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This Week at Angama #188

This week Eric managed to fulfil not one, but two lifelong photographic ambitions, while the misty landscape took the sense of mystery to the next level
Above: A relaxed leopard in the Mara is a photographer's dream

This week got off to a rather misty start; a thick haze covered the horizon. As we descended the Oloololo Escarpment, we couldn’t help but note the sense of mystery the mist created, altering the character of the landscape in a magical way. Early mornings in the Mara almost always include watching the hot-air balloons as they gracefully float by. On this day, the balloons gradually pierced the clouds into vision, as if they were rising from another world. This marked the start of what would turn out to be a remarkable morning.

Balloons floating above the early morning mist f 5.6, 1/250, ISO 800, Photographer: Eric Averdung

As we photographed the balloons, we heard some lions roaring surreally from within the mist. Without delay, we headed in that direction, following the sound on a quest to find them. To our surprise, we came across a male and female tucked within a patch of grass, completely ignoring the calls of their fellow pride members. The photographer in me was ecstatic — a golden opportunity to get a shot I had always wanted to capture.

The golden light makes this surpise sighting even better f 7.1, 1/250, ISO 800, Photographer: Eric Averdung

It appeared to be Doa from the Bila Shaka coalition, with an unidentified female. He must be one of the most stunning lions I’ve ever seen: his regal stance, coupled with his dark mane and seemingly scarless face. Doa is quite the specimen, a genetic masterpiece. Despite his good looks, she wasn’t having any of it, continuously rejecting his attempts to mate. Sorry, pretty boy… not today.

Doa, from the Bila Shaka coalition, focuses his attention on this lovely female f 5.6, 1/250, ISO 640, Photographer: Eric Averdung
But does she feel the same way? f 5.3, 1/250, ISO 640, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Doa is quite handsome with his mostly unscathed face f 7.1, 1/250, ISO 800, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Looks like someone has been nibbling on her ear f 6.0, 1/320, ISO 640, Photographer: Eric Averdung

After spending some time with this pair, we received word of a happening at Shieni, right below the slopes of Angama Mara. Two lionesses were eyeing a large herd of buffalos. In this instance, their hunger overcame their rationality, as they boldly approached the herd of approximately 200 buffalos. In drawing near with the utmost stealth they displayed tremendous skill, going unnoticed until they were within striking range. With eyes locked on a buffalo calf, they pounced and immediately caused a stir. A game of back-and-forth as one lioness tried to distract the mother while the other was set on snagging the calf. For a brief moment, the calf stared death right in the eyes. Luckily for the calf, backup arrived as the herd picked up on the mother’s calls for help. Over 20 buffalos came rushing to their aid sending the lionesses scrambling into the forest, ultimately leaving the calf startled, but alive.

This buffalo calf has a close call with a lioness f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 400, Photographer: Eric Averdung

All the action seemed to be within a stone’s throw of Angama Mara that morning. Shortly after watching the chaos unfold between the lions and buffalos, we drove up the road, only to encounter Millie — dare I say, the most spectacular matriarch in the entire Mara. She was at the foot of the escarpment, grazing with a small herd. Her calm demeanour was very apparent as she gracefully strolled through the grass, picking on shrubs, completely unbothered by our presence. Every moment spent with this magnificent creature is one to cherish.

Millie, our patron matriarch of the Mara f 8, 1/640, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Her tusks compare with some of those in Amboseli f 8, 1/640, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Elephant calves are always a delight, especially in this herd f 8, 1/1000, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung

As we made our way back towards the main road we spotted more lions. This time it was Koshoke, also from the Bila Shaka coalition, walking along with Mama Kali. Koshoke may not be the prettiest of the bunch, but on this strange morning, he managed to secure a mate while Doa struggled. One most striking thing about Koshoke is his rugged look — a face full of scars and a rather unwelcoming expression. However, on this day, we witnessed his softer side, as Mama Kali rubbed heads with him, sharing a warm embrace before proceeding to mate.

Mama Kali puts her moves on Koshoke from the Bila Shaka coalition f 9, 1/640, ISO 200, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Mama Kali is one of the most experienced mothers in the Mara f 9, 1/640, ISO 200, Photographer: Eric Averdung
Maybe we'll welcome some new cubs in 4 months time f 9, 1/640, ISO 200, Photographer: Eric Averdung

In other news, the Migration has continued to deliver pleasant surprises. This week, the mega herds covered quite some distance, bringing them right to our doorstep. It’s amazing just how quickly these herds move — two weeks ago this part of the Triangle did not have a single wildebeest — now, the massive herds can be spotted easily from the lodge. I thought driving down the escarpment and into the Triangle from Angama Mara couldn’t get any more special; safe to say I was wrong. The herds create an unreal atmosphere wherever they go, and it’s a blessing to witness this right below us.

A glorious morning made even more so by the Migration f5, 1/500, ISO 500, Photographer: Eric Averdung

Furthermore, crossings are now happening quite frequently at the Main Crossing point, providing our guests with an overwhelming amount of emotions as they watch the zebras and wildebeests dive into the croc-infested waters.

Like watching a thriller movie ("Look behind you!") f 8, 1/500, ISO 100, Photographer: Natalie Goldfarb (guest)
A zebra foal was no match for this giant crocodile f 8, 1/400, ISO 100, Photographer: Natalie Goldfarb

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better, I encountered my first leopard in the Mara Triangle. Initially, we set out to look for some lions in the southern part of the Reserve with hopes of seeing some of the new cubs in the area. On the way there, Robert noticed three vehicles surrounding a tree. Straight away, he pulled out his trusty pair of binoculars and scanned the tree, noticing that distinct pattern of rosettes. We approached the scene only to get another surprise — not one, but two leopards. A mother and cub; I couldn’t believe my eyes. After many missed sightings over the recent weeks, I finally got my chance to photograph a leopard. 

Spots and stripes in the branches of a dessert date tree f 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung
2 leopards and a kill, all in a tree, make this sighting off the charts f 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung

To top things off, the leopards were very relaxed around the vehicles. Knowing this isn’t an everyday sighting, Robert and I decided to stay for the next couple of hours. We watched them climb up and down the tree where they had stashed a zebra carcass, taking turns to feed until each of them was satisfied. We remained there for seven hours, and every single second with those beautiful animals was worth it.  An unreal way to close off another magnificent week at Angama.

Climbing up and down near-vertical surfaces mean nothing to these cats f 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Photographer: Eric Averdung

This Week a Year Ago

Up close and personal with a female martial eagle

This time last year Adam Bannister had an incredible sighting of a majestic female martial eagle as she called for her youngster to come feed on her recent scrub hare kill.

 

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Maasai Mara , This Week At Angama , Wildlife Photography

About: Eric Averdung

Browse all articles by Eric Averdung Meet the angama team

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