The air is filled with the scent of damp earth and freshly washed vegetation. As I drive down the escarpment from Angama Mara, the Triangle seems cleaner and more vibrant, with the rain having washed away the dust, leaving everything with a new sheen. As the ever-magical sun rises over the savannah, the sky is transformed into a brilliant array of warm colours, as wildlife springs into action.
That had been the scene pretty much every day this week, but this particular day was about to turn as dramatic as they get.
As I approached Maji ya Ndege, I heard about a cheetah sighting on the radio. I headed towards that direction and found the stunning lone male cheetah basking in the golden light. Suddenly, a mighty hyena approached but little did it know it was about to face off against a cheetah with some serious attitude. Despite being known for walking away to avoid injury, this cheetah stood its ground with bold fearlessness, causing the hyena to retreat. This was one wild encounter I had not witnessed before!
Not far from there, I had a lucky encounter with the Owino Pride — two females and a young king in the making. They were in a peaceful slumber, unbothered by my presence, but I decided to wait it out as other vehicles drove off. My goal was to capture their majestic movements at a low angle. Wildlife photography requires a decent amount of patience and an ability to predict animal behaviour, so I was happy to wait a little bit longer and boy, was I in for a treat. The pride was soon on the move to quench their thirst at a nearby puddle, walking gracefully down the road.
With buffalo in sight, I hoped for a hunting adventure but as the sun was heating up, they found a shady Balanites tree to rest under instead. One female, who seemed to take the lead, climbed up to scan the area, giving me a rare chance to capture a lioness up a tree. After a few minutes, she came back down and joined the slumber party, so I let the pride continue their day uninterrupted.
The leopards of the Triangle have been busy this week hunting and hoisting kills up trees in various parts of this endless grassland, and the reedbucks have been on the receiving end. As Angama guide Ken was telling me, with most of the grass currently tall, impalas and Thomson’s gazelles move to areas with shorter grass, leaving just the Bohor reedbuck whose natural habitat is tall grass — and coincidentally a leopards’ playground. We managed to catch up with two leopards, Nadallah near Shieni Bridge and the Salt Lick Male at Milima Mbili area and, as if they were in communication, both had hoisted reedbucks kills. We watched as Nadallah displayed her usual theatrics, occasionally coming down to drink some water and going back up the tree to enjoy her meal.
Eighteen for one, but one big one! The thrill of not knowing what you can expect every time you head out for a drive is what makes a safari in the Mara Triangle so exciting. That was the case when we encountered five adult lionesses and thirteen cubs (!) of different ages munching on a giraffe. It makes proportional sense when you’re eighteen-strong, but still quite a sight to behold.
Towards the south of Triangle, our guest Thomas, who had conveniently rented one of our best lenses from the Photographic Studio, witnessed a spectacular sighting and managed to get some incredible shots. The Border Pride was just minding their lion business as they enjoyed a buffalo kill but things quickly turned when four of the Nyati Six males decided to invade. The air was charged with tension as these young boys who have been terrorising the Triangle and shifting territorial dynamics got closer — but they were in for a rude awakening.
The two enormous males of the Border Pride bellowed at their challenge, their muscles rippling with raw power. The young lions tried to stand their ground, but they were no match for the mighty Border Pride. Their sheer size and strength is enough to make even the bravest of lions cower. The dominant males chased them away, sending them fleeing for their lives as their roars echoed through the savanna. It was a dramatic display of dominance and a testament to the unrivalled power of the magnificent male lions.
Survival is a harsh game in these wild lands where the weak fall and the strong thrive. Near the Rain Gauge area, a buffalo's misfortune became a feast for the lions as they mercilessly descended upon it, stuck in a mud pool. I can only imagine how brutal the kill was as we found only scraps for the vultures who arrived moments after two of the Nyati Six males had left the dirty scene.
Just a few feet away, a group of mudfish were trapped in the thick mud, their slender bodies occasionally twisting in distress. Their erratic movements were a clear indication of their struggle, as they gasped for breath in the suffocating marsh. It was only a matter of time before a lucky fish eagle or a pack of hyenas came across the easy prey, putting an end to their suffering in another brutal cycle of nature.
In conclusion of this week’s adventures, we encountered a unique behaviour among the nursing Egyptian lioness and her cubs. The female appeared to be in distress and was disinterested in nursing her cubs, who persistently tried to feed. She repeatedly moved away from them and showed slight aggression towards them. This behaviour may have been caused by a lack of sufficient nutrition, as a lioness needs a substantial meal to produce enough milk for her cubs. We hope she feeds soon to ensure the well-being of this future faction of the pride.
The grass had eyes this time last year and those eyes belonged to the Sausage Tree Pride. These lionesses chased four separate warthogs, unsuccessful on each occasion.
Filed under: This Week at Angama
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