This morning I am joining a group of guests from Arte for Elephants tours. These agents bring groups to our camp, from America, four or five times a year and they are always good fun to be with.
We have an early start, stopping briefly as we enter the park, to look at a large number of Zebra and Wildebeest that are gathering on the plains adjacent to our camp.
These Wildebeest and Zebra are from Tanzania, the first of the annual migration. Although it looks impressive it is nothing compared to what will follow. Thousands are now gathering on the border of Tanzania ready to enter Kenya and cross the Mara River, with all its dangers. It may be a while yet though before they decide to move as it is still raining in Tanzania, so the food is plentiful for them.
One member of our group really wanted to see Hippo’s and as luck would have it, we came upon a large male making his way towards the river, we followed and discovered a whole family of Hippo’s relaxing in the water, submerging then spraying water everywhere as they come up for air. The group consisted of adults, younger ones and we could see a baby, this was a very nice start to the game drive.
Shortly after this we left the main road and came upon two fully grown male lions, part of the sopa pride. The sun was only just above the horizon and the air was still and clear making it a cold morning. The lions were laying down cleaning themselves after their night activities, as we sat and watched my fingers were getting so cold where I held the camera, but the cold was forgotten as I focused to take the photos. The lions were not at all bothered by the cold as they basked in the early morning sun.
While we were watching the lions in silence a long low rumble was heard on the opposite side of the car, everyone turned towards the sound, it was elephants, but they were still quite far away, in this peaceful setting sound travels long distances. After around 15 minutes other vehicles started to arrive, while they lions seemed happy enough to ignore our two vehicles, they were bothered by the others turning up so they got up and moved further into the bushes where they could remain undisturbed. Our guests were very happy to have had that time alone with this magnificent pair.
The sun was now well above the horizon in a bright blue sky, and it was starting to warm up a little when we came across two secretary birds in a tree. These birds are so elegant, whether on the ground where they are normally found, or perched in a tree. These two clearly looked as though they were a pair, sitting close together and even moving in sync. Suddenly they both took off at the same time landing in the long grass not far away. We drove over to them to find them strutting around looking on the ground for something to eat as they go. One of the birds was also collecting small twigs, perhaps for the nest.
As we drove towards our breakfast spot there were a few vehicles stopped on the track, I didn’t immediately see what they were looking at, then I noticed a lioness with a cub barely visible, as you can see from the photo, in an area inaccessible to vehicles. There were more lionesses scattered around, but we couldn’t see them, a twitch of the grass here and there gave their positions away, they were very well concealed, which was nice for them but a little disappointing for all the visitors.
After breakfast we joined up with more of the group who had taken a balloon ride that morning. So now we were three vehicles. We headed off in search of a leopard, driving through a huge herd of buffalo and a large family of elephants consisting of adults, youngsters, and babies. We stopped the vehicle as the elephants wandered past tearing up chunks of grass as they went. They came so close that standing up in the jeep you almost felt like you were one of the herd. They moved on all too quickly.
I notice the Egyptian geese are back in their pond as they gently glide between the flowers floating on the surface of the shimmering water. A little further on and the vehicle abruptly stops, Alison has seen an owl in a tree, it is a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, the largest and most powerful of the owls that live in the Maasai Mara. It is unusual to see these birds during the day as they are generally nocturnal, I was so concentrating on the owl near the end of the branch that I didn’t even see the second owl further into the tree until I looked at my photos later that evening. Maybe these two are also a couple.
We approached the river where a leopard had been spotted earlier, drove in and out of the bush to get as close as we could, but unfortunately no leopard. We did see a nice group of female waterbucks who had wandered into the territory of this fine Male. I think waterbucks, together with the Impala are the most beautiful of the antelopes here.
Since we had no luck finding the Leopard we stopped for lunch. It was a lovely, secluded spot surrounded by trees. It wasn’t long though, before we were joined by an uninvited guest, a vervet monkey attracted by the smell of the food. He sneaked in, at first staying in the trees awaiting his chance, which came when someone after eating a banana put his banana skin on the hood of the car, within seconds the monkey was down, grabbed it, and back into the tree. He was very cheeky, and it was very amusing.
We tried again after lunch to find the Leopard, but it just wasn’t to be today. The group were not too disappointed as they had already had a glimpse of a Leopard on their game drive yesterday, very close to the camp, a very shy leopard, hiding in the thick bush. The afternoon was very quiet as far as the cats were concerned but we did see many of the other animals, buffalo, giraffe, antelopes, zebra. We returned to camp tired but happy.