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This Week at Angama #191

After a hiatus from the bush and a much-needed break to rekindle some inspiration, this week marked Eric’s return to the Mara, which left him in awe once again
Above: The Salt Lick female leopard sits comfortably in the dappled light of a fig tree

The Mara is the gift that keeps on giving. Even after spending so much time in the bush, I’m still completely awestruck with each descent down the Oloololo Escarpment, thrilled by the new day and the bliss that accompanies every sunrise. Being in the Mara is a moving experience and the magic renews itself on a daily basis. However, this week seemed to stand out from the rest, making it the most special since my arrival at Angama, and I’m excited to show you why.

The end to another night of feasting, a hippo makes its way back to the river f 5.0, 1/500, ISO 400
These two stallions are fighting for females and in most cases, size really does matter f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 640
With piercing bites and powerful kicks zebras are able to cause serious damage f 6.3, 1/640, ISO 640

While heading out with guests for a photoshoot, we came across Chongo strolling by the Kichwa Tembo Airstrip with a female. He gave us a real show and walked along the road for almost 200 metres. Such an astonishing display giving us great photographic opportunities and most importantly, leaving the guests with a memory that will last a lifetime. As Chongo walked by, so close he rubbed against the side of the vehicle, I watched the smiling faces of the guests on the vehicle and the atmosphere erupted with excitement. Even more special than the lion sighting itself, was witnessing someone else’s first ever close-up lion encounter. 

Chongo is an impressive lion, but for first time viewers he's extraordinary f 6.3, 1/500, ISO 500

Later that day, we approached the Egyptian Goose area, where I had my first sighting of Slit Lip, one of the most beautiful lions in the Mara and arguably, the “next Scarface”, as Adam says. He’s got a magnificent mane and is probably one of the largest lions I’ve ever come across, making him as regal as they get. To top things off, the Mara skies were showing off. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment with my creative side, and shy away from those all-too-common lion portrait shots. I decided it was my duty to frame the king in a way that celebrated not just him, but his domain as well.

Slit Lip sits regally under the African sky f 7.1, 1/1250, ISO 100
Slit Lip in monochrome f 7.1, 1/1250, ISO 100

The following morning, we set out without any expectations and ready for whatever we happened to encounter. As legend has it, those who lower their expectations reap the biggest rewards. We got off to a strong start, spotting three nomadic males at the Hippo Pools. We identified one of these lions as the Rekero Breakaway male. He was sired by the famous Musketeers and has a distinct wound on his back leg, sustained during a buffalo attack in July 2020. He was accompanied by two younger males and they were all deep in Bila Shaka territory, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds over the coming days.

The Rekero Breakaway male with his distinctive scar f 5.6, 1/250, ISO 400
This image was taken just after the injury happened on 07/07/2020 f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400, -0.33 | Photo: Adam Bannister
These two youngsters were in dangerous territory f 5.6, 1/640, ISO 200 | Photo: Sean Wholley (Guest)
It would be anybody's guess what would happen if the Bila Shaka coalition found them f 5.6, 1/640, ISO 200 | Photo: Sean Wholley (Guest)

We then proceeded further south towards the Inselbergs, one of the most beautiful areas in the Triangle. We then got a call on the radio, it was Angama guide Moses signalling that he had spotted the Egyptian Goose Pride. Lo and behold, it was Slit Lip, two adult females and several youngsters lounging around on the grass and momentarily moving around to find better sleeping spots. 
 
The landscape provided the opportunity to get stellar shots of this iconic pride with the backdrop of those distinctive flat-topped hills. As we were having breakfast, the lions suddenly all rushed in one direction towards thick bushes. The rocks prevented us from getting closer. Shortly after, we heard some commotion within the bushes as the lions stumbled across what looked like a reedbuck. This quick shift caught us unaware and a tricky environment meant we missed the chance to capture the kill. Oh well, at least we witnessed it.

The Egyptian Goose pride with Inselberg as a backdrop f 6.3, 1/800, ISO 250
This youngster chose the top of a termite mound to take a mid-morning nap f 5.0, 1/800, ISO 250
Slit Lip has made himself comfortable among the Egyptian Goose pride f 6.3, 1/800, ISO 250

After spending around two hours with the Egyptian Goose Pride, we decided to move on. Heading towards picnic trees, as we were cruising down the road with not another vehicle in sight, we had no idea what awaited us. As I was busy admiring the landscape, Adam brought the vehicle to a halt and pointed at a fig tree by the road. There she was, the Salt Lick female in all her glory. We approached the tree slowly and noticed she was with her cub. It was the same pair of leopards I encountered while writing This Week At Angama 188.  This time, quite far from where we first sighted them, an indication that their territory is huge.

The Salt Lick female leopard looks out over the Mara from her vantage point f 6.3, 1/250, ISO 400
This is the Salt Lick female's cub, who has inherited much of her beauty f 6.3, 1/500, ISO 500

With every leopard in a tree sighting comes the opportunity to capture the descent. Previously, I managed to get a few shots of the cub coming down the tree, but this time it was the mother. Few creatures possess the grace of leopards. My eyes will forever light up and heart will thump a little faster with each leopard encounter.

The very definition of grace and agility f 5.3, 1/1000, ISO 500

This Week a Year Ago

A lioness stalks a wildebeest, albeit unsuccessfully Photos: Adam Bannister

This time last year we were nail-biting and edge-of-seat-sitting as two lionesses stalk some oblivious wildebeest.

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Maasai Mara , This Week At Angama , Wildlife Photography

About: Eric Averdung

Born and raised in Nairobi, Eric is a self-taught photographer with a passion for wildlife. Growing up just 15 minutes away from the city's National Park, regular visits sparked his interest from a young age, and lead him to complete his degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management with a focus on conservation.

Browse all articles by Eric Averdung Meet the angama team

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