A New Friend

May is generally a quiet month and we have had no visitors at the camp for around 2 weeks, although two nights ago we did have a different kind of visitor. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it as it was the middle of the night, but a giraffe wandered in and left his calling card, so to speak, in the central area between the tents and the campfire. Animals won’t generally approach the camp when we are busy and there are lots of people around, but they can and often do come in during the quieter periods.

Before we leave this morning, it is decided we will try to find the blackrock females and their cubs, since we didn’t see them last week. So, with that plan in mind, we set off.

Here are photos of some of the animals we pass on the way. The Hyena, as usual just outside the camp and the Giraffe crossing the main road. Then as we leave the main road and head off along a track, Ntimama stops the car suddenly, there is a snake crossing the track in front of us, and he is in no hurry. I have no idea what kind of snake it is, but I am told it is a puff adder. it has a beautiful yellow and black pattern running down its entire body but is venomous and can be dangerous if you get to close.


Next, we arrive at the same pond where we saw the Egyptian geese last week, there are no geese this week but there are four herons sitting on the fallen branch of an old tree. I think these are the black headed Heron, they have a very elegant long neck which they are currently not displaying, this gives them a graceless hunched up look, also it is unusual to see four of these birds together.


A little further on we pass a small family of Elephants, consisting of around three female relatives, a couple of young and two babies, who are on the move across the open savanna. Elephants must travel around as they need large amounts of food and water each day. Fortunately, there is a lot of vegetation for them to eat around here and they are not too far from the river.

We travel down towards the sand river to find a nice spot for breakfast. There is a tree along this route that is used by a couple of camps located in the area, it is such a lovely spot, an area of grass around the tree has been kept short, perfect for a picnic. Ken even found something to photograph during breakfast, he saw this small kingfisher. First, singing in three above us then he came down onto the branch of a nearby bush, just to make it easier for Ken to photograph him.

After breakfast we reach the area of the blackrock pride only to find the roads into their territory are still closed and we are not allowed to enter. This is a shame; we will have to hope that the roads will be re-opened soon, or the pride will move further afield. We will keep checking.


So, we head further west until we come across the young males and females that were being disturbed by the hyena last week. When we arrive two vehicles are already there and the lions are using the vehicles for shade, these lions are not upset or disturbed by the vehicles at all, in fact they like to sit next to the cars, I see one young male looking thoughtfully up at the tourists, inside the car.

The other lions decide to rest near a bush on a small mound, it doesn’t give them shade, but it does give them a view over the long grass in the surrounding area. One young male whose mane is just starting to grow has what looks like a Mohican haircut. Then the young male stands up, he is interested in a large group of buffalo in the distance. He starts to move in their direction slowly through the long grass. We position ourselves near the buffalo, we see a baby buffalo that is having trouble keeping up with its mother, maybe this is what the lion is interested in. So we wait.

As we are waiting, we notice that there are hyena around, possibly the very same hyena that were harassing the lions last week. They have also spotted the baby buffalo and are keeping pace. In the meantime, the lions have given up and have moved back into the shade, so this is the baby’s lucky day. The lions don’t want to waste their energy in the heat, the hyena it seems don’t want to try an attack and they disperse, the baby catches up with its mother, and the buffalo move over the horizon. We also move on.

We head towards a small river called Orokenya rongai where leopards have recently been spotted. As we drive towards the main road Alison spots a lone lioness. There are warthogs close by so we watch to see what will happen. In this case the warthogs shrewdly walk behind her, so she misses them. We follow her for a while because she is headed in the same direction as us. We see two more warthogs in the distance but again she doesn’t see them, and they move safely away. She is not going to do well if she keeps missing easy snacks like this.

We continue on to the river where we see three other vehicles, with people looking up into a tree on the riverbank, this is a good indication that there is a leopard in it. We try to get a good spot, but the Leopard is very well camouflaged in the foliage as you can see from the first photo. We were told by the other drivers that there are two leopards, a male and a female. It was clearly a large male in the tree, we looked along the riverbank for the female but couldn’t find her. So, we settled down to see what he would do.

First, he got up and moved to a higher branch, it was then that we saw he had a kill in the tree with him, it looked like a small Impala. He was a little easier to see in the higher branch, but not much. It was Lorkorgol, a new leopard for me and Ken, but not for Alison and Ntimama. He is a fine big leopard. After a little while he came out of the tree and down to the river, probably for a drink, but the grass and bush is so dense that we lost sight of him. While the others were looking in one direction for the male I was just staring out of the front window when a leopard came up from the riverbank right in front of the car.

