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! ;-)
** this post appeared first on Tigs Creations Photography **
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See my ‘Impressions’ blog post over at Natalie Carstens | The Birth Photographer for the latest selection of photos!
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