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This Week At Angama #136

Game drives are addictive, there is no other way of putting it. Regardless of how many amazing sightings you have, and the number of memory cards you fill up with breathtaking images; there is always room for one more
A wonderful encounter; up close with a martial eagle

Every time I go out into the Mara I set myself an objective. Sometimes this happens intentionally where I vocalise what it is that I am hoping to see or achieve. Other times it happens subconsciously. Having been on thousands of game drives in my career, both in the driver's seat and as a passenger, I know that you can’t determine what nature is to reveal, but you can certainly maximise chances of seeing things by looking in the right places – and when you do you need to make a judgment call on whether to wait and let it all play out, or move on. An understanding of animal behaviour ultimately guides me in this decision every day. Enjoy This Week At Angama.

An elephant family set against the backdrop of the Oloololo Escarpment f 5.0, 1/2500, ISO 800

Regardless of the fact that I live here, every time I descend Angama’s private road into the Maasai Mara I get excited. It’s a combination of two things that keeps me captivated. Firstly, what will I see that I may never have seen before? and secondly, is today the day I create a photograph that will be truly memorable and unique? Many of you will be all too familiar with these two factors that pull on our heart strings and often leave us returning to National Parks across Africa again and again.

An Angama safari vehicle entering the park f 6.3, 1/800, ISO 640

The Mara is like a magnet for wildlife lovers as it hosts such an abundance of megafauna. It is just not possible to drive around for a few hours and not see something that leaves you in awe.

An unusually thick black stripe on the back of a zebra f 6.3, 1/500, ISO 320, -0.67
A large breeding herd of buffalo feeds near the Salt Lick in the far south of the Triangle f 6.3, 1/500, ISO 320, -0.67

Coming across a lone lioness with a thin belly, and enlarged teats, we decided to follow. She was clearly hungry and on the prowl. After a few minutes of popping onto various termite mounds to get an elevated position she finally set eyes on her target. A small group of topi. In an instant her body language changed. We quickly positioned the car at a sensitive distance, but giving us a great chance to watch things unfold.

A lioness on the hunt
All focus locked on the prize

She was hunting out in the open, in the short grass and in the middle of the day – a sure sign that she has cubs stashed away somewhere in a den and she wanted to secure a meal in the heat of the day whilst most predators were sleeping. Her movements were slow and methodical – allowing us time to reposition and have her coming directly towards us.

Eye spy with my little eye…
Getting closer to the target

Ultimately, the wind shifted, and all of a sudden the oblivious topi took a whiff of a very large cat. They sprinted in all directions leaving the lioness feeling rather sheepish. No luck this time, but I took solace in the fact that we were perfectly positioned had the chase ensued.

A slow pan shot of the topi in full flight

Meanwhile, down in the far south of the Mara Triangle, the stage was being set for a rather exciting next few weeks. For the last few months we have been watching the 5 Inselberg Male lions grow in confidence and push further and further north from the Tanzanian border. I had assumed they were aiming to take control of the prides to the north, but judging by recent movements they have started looking west towards the escarpment. [f 16.0, 1/25, ISO 200]

Ruka, one of the Inselberg Coalition male lions

Incredibly, we found Ruka, one of the bigger coalition members, near to Steve’s Fig tree in the far south-west. This is prime Sausage Tree Pride territory and there is no doubt the lone Ol Donyo Paek Male will be extremely concerned that these brutish males are starting to show interest in his land and ladies.

I have always wanted to do justice to a Martial Eagle. These magnificent raptors are quite literally the ‘lions of the skies’ and so every time I see one I make an effort to try and get a picture. Usually, however, these birds are skittish and tend to fly away before allowing you to get into a decent position.

But, this week things were different. I got to within 4 meters of a majestic female Martial Eagle as she called for her youngster. She had killed a scrub hare and at first was concealing herself, and her kill, in a large Sausage Tree. We inched closer, allow her time to become accustomed to the car. My heart raced knowing that my photographs were getting better with each press of the shutter.

Up close and personal with a female martial eagle

She decided to come down from the tree, landing on a nearby termite mound. A vulture flew overhead and she quickly shielded the kill from view. As the vulture soared off she began to call repeatedly. We moved closer still. And half an hour later I was closer to a martial eagle than I had ever been before – and I had taken a few hundred images to mark this special occasion.

So for me this week will always be remembered for the Martial Eagle sighting. And the wonderful way the bush works is that regardless of how good these images are, and of how good this sighting was, I still want more. And it is this quest and mission which keeps me waking up at 5:30 AM each morning – and coming back for more.

This Week Two Years Ago

A mother and baby hippo photographed by James Fitzgerald

This week I have actually spent very little time along the Mara River. The migration has spread out across huge tracts of the mara ecosystem and is not currently congregated along the river. Two years ago one of our most loyal Angama guests and guest blog contributor’s, James Fitzgerald, conducted his own TWAA, and for me this photograph of a mother hippo with her newborn, will forever be one of the most precious pictures on this series.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Safaris , Bird Photography , Birds of prey , Photographic Safari , Safari Photography

About: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

Browse all articles by Adam Bannister Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (2 comments)

Comments (2):

Lisa Antell

11 September 2020

Love the stories.... The photos of the martial eagle are outstanding!

    Kate Fitzgerald Boyd

    12 September 2020

    Thank you so much Lisa - those eagles are truly magnificent

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