At first, I thought it was the male but then I could see this leopard is a lot smaller, it is the female, Luluka. Alison recognized her; we had seen her before a few times, I’m not sure what she was doing so close to Lorkorgol, they are not related in any way, and she is more than capable of catching her own food. She had obviously been watching Lorkorgol and as soon as he came out of the tree and left his kill unattended, she took the opportunity to try her luck.

She crept around the back of our car, using the dense grass and bush as cover, she slipped back down the bank and up the other side making her way cautiously to the base of the tree. She almost made it but Lorkorgol spotted her and climbed back up the tree quickly to protect his kill. Once up there he kept looking in her direction and snarling, there was no way he intended to share. And that’s where we left him, sitting over his prize.

It will be a couple of weeks before I do another post as high season approaches and we have bookings for the car.


A nice day for a mud bath

We had visitors to the camp and to our house last night, Elephants were around, in the morning we surveyed the damage done to the trees as they broke down branches and stripped the bark. Their footprints were still visible in the soft sand where they had crossed the river from the park into the camp.

It is said that when Elephants start leaving the park it is because they can sense the wildebeest, you never see elephants together with wildebeest, they don’t like them. So maybe this is an indication of an early start to the migration, we shall see.

As soon as we enter the park, we encounter a peaceful scene with zebra and giraffe grazing in the early morning sun.

Then as we head out onto the plains we find 2 Jackals, as we get closer to them one of them starts to run, he has the top half of a baby tommi in his jaws. Jackals are not just scavengers getting the leftovers from a kill by one of the big cats, given the opportunity they can and often do make a kill themselves. While the one Jackal took his prize into the bush to eat in peace the other one stayed where he was, at least until a couple of crows flew with the intent of taking some scraps, this is when he also made the decision to run away and find somewhere a little quieter.

It has been pointed out to me that I haver never mentioned our driver by name! I didn’t realise that I always referred to him as ‘the driver’ So our drivers name is Ntimama, he has worked for us for several years, he lives local and so knows the area very well. During our game drives he has gotten us both into and out of more than a few scrapes.

Today we have no radio, so we must rely entirely on the skills of Alison and Ntimama to find the animals. Fortunately, they are very good at this, I would even say the best, and my opinion is borne out by the fact that Alison soon spots something in the distance but won’t say what it is yet. We have to drive quite a way, and as we approach, Alison keeps asking, “can you see it yet?” both me and Ken look in vain for anything. “It’s near that tree” he says pointing in the direction of a few trees. Still we can’t see it, not until we get up close, then right in front of us is a cheetah.

. It is our friend Olodupa, he is looking very hungry this morning as you can see from the photos. He is looking around, there are a few wildebeest in the area who start to snort when they see the cheetah, as a warning to others. There are also a few Topi and Hartebeest. Olodupa is looking intently at something, then we see what he is looking at. He has spotted a baby hartebeest, he tries to get closer, but the Hartebeest have spotted him, he starts to run but they are too far away even for a cheetah. 

So the baby Hartebeest has a reprieve, and its mother takes it far away from the danger. But Olodupa is still hungry. After a second look at the remaining antelopes, he decides they are too big for a single cheetah to take down and lays down to rest, to conserve his energy and wait for the next opportunity.

Shortly after we leave Olodupa we come upon a most tranquil setting. It is a small seasonal pool, currently occupied by a few Egyptian geese. The only sound is that of birds in the surrounding trees, as the geese glide silently and effortlessly through the water, dipping their heads every now and then to catch the insects just below the surface. Also not far away is the grey crowned crane who have a rather spectacular appearance in contrast to the rather plain looking geese. Although his crown looks more yellow than grey in the morning sun.

After a while as we are driving along a muddy track full of potholes filled with water, we are stopped by elephants that have just moved onto the track in front of us and have decided to use the muddy water to cool down, and for the young ones in the group to take a mud bath. There is no way to pass them, not that we want to, so we settle down to watch and take a few photos, and when I say a few, I really mean hundreds!

