One morning in the Masai Mara.
Over the 6 days we spent at the Governors' Camp in the Masai Mara it's hard to pick out one single game drive to write about as they were all wonderful. We had a superb guide, good weather and an abundance of wildlife sightings. There was one particular morning though that was very special due to the number of big cats we saw in just a few hours.
The morning sunrises in the Mara are breathtaking; to see the sun slowly rising over the horizon of the open plains and the amazing colours in the sky is magical, it's my favourite time of the day. After a night of heavy rain we set off from the Governors' Camp in our jeep at 6am. The ground was quite slippery and Mike, our guide, commented that there could be a few jeeps getting stuck today. Our first mission was to find the Marsh Pride, heading first to the area of the Musiara Marsh where we had seen them the previous evening. The sun was just coming up as we were searching for them but unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen. In this area we only saw an old, bull elephant. Mike told us that the elephant was about 40 years old and had lived a solitary life for many years - what a lonely life, but he looked healthy and contented, and not at all bothered by our presence. We left him munching on the vegetation and headed on our quest to find the Marsh Pride.
We stopped briefly at a rather smelly ditch filled with hippos so that Mike could scour the landscape with his binoculars, but he couldn't see any sign of the lions. We watched the hippos for a short time; they weren't the most pleasant of sights so we decided to move on quickly, leaving them to their mud bath.
After driving a few more miles we spotted a couple of jeeps stopped just ahead of us. To our delight we could see the two Marsh Pride male lions, Logol and Halftail (named because he has part of his tail missing, which is a birth defect rather than an injury).
The scene in front of us was of Logol and Halftail sitting watching a buffalo and her calf. Looking through binoculars we could see there was another very small calf lying in the grass.
This small calf was dead; whether it was killed by the lions, another predator or died of natural causes, we do not know for sure but suspect it was killed by the lions and then they were chased off by the mother buffalo. The pair of lions looked tired so this scenario had obviously been going on for some time. It was strange that the buffalo were alone and far away from the rest of the herd. We sat, watched and waited to see what would happen next.
Approximately 35 minutes later Logol and Halftail made a move; they slowly circled the buffalo.
And then Logol made a grab for the calf; it all happened in the blink of an eye.
The buffalo wasn't willing to give her calf up and gave chase; after a few yards Logol dropped the calf.
It was then another waiting game. The lions weren't going to give up and were prepared to wait for the buffalo to abandon the dead calf and join the rest of her herd. We waited for a further 25 minutes but it was obviously going to take a long time before there were further developments so we made the decision to drive off to find the rest of the Pride, the lionesses and cubs.
It didn't take us too long to find the rest of the Pride. Some miles further on we found them resting in the grass and we could see that they all had full tummies so they must have eaten well during the night. We counted three lionesses and a number of cubs of various ages; they all looked extremely healthy but too tired for much action. They were obviously now going to rest for a few hours.
While we were with the Pride Mike received the news that five cheetahs had been spotted; it was quite a distance away but we decided to delay having breakfast and head over to see if we could find them. Crossing the Talek River and driving some distance we eventually caught up with the cheetahs.
The cheetahs were Neema and her 3 almost full grown cubs and Olchore, a male who was trying to seduce Neema. To see a group of 5 beautiful cheetahs together was amazing.
Below is a photo of Neema, sitting down, and Olchore behind her.
For some shots I like to get as low as I can so that I am on eye level with the animal - to get the photo below I was lying on the floor of the jeep with my camera poking out through the open door panel. It's an amazing experience to be looking directly into the eyes of such a beautiful animal.
"An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." - Martin Buber
We had been so distracted with all the sightings that we had completely forgotten about breakfast. We normally had breakfast out in the bush at about 9am but on this morning it was 10am before we even thought about food. We reluctantly left the cheetahs and headed to a quiet spot for our bush breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, fruit and coffee.
Following breakfast we went back briefly to the cheetahs. There we met and spoke to Dr Elena Chelysheva, a wildlife biologist who is head of the Mara Meru Cheetah Project. The aim of the project is to promote the conservation of cheetahs through scientific research, community involvement and education. It was fascinating hearing about the project and Elena's work; she has spent over 30 years studying cheetahs and spends almost every day with them.
We were now quite a way from the camp so the plan was that we should head back, stopping on the way to try to find the leopard called Kaboso and her cub.
The morning wasn't all about the big cats; the Masai Mara has such an abundance of amazing wildlife, animals and birds. We had many wildlife sightings on our journey - here are just a few of them.
One of my favourite little birds, the lilac breasted roller, spotted on an acacia bush.
When we reached the river we spotted a bird we hadn't seen before, a jacana, commonly known as a Jesus bird. They have elongated toes and toenails that allow them to spread out their weight when foraging on floating or semi emergent acquatic vegetation, giving them the appearance of walking on water.
We finally reached the spot where we thought Kaboso would be. Here she was the previous afternoon when we had excellent sightings of her as she came out of the undergrowth, walking along the bank to the river for a drink.
On this morning we were lucky; she was there with her cub and we spent a while watching the pretty little cub romp around, climbing trees and and then jumping on her mum. It was wonderful to see them together.
After such an exciting morning it was time to head back to camp for lunch but we had to make a bit of a detour as our usual river crossing was blocked by a jeep which had got stuck. We didn't mind our journey back taking slightly longer as it gave us a chance for yet more wildlife sightings. We passed this elephant on the way; he was grazing on the grasslands. An interesting fact, - elephants eat between 149 and 169 kg of vegetation a day and spend 80% of their day eating.
What an amazing morning! I feel so incredibly lucky to have the experience of travelling to Kenya and to spend time on Safari; for a wildlife photographer this is absolute paradise.
A three course lunch back at the camp then an hour or so to relax and re-charge the camera batteries before heading out to do it all again.
Camera bodies - Canon EOS R5 mirrorless and Canon EOS 5Div DSLR
Lenses - Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM
- Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS 111 USM
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L 11 USM
"Africa changes you for ever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never felt it? How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths? Could it be because Africa is the place of all our beginnings, the cradle of mankind, where our species first stood upright on the savannahs of long ago?"
- Brian Jackman
Camp - Governors Camp Masai Mara https://www.governorscamp.com
Copyright Ann Aveyard Photography - www.ann-aveyard.co.uk