Tuesday 26th July 2011
After lunch we relaxed in the grounds of the lodge until it was time for our afternoon game drive. The bird life in the area was amazing with some wonderful colours on display.
Down at the Hippo Pool we sat in the shade provided by the bar and watched as the Hippos wallowed in the cooling water.
Our first encounter this afternoon was with a pair of Giraffes – a mother and calf, gently browsing on the lush vegetation. Watching them, wandering with such grace through the Savannah, it was difficult to appreciate that if attacked they will defend themselves and their calves to the death against predators. Their main defence weapon being their hooves, with which they are capable of inflicting fatal injury.
Continuing on our drive we came across a lone Hyena, trotting along the track heading straight towards us. It wasn’t until it was almost upon us that it turned and disappeared into the bush. Hyenas are such ugly looking creatures, but perform a vital task in the circle of life, scavenging on the remains of the kills of the apex predators, such as Lions.
And Lions were the next species we encountered, coming upon a pride with a number of young cubs. We sat watching them for some time, with the cubs climbing the tree under which their parents were seeking shade; or playing with what looked like a lump of wood that one of them had discovered! All the time they were under the watchful gaze of the adults.
With the arrival of other vehicles keen to get a view of the Lions, we left, the photographs safely stored on memory cards and our own memories in our heads. Dusk was starting to gather, and in this part of the world, darkness arrives very quickly, so we made our way back to Keekorok to get ready for dinner. What adventures await us tomorrow?
Wednesday 27th July 2011
Out just after sunrise, our first siting of the day was a Martial Eagle, perched in a tree top, as it scanned the landscape in search of a meal. Close by, we came across a male White Rhino, who paused from his browsing to gaze at us, scanning for any sign of threat. Satisfied that we meant him no harm, he treated us to a display of scent-marking as he sprayed his urine on the surrounding vegetation as he claimed this patch of grassland as his territory. Job, done, he trotted away!
White Rhino Scent Marking
Early morning is one of the best times of day to watch wildlife in most parts of the world, whether it be your own garden, or as in this case, Kenya’s Masai Mara. Before the sun climbs to high in the sky, and temperatures soar with it, most animals are quite active. The herbivores, such as Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo and the various antelopes are grazing contentedly, happy in the knowledge that they have survived another night without becoming a meal for one of the big cats.
For the predators it is time to seek a shady spot where they can lie up for the day, sleeping off their night’s exertions; perhaps digesting the meal that they killed and devoured during the night. In these early morning hours, they are often to be seen returning to a favourite spot to rest after a night’s hunting. A pair of Lionesses were picking over the remains of a Zebra carcass, by now reduced to just the skin and a few bones, in the hope that some tasty morsel had been left.
Not finding much to satisfy their appetite, they wandered off, perhaps in search something else to feast upon, but instead encountered a lone juvenile male. We watched in anticipation as they greeted one another with much sniffing and head rubbing. The outcome of such encounters is difficult to predict; will it turn violent as the females reject any advances by the male; will the male try to assert his dominance, claiming this patch of land as his territory and by inference all available females within it? On this occasion, following the ritual greeting, they proceeded to roll around on the ground in a tangle of legs, before being joined by two more females and the whole group wandering off.
A little further on a female Elephant, accompanied by her young calf, came into view. As we approached, keeping our distance so not to disturb them, the calf took refuge under the grey bulk of its mother, taking the opportunity to suckle. The more they got used to our presence, both appeared to relax, with the calf taking a great interest in us and Mum happy to proudly show off her offspring. This was turning out to be a fantastic morning, but there was still more to come.
On any safari game drive you never know what will turn up. To the keen eyed, a safari will turn up all manner of creatures, both great and small. If the wildlife is there, your driver will do his very best to find it for you and to ensure that you get the best possible opportunity to view and to photograph the animals. Nicholas was no exception and so far on this safari had not disappointed. After leaving the Elephants to continue their day, we drove on in anticipation of what we might see next. Rounding a curve in the track we came across… …Cheetahs!
A mother and her sub-adult cub were grooming one another. As we settled in to watch, to our amazement and delight, three more Cheetahs emerged from the long grass and they all greeted one another. After observing them for a few moments, Nicholas advised us that this was group that he had been watching for some months on his regular visits to the area. The four sub-adults were the adult female’s litter from earlier in the year. This was testament to what a good mother she was; the fact that four cubs had survived this far despite the harsh terrain and the presence of predators who wouldn’t think twice about killing the cubs if the opportunity arose. So this was a special moment for all of us, not least Nicholas, and his keen interest and knowledge was testament to how lucky we were to have been given him as a guide.
As we made our way back towards the lodge for breakfast, we came across a group of Lions with four cubs. Completely ignoring our presence, the cubs played happily in the sunshine with two of them play fighting, while a third honed its tree climbing skills.
Back at the lodge, breakfast over, we relaxed in the lodge grounds until it was time to head out on our afternoon game drive.
Our first sighting of the afternoon was of a male and female Lion, wandering across the savannah together, constantly on the alert for danger, or an easy meal. Then out of the grass emerged two more females – the King’s harem was complete!
Driving on we came across two female Elephants with their calves, gently browsing on the abundant grass. As we watched, we noticed the rapidly darkening sky to the North of us, as rain clouds gathered and rolled in. The Elephants noticed too, sniffing the air with their trunks as the rain approached. Sure enough, the first spots of rain splattered onto the windscreen and we hurried to close the roof hatches. The next moment, our view was obliterated as a torrential downpour struck!
Within minutes, the previously solid marram roadway had been transformed into glutinous mud! Over the radio a conversation between two drivers was taking place, and Nicholas pointed out to us, some vehicles in the valley below, advising us that at least one of them was stuck in the mud. Earlier we had split from the other Private Safaris vehicle, although they were not far away, and it was obvious that Nicholas was worried both for their safety and for us. Fortunately, the other vehicle emerged from the torrential rain, and slowly we made our way back to the lodge.
It wasn’t long before the rain stopped, but so heavy had the downpour been that the ground was now far too soft to risk exploring any further. Off to the west, the dusk was rapidly gathering, no doubt hastened by the dark clouds. We cautiously made our way back to Keekorok, satisfied with what we had seen and ready for dinner.