There are quite a few young ones in the group and a couple of small babies, in one of the photos two babies of the same size actually look like twins to me, however elephants rarely give birth to twins so it’s more likely that they are from two different mothers, born at around the same time. They all had a thoroughly nice time, throwing the mud over themselves with their trunks, laying down and rolling around in it, as much as an elephant can roll around. 

Eventually when all the water was gone, bath time was over, and they continued on their way across the open savannah.

The next animals we came across were also bathing in mud pools, this time it is a large herd of buffalo, taking it in turns to get into the few shallow pools that were around, and of course the oxpeckers were there as usual to remove any ticks and insects that were not dislodged by the mud. I think buffalo always look grumpy, the young males especially, they act all brave in the presence of the vehicle, staring at you and even in some cases performing a mock charge, until they get near, then they turn around and run away. The older ones have more sense.

It is now early afternoon and as yet we haven’t seen a single lion, which is unusual for our game drives, but that was about to change. First, we noticed a couple of Hyena, again next to a large pool of water. As we drove towards the pool, we could see there were more of them in the muddy water, taking a bath, in total around 14 or 15 Hyena. There were also a couple of Hyena cubs. As incredible as it may seem in all the years I have been here, and all the game drives I had taken, I have never seen Hyena cubs before, so this was a first for me.

We watched them for a while, then off to the right Alison pointed out a half-eaten buffalo carcass with a sub adult male still eating from it. I couldn’t believe that with all those Hyenas present they had not started to harass the lion, there was only one of him, surely no match for 15 Hyenas. Alison thought there must be other lions around and that was the reason they were leaving him alone. This turned out to be true, it was not long before the lion was joined by two female lions. 

The first thing a lion does when joining another lion or group of lions, even before they start eating is to greet each other. This is to strengthen their bonds within the pride.

Then a strange thing happened, one of the Hyenas started to screech and yell and run around nipping at the other Hyenas in the group, this had the effect of getting them all going and before long there is a loud chorus of whooping, screaming, and laughing, all around us. Some of the Hyenas started chasing and biting the instigator, he ended up with a wound on one of his back legs, but he didn’t give up. The lions I think were just looking on in confusion, they didn’t seem particularly worried, in fact when any of the Hyenas got too close to them, they were chased off.

This went on for a while, we didn’t know which way to look. And to add to all this mayhem and madness just then a loud rolling thunder started up, it was the most surreal scene I had ever witnessed. Finally, they calmed down and just sat around to wait. The lions came and sat next to the car, which was next to the carcass, for the shade. One of the female lions decided to crawl underneath the car on the side I was sitting, what I didn’t realize was that the sub adult male had also come round to my side of the car and was sitting just below my window. As I leaned out of the window to look for the female under the car, my head came to within inches of the lion’s head. To be fair I think the lion was just as surprised as I was.

Ntimama revved the engine a little so that the lions would move, and we returned to camp before the rains came. But what a strange day it had been.


Up Close and Personal part 2

We have the whole afternoon ahead of us so we leave the blackrock males sleeping and head off to try and find the blackrock females with their cubs. First, we check the rocky outcrops where they can usually be found but there is no sign of them. Alison rings a few people, but no-one has seen them today, so the only thing to do is to widen the search. This proves to be a little challenging as the park rangers have closed off many of the tracks around this area. Whether this is because of the state of the tracks or for some other reason I have no idea.

While we are cruising around, we do come across a few other animals like the family of warthogs to the side of the track, feeding in the long grass, as usual when they are disturbed, they stick their tails in the air and run, they do this to make it easy for other members of the family or group to follow. They run across the track and settle on the other side making sure they are a certain distance from us. As we leave the track for the main road, we see a solitary male warthog who is not so worried by us and is more interested in searching for insects and bugs that are crawling around in the mud.

Also fond of mud are Hyena, like the one here in the photo. They don’t look so good when covered in mud but the tendency they have to wallow in it helps them to cool down in the heat of the day and also to get rid of the insects and parasites that bite them. Just off the road to the right are a male and female ostrich, the male is the one with the black feathers. They are just enjoying the peace and quiet and look a little cross when we stop next to them.

Unless you are constantly looking out while on a game drive it is easy to miss something especially if it’s small, like this lovely, black shoulder kite, perched on the stump of a dead tree. When we stopped to watch him, Alison noticed he was eating something, looking through the binoculars I could see that it was a large field mouse, a favourite of this kind of carnivorous bird. He definitely didn’t like us being there, even though we were not too close, and he flew away with his prey in his talons.

