Head Guide Sammy Komu
Something I have learnt during my years of working in the Maasai Mara is it can be quite unpredictable. On this particular day, we set out early on a full-day safari. My guests were keen to see the elusive leopard but as it was Migration season, we had a tough decision to make. Should we try our luck at the river in the hope of seeing a crossing, or look for a leopard? The consensus was reached; we decided to head to the river. We waited for hours and eventually, thousands of wildebeests started walking leisurely down towards the river. It seemed that luck was on our side; we were all quite excited and started scrambling for our cameras to capture the best images. All of a sudden, the wildebeests started running away from the river and with all the commotion, we were confused. Out of nowhere, a huge male leopard came running towards the animals, completely oblivious to our presence. Although the hunt was unsuccessful, it was quite something to see the stampede it caused. To top it off, later on, we saw a river crossing — my guests’ hearts were bursting with joy as they got to see both in a single drive.
Assistant Head Guide Douglas Onsongo
In the last few months, the lioness known as Mama Kali and the rest of the Angama Pride have spent most of their time just below Angama Mara. As I was coming from the airstrip during the heat of the day, I came across one lioness moving through the plains. My quick guess was that she was looking for a shady spot to rest. I stayed with her as she kept walking past all the single trees that I thought she would opt to lie down beside. Heading for higher ground, a dazzle of zebras was feeding while headed for the hill. At this point, I knew what the lioness was really after. Having just arrived off their plane to the Mara, the guests were happy to wait with me. It did not take long before she positioned herself perfectly to pounce. A short sprint and she took down one of the zebras right in front of us.
I set off to explore the marshlands of the Mara Triangle, searching for herds of gentle giants. Guess what came my way? A small family of elephants: two sisters with calves. The bigger of the two sisters had a calf of about four years and a baby that was about two hours old and still completely helpless. I stayed with them to observe their natural behaviour. It was peculiar that the four-year-old calf was still trying to suckle as the brand-new calf tried its luck. Just a few metres away, we came across a nice pride of lions from Paradise Plains that had just crossed from the Greater Mara. And then, on our way back home, Tito, Kenneth and I were all held up by a classic Mara ‘traffic jam’ — the same family of elephants with the newborn calf. We had to call the warden to allow us to get back a little bit late.
Some guests staying at Angama Safari Camp were bird enthusiasts — raptors in particular. They had been told that the flat-topped acacia trees in the area were the perfect habitat for dark morph augur buzzard. While looking for the raptor, we came across a group of banded mongooses sunbathing outside their burrow on a termite mound. We watched them for about three minutes when we noticed a tawny eagle flying above us. In a split second, we saw the mongooses run into their different burrows, but one became confused and ran in the wrong direction. A huge raptor from a nearby acacia tree got ahold of it. Through the binoculars, we saw it was a martial eagle that had been patiently waiting for the right moment to strike. As the mongoose was crying for mercy, the bird pinned him down with her talons. The cry of the mongoose made the other family members come to its rescue, attacking the martial eagle from every angle. At the same time, a tawny eagle dropped from the sky spooking the martial eagle and causing her to leave everything and fly away. The mongoose was slightly injured but managed to follow the rest of his family members back into the burrow, while the tawny was left wondering what was going on.
Just 100m before Sheni Bridge is one of my favourite spots where I always make a quick stop to scan around. One early morning, picking up my fancy pair of binoculars, I noticed the female pin-tailed whydah perched atop a bush close by. As I drew the attention of my guests to the little brown bird, the male arrived: a determined suitor dressed for the occasion. With his long tail and black-and-white “wedding outfit”, he put on a spectacular show, singing and dancing. The moves were so romantic the female seemed to enjoy being his audience, and so did we.
On an early morning drive, not far from Angama Safari Camp, I spotted a pride of lions. Because it was still dark, I couldn't tell which pride it was straight away. Driving closer, I found one male, two females and four cubs: the Border Pride. The male and the cubs were feasting on a wildebeest kill. What was interesting was that while the male was happy sharing the kill with the cubs, he did not let the females have any at all. Even when he had enough, he slept close and let the cubs eat, but when the females tried to do the same, he would chase them away. We watched for three hours, completely alone until it was time for us to head back to the camp for breakfast. By then, the females still hadn’t been allowed to eat. I hope they had some later.
