarded. Not long before sunset, we followed them as they made their way through an area thick with small bushes. The cheetahs sat together in the shade of a small bush, waiting for a herd of grazing zebra to move closer for an ambush. News spread and more vehicles arrived on scene, soon there were too many vehicles for the zebra to come closer; realising this, the brothers emerged from the bushes in stealth mode and slowly made their way across the open plains towards the unsuspecting zebra.

Suddenly all three ran forwards, the zebra dispersed in a cloud of dust and one was singled out. Closely followed by two of the cheetahs, the zebra kicked it’s hind legs in a brave attempt at survival. One of the brothers bit at the zebra’s neck, whilst another clung onto the zebra’s hind. We thought it was all over for the zebra but after the high speed chase, the cheetahs were soon exhausted, and the wounded zebra managed to make it’s escape; though with such bad injuries it would likely not survive too long. It was an incredible sight to witness.

Near the Ntiakitiak river, we saw two brothers from the double-cross pride, they were resting in the shade of some bushes not far from the river. I just love this next photo as one of them glanced upwards.

Near the Olare Orok river, still in the National Reserve, we came across three lionesses with eight cubs. They were searching for shade and were soon hidden amongst some bushes where the cubs could nurse.

Shortly after our picnic breakfast, we heard news that the lionesses had made a kill and since we weren’t far away we went to go and see.

When we arrived at the kill, we found the three lionesses ripping out the entrails of a warthog which was quite horrific since the warthog was still alive and trying to kick it’s forelegs. The cubs all watched from a distance whilst the adults fed. One of the lionesses then picked up the carcass and dragged it to the shade of some bushes where the cubs began to eat.

We found Nkayioni, one of Olive’s sons, in a dry riverbed along the Olare Orok river. He was initially far in the distance and difficult to spot. Several vehicles were already parked along the river bank and we could hear all the guides directing their guests where to look. He blended in so well that it was difficult to see him, though impossible to miss once you knew he was there.

He got up from his resting spot and walked away and we lost him. We searched the bushes but with no luck. Then, after moving back to the edge of the river where we had first caught sight of him, we were treated to a great sighting of him walking along the river bed. He came up onto the river banks and walked right next to our vehicle sniffing at the ground.

Later the same day we saw his mother, Olive, star of BBC Big Cat. She’s beautiful. We found her resting in an area thick with bushes and trees but she was soon up and off deeper into the bush, emerging on the other side with a scrub hair in her mouth. We watched her pluck the fur before tucking into her snack. We spent a long afternoon waiting with her by a dry riverbed. She had seen a herd of impala and after a failed attempt to stalk them she lay resting in the bank of the river bed. Hours later, not long before sunset, she emerged and walked out into open, posing for us in the beautiful late-afternoon light.

This is just a taster of our first few days; our trip was amazing and I do plan to share more. I spent a lot of time filming so I have some amazing video footage I’d love to share too, plus video diaries and a journal! It’s all going to take some time to select/organise/type/edit etc, but I’ll get there, stay tuned! ;-)

Best wishes,
~Natalie

** this post appeared first on Tigs Creations Photography **

35 Comments

  1. Anne

    Love, love, love the pictures and the story! It’s been a long dream of mine to go to Africa and see the marvels with my own eyes. I so want to go to the Massai Mara (as well as several other places) and your story just deepens my wish to go. Thanks a lot for sharing your beautiful pictures. Maybe one day you can tell me more in person :-) xoxo

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thank you, Anne. If you ever get a chance to go, you really must! We had such an amazing adventure this time, I find it so difficult to put all my excitement into words – I grin a mile wide whenever I recall our wild adventures! ;) Hope to meet up with you one day soon, it would be great to meet again! xx

      Reply
  2. Jennifer

    wow those pics are amazing – national geographics would be proud to publish them ! it must be such a wonderful experience seeing the cats and the wildlife live in front of your eyes and not only in the zoo

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! :) It’s so very different to see animals in the own environment, it’s such a gift. And to see them hunting, taking care of their young, listening out for danger…it’s really incredible! :-)

      Reply
  3. Tanja

    Wow these are amazing!!!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      :-) Thank you, Tanja!

      Reply
  4. anouschka

    Wow Natalie, these shots are stunning! I love the crispness and the beautiful lighting. Wonderful!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks Anouschka! :)

      Reply
  5. Tammy

    Wow, just… wow! Those photos are amazing! Just to think that you saw that for real and up close. I’m so envious!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks Tammy! It was really an amazing trip, from start to finish :-) there were even times I caught myself thinking that I can’t believe what we are seeing, and all happening just a few metres from our vehicle too! Incredible!

      Reply
  6. Mireille

    One more try :o). Wow Natalie amazing images!! Love the colors.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Now I see your comment! Thanks so much, Mireille! :-))

      Reply
  7. Suzanne

    Looks like you had an amazing time.. and you actually got some photos up really quick ;) Loved the one of Narasha & her cubs x

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks Suzy! It was really fantastic, we had a great time. I’m working on some client galleries right now but I plan to blog more about our adventures very soon… :-)

      Reply
  8. Anna

    Once again, you amaze me! How did you manage to take such beautiful images of the wild cats! Good job, Geographic eat your heart out!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      :-) thank you Anna!!

      Reply
  9. Vinita

    Beautiful tigs!!Love these images and the story behnd them! Welcome back and can’t wait to catch up with you! xx

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks Vinita! Welcome home to you too, can’t wait to catch up :) *hugs* xx

      Reply
    • Natalie

      Thank you, Rachal! :-)

      Reply
  10. David

    A beautiful set of photos Natalie. You really got in close to them!

    Reply
  11. Karin Bloem

    Dear Natalie,

    Great photo’s! And I also look forward to see your videos. Noted the bean bags were usefull :)
    Am really happy you liked so your safari so much and that it worked out so well! cheers, Karin

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Hi Karin, it really was an amazing trip, thanks so much for organising everything!!!! :-) Great seeing you at the IWD dinner last night too, looking forward to catching up properly and sharing safari stories with you soon…. :-)

      Reply
  12. angelica

    gorgeous pics! makes me miss it so….

    Reply
  13. Kirsty-Abu Dhabi

    Natalie, these are absolutely amazing photos. Loved reading about your adventures – please, please share more soon, x

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thank you Kirsty! :-) I plan to share more..definitely!! xx

      Reply
  14. Christina

    These are stunning … love ’em! What focal length did you use for these?

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thanks Christina! I’m pretty sure these were all taken with the fabulous 500mm, a dream lens! :-)

      Reply
  15. Karin Bloem

    do you have time to meet and see some more pics? somewhere next week? Shall i come to you?
    xxx Karin

    Reply
  16. marla

    Wow the pictures of all the lions is really amazing. The sunlight in the pictures is wonderful!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Thank you, Marla! :)

      Reply
  17. Paul

    These photos are super! Great motivation to take a Safari ourselves even though my own photos are not at the same level. Thanks.

    Reply
  18. Karin Bloem

    I just read that Paul was also interested going on a safari. So would love to suggest to check our website http://www.wildtimessafaris.com or call us – 31625404337 – for a tailor made safari. And hopefully as nice as Natalie’s safari!

    Reply

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