We continued searching. In this particular area we are searching there is a lot of surface water which is quite deep in places, turning some of the grassland into swamp and the tracks into large pools. There was so much water on some of the tracks that a boat would have been a more appropriate form of transport. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t see any other vehicles during our search. After about an hour we were just about to give up when Alison saw lions resting in the shade of some bush. They were near a small river and between us and them the ground was a little soggy, so to get closer to them we had to be very careful.

It was the 6 females from the blackrock pride with all their cubs, 13 of them in total, and 4 different age groups. It’s nice to know that the pride hasn’t lost any of their cubs, generally less than 50% of lion cubs survive in the wild, often being victims of other predators, especially buffalo who will kill a lion cub without a second thought if he gets the chance. Abandonment and starvation are other factors. Starvation is not a problem for these little ones, the mothers look after them very well. In fact, they look as though they had eaten recently as their bellies are full. Alison points to two vultures in a tree nearby, this means there is a kill nearby.

While the adults rest and the cubs play with each other and feed from their mothers it looks such a tranquil scene, we decide to spend the afternoon here with them. Soon one of the females’ heads in the direction of the river, encouraging the little ones to go with her. She leads them to whats left of the carcass of a buffalo; it is mostly skin and bones. They must have caught this early in the morning and have already had their fill, this is what the vultures are waiting for, but the lions are not going to let them in easily, we see one of the lions chasing away a vulture as soon as he leaves the tree and tries to get close.

It is mostly a relaxed affair at the kill, since they are already full there is not too much competition, apart from one of the older cubs bullying one of the smaller ones it is all quite peaceful. Some are eating, one of the cubs gets inside the carcass, maybe he thinks there is more meat on the inside, but there isn’t. Some are just playing, and some go down to the river for a drink.

I was watching two of the cubs as they arrived on the scene, they caught my attention because they looked so alert, they appeared together, walking side by side and they stayed together, they looked so alike they could be twins, and it’s possible that they are twins, look at the photos what do you think? They went down to the riverbank to drink together, although one was more interested in drinking than the other, who just wanted to play.

They could see the carcass but had to walk a little way back down stream to find a place to cross that didn’t involve getting their feet wet. Once they were at the carcass they got stuck in straight away.

Getting wet feet didn’t bother all the cubs however, a few of them went to the edge of the water to see if they could jump across. Just like a domestic cat they shuffled a little, shifting their weight while sizing up the distance. Some decided no, it’s too far but two of the more adventurous cubs jumped, they didn’t quite make it, but landed in the water close to the opposite bank. After watching these two a third cub decided it’s not too deep and he just waded through. One of the cubs went further and decided to half submerge himself in the water, possibly to cool down. Lions are known for not liking water, but these cubs were having a great time.

Sadly, it was now time for us to leave and head back to camp.

My thoughts when we left camp this morning were that it didn’t matter what we saw, or didn’t see, I was just going to enjoy the day out. What followed was an incredible day where we got really close to both male lions and this fantastic family, the blackrock pride.

I couldn’t help taking photos of this group of Giraffe on the way home.


Up Close and Personal

The morning is cold. It had rained all night, not heavy rain, just that light drizzle that is so common in England or Ireland. Yesterday we had managed to get hold of the last 17 litres of diesel from the local village, so we wanted to make the most of it and stay out all day.


As expected, the rain had turned the tracks into a slippery mud. As we slowly made our way through the bush and out onto the plains a large part of the sky in front of us was a mass of colour due to the mist on the horizon. It looked so beautiful with wide bands of every colour of the rainbow. It lasted only a few seconds, just long enough for Ken to capture it before it disappeared forever.

Once it rains here, the going really is tough, the vehicle seems to have a mind of its own, despite the driver doing his best to keep it under control and on the right track, if it wants to go sideways or slide from side to side, it will. Those that have been to the Mara in the rain know what I am talking about, those that have not visited us yet may find it a little disconcerting at first. But my attitude was relaxed, I was away from the camp with all the small daily chores that must be attended to and if we get stuck then so be it, I can think of worse places to get stranded.