We had crossed over to the Greater Mara in search of the famous Tano Bora cheetah coalition. We succeeded in finding them and then drove back into the Mara Triangle along the river. We came to a place called Maji Machafu and found a pride of lions with cubs and noticed that one lioness was very focused on something at the furthest bend of the river. Suddenly, a loud alarm call from some guinea fowls sounded from that same direction.
We quickly drove towards that way and looked but there was nothing. Then another alarm call. We turned to look and this time there was a leopard with a cub at the furthest corner of the river! The leopard was fleeing from the lions that had invaded her territory. We could see she was looking for a safe place to cross the river.
Within no time she was in the river and the cub followed. The Mara River appeared calm but looks were deceiving. Downstream there was a huge crocodile swimming upwards. The leopards swam quickly but halfway, the strong current started pushing the cub downstream towards the croc. The experienced mother was quick to notice and quickly grabbed the cub by the neck and made a very fast swim to the bank of the river. We were all happy that they made it, but it was very tense.
While out looking for lions, I headed to the southern part of the Mara known as Lookout Area. All of a sudden we found this beautiful sighting of a lioness carrying her cubs in her mouth.
Our plan was to explore the southeast corner of the Triangle and the park ranger in charge of that area had told me of a leopard that had a kill. When we got there, to my surprise it was a mama and baby leopard. As cheeky as babies can be, the cub accidentally dropped the food from the tree. The mama leopard swooped down quickly as a hyena was nearby waiting for scraps. She secured the food back in the tree and gave the cub a scolding look. Who could have known that it was the first and last time I would see this cub? The next day the ranger told me a male leopard, obviously not the father of the cub, had killed it. A few days later I found the mama and a male mating. And now we wait.
I found this colourful lilac-breasted roller hunting on the road. We stopped and watched very keenly as it caught a grasshopper and started smashing it slowly before it swallowed it whole. A big breakfast for this beauty. It was such a rare sighting for me as usually I only think of lions or leopards doing the hunting.
My highlight of the year was when I encountered one male lion mating with two females one at a time, something I had never seen before. We stayed for a whole hour. The male was really exhausted.
The wildebeest herds had spent almost four months in the Maasai Mara and were starting their long journey south towards the Serengeti. The river crossings may have not gone as we had expected them to, but we also made sure to pass by and see whether anything was going on. On this day, we went to the main crossing site to observe some crocodiles which seemed as frustrated as we were about the lack of crossing action. Basking on the river banks, they seemed so lazy. On the other side of the Mara River, a small group of Thomson’s gazelles were grazing. Then one at a time, the crocodiles started getting into the water and we knew something was about to go down. Never have I ever seen crocodiles moving as fast as they did to the point where the gazelles had started to cross. None made it to the other side, as each croc had a gazelle on its own, the bigger ones swallowing them whole and fighting for a piece from the much smaller crocodiles. Do crocodiles have a preference for food? Or were the crossings so few that anything that stepped into the waters had to be eaten for the crocodiles to survive?
This female lioness took the bold step to climb a balanites tree to scavenge a leopard kill on the high branches but ended up dropping it on the ground and losing it to the rest of the pride. Luckily, the leopard saw a chance to escape and it took it.
It was a beautiful morning; we started our early morning safari at around 06h00 and headed down south. Not far away from Steve's Tree, we saw three old buffalo bulls running. Through the binoculars, I could see the coalition of six young male lions were hunting them. We drove closer to have a better view. It was really interesting to see the teamwork from these boys: one jumped on the back, others holding the legs and others chasing it and being chased by the other two buffaloes.
Being the new naturalist and also having the new Map Room at the lodge, I decided to make it my office so that I can be close to our guests. Returning from lunch, I found these zebras feeding around the Map Room with the striped rays of the midday sun casting matching shadows.
Filed under: Stories From The Mara
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