A quiet day in the Mara

The first thing we see after crossing our small stream into the park is a group of noisy guinea fowl, followed by one of the local Hyena. As we enter an area known as the salt lick, just before we emerge out onto the plains, we find a large herd of Zebra here. It is known as the salt lick due to the high mineral content in the ground, the Maasai regularly bring their cows to it and the wild animals use it for the same reason.

We see the usual animals as we drive over the plains, for those that are here on a game drive for the first time it is amazing, for us we see it every day and with a pair of binoculars we don’t even have to leave the camp. So, we drive straight through the herds of antelope, wildebeest and zebra.

The plan this morning is to find the blackrock females and their cubs as I hadn’t seen them for a few weeks now. Alison had seen them a couple of days ago near the sand river while out on a game drive with guests, so we started from there. We drove to the top of a hill overlooking the sand river, Alison took the binoculars, carefully scanned the whole area and found no sign of them. In fact there was no animals around, nothing at all, which was most unusual. So we widened the search heading upstream. We pass the pond where we had seen the Egyptian geese and herons on previous drives, it was empty, no birds, nothing. We did see fresh hyena footprints on the track but no Hyena. As far as the eye could see nothing but a solitary topi in the distance, standing on an anthill, creating the impression that he was standing on top of the long grass, then it starts to rain. These quiet periods give me time for reflection, and it is during these times that I come up with some of my best ideas.

Eventually we admit defeat and stop for breakfast. It is a lovely spot with a view over the sand river.

After breakfast we continue driving along the banks of the river when Alison points to a tree on the opposite bank that apparently had a leopard in it but of course neither me nor Ken could see it. I inspect the tree carefully and after a while and a lot of pointing, I see a tail hanging down from one of the branches, I had never been so excited to see a tail, finally we had found an animal, if you look at the photo you will understand why leopards are usually so difficult to see. He decided to come down the tree and we briefly got a better look at him before he disappeared into the long grass.

In the meantime, Alison had got a call about another leopard not too far away, so we headed off. We drove as fast as the terrain would allow; it wasn’t far but still took around 20 minutes. When we arrived at the tree with the carcass of an antelope hanging from a lower branch there was just one other vehicle there, however they weren’t looking up into the tree but into the dense grass at the foot of the tree, we were informed that’s where the leopard was. This time even Alison couldn’t see it, it was so well hidden. 

So, we sat there looking at the grass for what seemed like ages before another vehicle pulled up, the leopard was clearly disturbed by this because she came out of hiding for a few seconds to snarl and hiss at the intruder. I scrambled to get my camera ready before she disappeared again. I got a couple of clear shots, enough for Alison to recognize her, it was Zuri, the mother of Kazuri, she is quite old which explains why she wasn’t keen on all the attention. 

He recognized her partly because she has some teeth missing but Judging by the carcass in the tree she is still able to hunt and look after herself.

So, we left her hiding and headed for the sand river gate crossing into no man’s land. We chose an elevated area giving amazing views of Kenya on one side and Tanzania and the other. We saw a few groups of wildebeest and zebra leading the migration heading towards the Maasai Mara through the sand river. They are early this year, in a week or so there will be thousands crossing both this river and the Mara River in search of fresh grass, which we have in abundance due to the recent rains.

This of course attracts the predators, who are really happy to see them. We notice a young male lion sitting in the shade of a bush with the almost intact carcass of a zebra who didn’t make it into the Mara this year. A short distance away is a Jackal, just his head and ears visible above the long grass, and vultures gathering in nearby trees, all waiting for scraps, none brave enough to move in while the lion is there.


The young lion is in his element here as he sits looking across the landscape confident in the knowledge that this all belongs to him. As we sit watching the lion a group of wildebeest pass fairly close, the lion notices them and starts to stalk them, it must be just instinct as he has more than enough to eat, it’s not a serious attempt to hunt though, he makes a show of running at them, just enough to spook them, but then returns to his meal.

It is time for us to start heading back to camp. As we drive through the empty landscape again, I was thinking that I hadn’t seen a buffalo all day and just then as we are a mere fifteen minutes from camp we come across a huge herd of buffalo, as we drive closer to camp we pass more and more animals, mongoose,  two yellow billed stork, a monitor lizard, then onto the plains so many different animals co-exist, Giraffe, Zebra, gazelles, Impala, Topi, Warthog, Jackal, to name but a few. All grazing peacefully together in the same territory. Wouldn’t it be nice if humans could do the same? 

Even the sun made a brief appearance. It had been a very quiet day in all, but very pleasant.

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