2TOGS

The Next Phase of the Masai Mara 2019 Trip

Topi Plains Juveniles at First Light
Topi Plains Juveniles at First Light

Entering the next phase of the Mara portion of the trip, we were out with the Topi Plains pride of Lions before 6:30am. The light was fantastic and in a little over an hour had shot over 400 images, mainly of the cubs at play. As temperature rose and they settled down, we left them and looked out for more action.

Soon we found a tower of Giraffes and witnessed our second fight of the year between two males. We’d previously seen two brothers fighting some years ago in Botswana and watched as the parents moved in to break them up and keep them apart. We were told that it’s not impossible for a Giraffe to die in one of these fights due to a broken neck, but thankfully haven’t had to witness that. Neither of these fights were broken up by others, but just seemed to peter out, probably through lack of energy.

Our next sighting involved Rose’s Lion of the moment, Lolparpit. This time was a bit different to previous sightings of him though, he was alone with a female. We spent the best part of an hour with them waiting for some action, but all to no avail. With the hunger pangs building, we left them and headed for a spot to have breakfast.

We were quite close to an area known as Rhino Ridge having breakfast and looking around could see something actually on the ridge. Once we’d packed up, we drove to the spot and found Amani, one of the well-known female Cheetahs of the Mara. She was happy to pose for pictures for a good forty minutes before she climbed up into the rocky part of the ridge where we were unable to follow. This next phase of the trip was already proving to be fruitful.

Amani
Amani

The morning had been quite successful and it was still only 11am, so we decided to see if we could find ourselves an obliging Leopard. We were successful to some extent, we found a male Leopard, but the position was rather tricky and afforded us few opportunities. He wasn’t showing any signs of relocating; it was the hottest part of the day after all, so time to move on.

Final sighting before a welcome lunch stop was Lolparpit’s brother, Olbarnoti and the rest of the Enkuyanai pride.

While we were having lunch I became aware of a large bird in a densely leafed tree, so dense I couldn’t identify it. I asked our guide and he made a stab at an identity, even though his view was no better than mine. Shortly after, the bird took flight and landed on open ground on the opposite side of the river. It was only then we could see it clearly enough to realise it was a first for us, a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill.

First sighting of the afternoon as we moved along the shore of the Talek River was two male Lions from the Fig Tree pride. They were sleeping under a large bush and one of the pair, Maridadi, had a huge and bloody gash from the top of his nose almost down to his top lip. Amazingly, this had been caused in a recent fight over a female with the other Lion sleeping beside him, his brother Kaka. Eventually they stirred and moved around slightly, but didn’t stray from the first position we had found them in. We stayed photographing them for about 30 minutes, until our attention was diverted to a huge troop of Baboons approaching. A half hour of grooming and various Baboon antics followed, made all the more interesting by the number of babies in the troop.

Maridadi's Injury
Maridadi’s Injury

Time was getting on by now and it was looking like the daily late afternoon storm was approaching, so we started back to the camp. These afternoon storms were a regular feature of this next phase of the trip. There was still one surprise in store for us though, an encounter on open ground with another female Cheetah. This time it was the beautiful Nora, looking like she was wanting to hunt, but with no prey anywhere to be seen. We stayed a quarter of an hour or so and made some images that did her justice, before the rain arrived in earnest. Another day drew to a close, but it had been a good one.

Next day was the complete opposite as eight straight days of thirteen-hour game drives caught up with us. We were out on our first encounter at 6:30am as normal. But a couple of hours later, we stopped for a quick breakfast and headed back to camp for some much needed rest and relaxation. Not something we had expected to do in this next phase of the trip. Our guests that we were hosting had been more measured in their approach and didn’t suffer the same issue as a result.

The first sighting had involved Black-backed Jackals, a species I particularly like, but on this occasion showing the dark side of their character. They crossed paths with a herd of Thomson’s Gazelles and singled out a vulnerable fawn. A huge chase ensued with the fawn’s mother doing her best to ward off the Jackals. She was successful for quite a while by placing herself between the fawn and the pursuing Jackals, but the chase was relentless and when her speed took her in front of the fawn, it was game over. But we then witnessed the dark side of it all where the Jackals just ate the fawn alive.

We moved away and soon found a Spotted Hyena den with some sub adults giving us some shots. Then we found the Marsh pride Lions and spent some time with them before a quick breakfast and the drive back to camp to recuperate for the next phase.

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