As we set out this morning the sky was clear, the sun just rising, little did we know there was a treat in store for us. I was wrapped up as usual, sat back in the seat, happy just to watch the game as we drove along the track.
Something moved in the grass which caught my eye, on looking closer I saw 2 small ears sticking up out of the grass, I knew it had to be something small as the grass is not high at the moment. I asked the driver to stop so that we could see what it was, just then the ears, followed by the rest of the body appeared unsteady on its feet and took its first few tentative steps. It was a baby zebra which had just recently been born.
The mother had already cleaned off the afterbirth and was standing close by waiting for her baby to get up, we could see the mother still had blood on her from the birth. Zebras usually walk within the first 15 minutes and can run within the hour. I think if we had been just 15 minutes earlier, we would have witnessed the actual birth. It seemed to be a morning for babies and young because just a little further along the track we came to a group of young black backed Jackals playing and having fun in the early morning sun.
Our guide thought he saw something in the distance, we stopped the car while he had a good look with the binoculars, and sure enough he had spotted the Sopa pride of lions lying on a rocky outcrop in the far distance. The problem we now had, was how to get to them. They were on the other side of the sand river, which is wide, if not deep, and there are very few crossing points. We drove in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes before coming upon a place that looked promising. Even though it was quite steep, it had obviously been used before as there was a clear track on both sides of the bank. The sand on the riverbed looked firm enough and the water was shallow, so off we went.
We almost made it. Our driver had underestimated how steep the far bank was and we hadn’t enough power to reach the top, this happens, so we rolled back to give it another go, unfortunately as we rolled back to the riverbed we rolled into a patch of soft sand, we all instantly knew what this meant, we were going nowhere now. The guys immediately started to work on getting us free by collecting stones, jacking up the car and putting the stones underneath the wheels.
They had just started when luck would have it another vehicle appeared, which considering where we were, was pretty astounding. It looked like we were going to be pulled out. Always prepared, we took out the chain we bought for exactly this situation only to find it couldn’t be attached to the other vehicle. So that was something we were going to have to look at for the future. The driver of the other vehicle was taking a guest to the airstrip so couldn’t stay and help, he did say that he would find a tow rope from somewhere and bring it back with him. Resigned to being here for a while at least, I got out the tea and pancakes that I always bring, and we had a little picnic. It was a very lovely spot for it. The guys then continued to work while I went for a paddle in the shallow waters, to where some monkeys were playing just downstream. It was a very pleasant way to spend the time until the vehicle was free. After about an hour, a few attempts and many rocks, we finally made it and continued on our way to see the pride.
By the time we reached them they had spread out a little but the whole pride was still there. We were sad to see that one of the females had an injury on her hind leg and a few puncture marks on her side. Even being a good hunter doesn’t always mean you don’t pick up any injuries. Lions may be the most powerful predator in the Mara but they still risk their lives whenever they hunt.
Another thing I found unusual was that some of the young males clearly should have left the pride by now. You can see in some of the photos that they are growing a mane and so have reached puberty. Normally at this stage the adolescent males are kicked out of the pride to avoid inbreeding. This is done by the dominant males of the pride, however since the males in this pride have not been around, they continue to enjoy the protection and the food offered by their mothers.
I feel that spending time with this captivating group of lions gives me a kind of connection to them, instead of being just a pride of lions they have become my pride of lions, I even recognize one or two of them, it is so satisfying.
After a couple of hours, we must leave and head back to camp. The trip back was uneventful, but we did see the baby zebra again, feeding from his mother.
It is such a nice feeling after a game drive, as we reach the plains in front of our camp and see all the Giraffes, Impala, and many others. Today we had Eland around to welcome us home, and I feel so lucky to call this home.