Two Hyena pass us as they head into the bush after a night of scavenging and as we make our way to the main road and relative safety, we pass a line of hippo footprints leading to the river, so we head in their direction to see if we can see them. What alerts us to their position is the spray of water as they break the surface, we head over and they are four, almost fully submerged. They are certainly enjoying the wet weather.

Since we are out for the whole day, we decide to go further afield just to see what we can find. Sometimes you see something surprising and funny at the same time, like a flock of guinea fowl with small babies picking at the insects on the road, when the car approaches them, they start running, surprisingly fast for a creature with such short legs, even the babies are fast with legs that are even shorter. But they don’t run to the side, away from the road, they stick to the track running in front of us for a while before realizing they have another option. They look so comical.

Just as we are passing a rather large termite mound my attention is caught by a slight movement. It is a mongoose who had just popped his head out of one of the tunnels at the top of the mound and another one appears lower down, they probably felt the vibration of the vehicle in their den and wanted to check it out, they do look quite curious. On the other side of the road is another termite mound, this one with a Tawney Eagle perched on top. An ideal place to scan the area for possible prey, he even looks big enough to take a mongoose given the chance.

After around half an hour of, I was going to say a relaxing drive, but this drive is anything but relaxing, we come upon two sub-adult male lions. We park the car just off the track and they walk towards us. I am photographing one of them as he gets closer and closer, until he is just too close to photograph anymore.

He is nearly as tall as the open window on the jeep which I am leaning out of. We are looking at each other eye to eye and I suddenly realise I am in a staring competition with a male lion, albeit a young one, he nevertheless looks quite powerful. So, I am the first to break off and move back into my seat. Fortunately, these two show no aggression, just curiosity as they continue to move closer. The car rocks as they settle themselves against it to take advantage of the small amount of shade afforded by the jeep.

Now they are relaxing I lean out of the window again and look down on them when one of them sneezes, now I don’t know if anyone has heard a lion sneeze when it is right next to you, but it startled me so much that I jumped back into my seat again.

One of them even tries to get underneath the jeep, he gets halfway but finds he is too big, so he pulls out, looks at the space and has another go with the same result, he then resigns himself to laying by the side of the front wheel. This is fine but is a problem when we want to move. The driver switches on the engine, which he thinks will disturb the lion, but it doesn’t, they both totally ignore it and stay where they are. So, the driver puts it in reverse, turns the tyres and tries to inch his way backwards without touching the sleeping lion. Still they don’t move. It’s not until we are completely clear of them, and they realise they have lost their shade that they finally get up and walk off. We find out later that these two are from the Topi pride.

Before coming to the Maasai Mara I never in my life imagined that I would have the opportunity to get so up close and personal with lions in the wild. This is truly an amazing world.

We have breakfast under a tree not too far away and as we eat Alison points out a fully grown male lion in the distance, and also points to a patch of ground next to us that has recently been vacated by that same fully grown male lion. After we’ve eaten, we drive over to him to find him relaxing in a bush, which is natural for a male lion during the day. Alison suspects he is one of the five males from the black rock pride, so we explore the surrounding area for the other four.

We find two more of them sleeping next to a bush. As we get closer, we can see that they both have injuries to their face, we now know that these are brothers, Olobor and Olpadan also from the blackrock pride who recently got into a territorial fight with another male Lion, Olope from the Moniko pride. It was reported to be a fierce fight, two against one, Olope is said to have fought ferociously before being mauled to death leaving Olpadan with life threatening injuries. The vet had to go in to treat Olpadan. You will see from the photos of the second lion that even though he has is eyes closed one of them is in a very bad way and we saw signs of the green antibiotic solution that had been applied to his body. Of course, the flies didn’t help, they were both absolutely covered in them.

A little further on we found the other two males from the blackrock pride. One, with three females in the shade of a stunted tree and the other enclosed in the foliage of another nearby stunted tree together with a cub. I managed to get a photo of the cub but the lion behind him is hiding. I thought it unusual for a cub to be with his father and not his mother but obviously he was comfortable there.

One of our guests recently, after returning from a game drive said, “we saw lions, they are so lazy, they do nothing.” And I guess she has a point because most of the time all they do is sleep, but it’s not always easy being a male lion as evidenced by Olobor and Olpadan. Male lions must protect their territory and the pride.

It had been a fantastic morning; I was expecting a quiet day but so far what I had experienced had far exceeded my expectations and we still had the whole afternoon ahead of us. I will continue with our adventures in the next blog.