We left camp early today, as it was getting light, before the sunrise. We had just 2 guests this week, Fred and Tijda, the couple who had volunteered last week and so we asked them if they would mind sharing the vehicle with us on this particular day. They were delighted, and so we set off for the whole day. The day was to be so eventful with so many sightings and things happening that I have decided to split the blog into two parts, before breakfast and after breakfast.
As the Jeep passed over the small stream leading into the park the first thing, we encountered were Impala, a small group who, instead of running away decided to escort us through the woods, leading out onto the plains, where we watched the sunrise, as it spread its warming rays over the land. The plains also were teeming with life, different kinds of antelopes’ most herds having babies amongst them, it was a pleasure to see so much new life all around us.
Then not too far away we saw the cheetah, this is the one who’s brother died while hunting, it’s nice to know he is still around and doing well. Despite all the antelopes in sight he displayed no inclination to hunt them, maybe he wasn’t hungry, he was however very relaxed. When we reached him, the sun had just risen, bathing the area in soft morning light. He was at first laying down rolling around in the dry soil, then he took a short walk over to his tree where he made a show of sniffing and then marking his territory before casually walking away. This is his small part of the Mara and he looked comfortable in it.
The aim this morning was to find a group of lions that was originally part of the Sopa pride, through the females, they had split apart around 2 years ago, just before the corona took hold and prevented people from visiting. This group is smaller than the main group, consisting of 2 females and around 10 adolescents of various ages. Both branches of this large pride are doing well and increasing in numbers, there are still no males around, the males seem to be incidental to this pride
The guide had a rough idea where to find them, so we went to explore. The area we travelled through to reach them was so beautiful, we were completely alone except for small herds of gazelle, buffalo, and elephants in the distance. Many different species of birds hopping around, big and small, catching their breakfast, and a lone vulture in a tree. It was if the rest of the world no longer existed, corona long forgotten. As we climbed, the plains and distant hills stretched out before us.
Before long they were spotted, in the dry grass, eating a meal. As we get closer, the wind blowing towards us we get the full force of the smell of the fresh dead meat. By this time the sun was well up and things were warming up considerably. I’m sure this had something to do with the number of flies around, all over the fresh meat and also the lions, every time they shook them off, the flies would form a cloud above them before settling down again on their backs and faces. Flies were to be a feature of the whole day, although not a pleasant feature, but they are still part of the life out here.
We settled down to watch the lions at their meal, we could clearly hear the crunching and scraping of bone and tearing of flesh. The inside of the carcass, which had previously been a wildebeest, was completely gone and the ribs were being removed one by one. They were taking turns, when one or two were tired or full they would move away from this feeding frenzy to take a breather, with bloody faces and big bellies they would stroll over to a nearby bush to relax in the shade and clean each other.
The young ones in particular were having a great time, grunting, and growling at each other to get their share. One of the females started to clean up by covering the intestines, the bits that the lions don’t eat, with loose soil just like a domestic cat would do after it has been to the toilet.
When the food was almost finished one of the females picked up the remaining carcass by the head and started to drag it to another location, the only problem was that 3 young males were still feasting. She wasn’t deterred, she kept dragging, and the youngsters were not deterred either they hung on and kept eating, it looked very comical.
Watching all this reminded me that I was also hungry, so we left the pride relaxing in the shade of the bush and went to find a nice spot for breakfast. Not far from the lions we came across a steenbok antelope resting beside the stump of a dead tree, it is rare to see the steenbok in the Maasai Mara, there are few and they are generally shy and like to hide.
We drove a little further up the side of the hill until we reached the top. This spot had everything we needed for a pleasant breakfast. The view was fantastic, other amenities included large boulders strewn around that we could use as seats and a clump of bushes that made a serviceable bush toilet. After half an hour After half an hour of eating, relaxing, and enjoying the view we packed up the car, careful not to leave any rubbish to spoil the natural environment and continued on our way, all of us trying to imagine what other treats were in store for us today. Here I leave it until the next blog.