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This Week at Angama #187

By chance, we discovered the most wonderful of surprises this week. A sighting even more precious and memorable than a mighty river crossing
Above: With the days heating up, the watering holes have become increasingly busy

On a sunrise drive, we came across a spur-winged lapwing whose four eggs had just hatched. She cowered over them, protecting them from the vehicle; all we could see was four sets of toothpick legs. We stopped and sat quietly, giving her space and time to relax. She grew more comfortable and eventually opened her wings and sat upright. Underneath her were the most gorgeous balls of feathery fluff. 

Photos: Adam Bannister

We watched for over half an hour as these chicks found their feet. Like wind-up toys, they would run around the sand, rocks and gravel, eventually scurrying back to their mother, completely exhausted and quickly falling asleep underneath the protection of her wing. I returned to the site almost every day. By the fourth day, I was amazed to see how they had grown in confidence and agility. They were now venturing as far as 10 metres from their devoted mother. Let’s hope that they continue to grow so we can document their development. 

The Maji Ma Chafu female leopard has given birth to a beautiful pair of cubs f. 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 800, -0.33

The cubs were located for the first time this week, stashed away in a secure den-site in the southern regions of the Triangle. We estimate the cubs to be between two or three months old. She is one of the most successful leopards in the Triangle with a strong lineage.

The early bird catches the worm, and the early photographer gets the light f. 9.0, 1/250, ISO 160, -0.33
Millie, the matriarch of the Mara, with her gigantic tusks silhouetted against the sun f. 4.5, 1/3200, ISO 320, -0.33
There are few ways as extraordinary to admire the Mara, as from up above in a hot-air balloon f. 6.3, 1/200, ISO 250
The bright balloons have become somewhat of an institution in the Mara and can provide a flash of colour and romance to any photograph f. 11.0, 1/125, ISO 250, -0.33
Never mention the size of a hippo’s waistline... This male must have spent the night feeding on far away grasses and was rather late in making his way back to the Mara River f. 5.6, 1/800, ISO 500, -0.67
Much has already been written about the complexities of this year’s Migration f. 10.0, 1/500, ISO 400, -0.67

It is near impossible to go a single day without hearing a different opinion on why things are the way they are. Regardless, there is still much action in the southern portions of the Mara River.

Most of the crossings so far have taken place at Lookout Crossings and The Peninsula f. 8.0, 1/1600, ISO 400, -0.67
There is nothing better than a late afternoon crossing coming straight at you f. 13.0, 1/1000, ISO 640, -1.0
The zebra seem to arrive with more energy and direction than the wildebeest, and it is not uncommon for them to dive straight in and for the wildebeest to follow suit f. 9.0, 1/800, ISO 640, -1.0
We waited four hours for a crossing to happen at this site, but with close to 50 hungry crocodiles lurking in the depths, the wildebeest understandably decided against it f. 9.0, 1/1600, ISO 640, -1.0
Away from the river, things are a little calmer f. 4.0, 1/8000, ISO 320, -0.67

The days are heating up and all animals need to drink. The small watering holes, drainage lines and depressions become focal points for animal movement.

A zebra foal ventures deep into a watering hole to cool off from the scorching midday sun f. 5.0, 1/5000, ISO 500, -0.67
Regardless of the subject matter, there is magic around every corner f. 6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, -0.33
It’s quite fun seeing all the familiar faces driving around the Mara at the moment f. 9.0, 1/1000, ISO 320

Whilst waiting at a potential crossing point I came across Anthony Kiplunghurt who was the winning guide from The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year competition in 2020. He guided Paolo Torchio when he captured his gorgeous winning photograph of the leopard in the rain. Part of Anthony’s prize was a trip, along with four other guides, to Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. With two months left in this year’s competition, the question we are all asking ourselves is who will win, and which guide will be making his, or her, way to South Africa’s Kruger National Park?

It has been a fascinating and rather dramatic week down south f. 4.0, 1/500, ISO 640, -0.33

Down in the far south-western portion of the Mara Triangle, some very large wildebeest herds have started moving north back into Kenya after a brief return to Tanzania, providing much relief for the resident lion pride in the area.

The immediate future of the Sausage Tree Pride is under threat f. 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 800, -0.33

For the last few years, this has been the most stable pride in the Mara Triangle. The reason was largely due to the dominance and stability allowed to them by the pride male: Ol Donyo Paek. Sadly, a few days ago this legend passed away — killed in a battle with two males believed to have moved in from Lamai, Serengeti. The natural order for pride takeovers means that the new males in the area will immediately seek to hunt down any cubs sired by the previous male. There is no such thing as adoption. They want to dispose of the cubs and force the lionesses into heat, this way the new males can continue their bloodline.

A ‘newcomer’ from Lamai who is believed to have killed Ol Donyo Paek f. 5.6, 1/640, ISO 640, -0.67
Angama vehicles enjoy a sighting of the Lamai newcomer and his current partner f. 5.6, 1/640, ISO 640, -0.67
This young male accompanied the Lamai newcomer f. 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 640

What took me off guard is when we found these two new males one morning, they were in the company of three other males whom we have identified as three of the six Sausage Tree Pride Young males — the boys fathered by the late Ol Donyo Paek. There didn’t seem to be much love, nor tension, between all five males, more of a tolerance. Who knows how this will all play out?

This Week a Year Ago

A large migratory herd, a common sighting at this time of year f 11.0, 1/400, ISO 320, -0.67 – photo by Adam Bannister

Looking back over the years always tells a fun story. This week a year ago, we had the Migration extending a fair distance north of where it now is. For me, the best Migration herd shots are the ones showing the snake-like movements of the animals. 

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Maasai Mara , Mara Triangle , Wildlife 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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