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This Week at Angama #312

Another rock python bites off more than it can chew, this time in Amboseli, and we catch up with our golden girl, the Angama lioness and her cubs
Above: The food pyramid in action

The Mara:

As the sun descends over the wet Mara late in the evening, golden light filters through breaks in the clouds creating a stunning play of light and shadow over the land with dramatic rain clouds to the north.

F 5, 1/1250, ISO 3200 | Robert Sayialel
F 10, 1/1250, ISO 800 | Robert Sayialel

Just before the rain descends on us, a crackle on the radio alerts us to a female leopard busy watching a harem of impalas patiently awaiting the diminishing light. It’s the female leopard known to have two cubs around Governor’s Camp. She descends from the tree just before total darkness with remarkable agility that the fated impalas never see or hear. With the cubs stashed away and likely hungry, the mother leopard appears resolute and purposeful, suggesting an impending nocturnal hunt.

F 8, 1/1250, ISO 6400 | Robert Sayialel

The morning after, we catch up with the Angama lioness and her two cubs perfectly silhouetted at sunrise. The two cubs look very healthy — a continual good sign for the future of the pride. In normal circumstances, the cubs would have relied heavily on their pride for protection. As they grow, lion cubs usually learn essential survival skills through playful interactions with their siblings and adult pride members. These two just have their mother — but never underestimate the Angama lioness.

F 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 800 | Robert Sayialel
F 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 800 | Robert Sayialel

At two feet tall, hamerkops are the smallest species of stork, named for their stout flattened bill that gives the head the shape of a hammer. They hold the record for building the largest roofed nests, which may measure up to 6.5 feet wide, 6.5 feet deep and over 100 pounds. With a lot of water in the park, these birds can be easily spotted as they primarily hunt in aquatic habitats for fish, crustaceans, amphibians and insects.

F 8, 1/3200, ISO 1000 | Robert Sayialel

What is interesting about the hamerkop is that they engage in a ceremony called 'false mounting' where crests are raised, wings fluttered and a chorus of cries continues for several minutes as each bird hops onto the other’s back without actually mating. This is seen as a social behaviour and can happen between pairs of the same sex or mixed.

F 2.8, 1/3200, ISO 360 | Robert Sayialel
F 2.8, 1/3200, ISO 360 | Robert Sayialel
F 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 900 | Robert Sayialel

As the El Niño season continues, here is a look at the Mara River water level currently compared to July during the annual migration. –Robert Sayialel

F 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 500 | Robert Sayialel July 2023
F 8, 1/500, ISO 160 | Robert Sayialel February 2024


A laid-back bumble in Kimana Sanctuary turned into one of the most thrilling sightings I've ever experienced. We came across an adult African rock python, roughly 10 feet long, attempting to devour a freshly killed Grant’s gazelle. It appeared that the python had ambushed the unsuspecting gazelle, as is typical behaviour for pythons, striking suddenly and swiftly wrapping around its prey to suffocate it. Two weeks ago, Angama guide, Jeremy, came across the same sighting in the Mara.

F 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 2000 | Sammy Njoroge

What made this sighting even more dramatic was the intrusion of a few gate crashers. Three jackals refused to let the python enjoy its meal in peace, each vying for a share of the gazelle and trying to remove the snake from its prey. This led to a tense standoff, with the python fiercely defending its catch while the persistent jackals continually pressed their luck. We remained at the scene for two hours, transfixed by the unfolding drama.

F 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 6400 | Sammy Njoroge
F 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 5000 | Sammy Njoroge
F 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 4000 | Sammy Njoroge

As the sun set, we decided to head back to the lodge for dinner before returning for a night drive to check on the situation. Upon our return around 21h00, we found the python still clinging to the gazelle, with more than three jackals lingering nearby. It seemed the conflict might persist throughout the night. Opting to let nature take its course, we continued our night drive with plans to return at dawn the next morning.

F 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 6400 | Sammy Njoroge

To our surprise, when we returned at first light, the scene was eerily clean, as if it had all been a dream. There was no sign of the python, the jackals, or the unfortunate gazelle. Did the python manage to swallow the whole thing? It seemed unlikely. Could the jackals have stolen the kill? Or perhaps the ‘clean-up crew’ had landed on the scene devouring everything, as is usually the case with hyenas. The ending was not quite what we anticipated, but such is the unpredictability of nature.

F 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 250 | Alice Mantaine

Meet Vronsky, a prominent figure in Amboseli's wildlife scene and a potential Super Tusker in the making. According to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, he was born in 1976, to Victoria of the VA family, making him her sole surviving calf. Tragically, Victoria fell victim to poaching in the late 1980s, having lived a remarkable 53 years. Vronsky remained with the VA family until becoming independent from his family in 1992. We've heard that he commands the attention and admiration of female elephants during mating season.

F 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200 | Alice Mantaine
F 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 250 | Alice Mantaine

The VA family, boasting over 60 members, is a significant presence in Amboseli, characterised by their strength and spirited personalities. Vronsky stands as a worthy representative of his familial legacy. Angama guide, Alice, caught up with him this week looking impressive as always.

For bird enthusiasts, the Amboseli ecosystem consistently delivers, making it one of the best destinations for encountering a diverse array of bird species. From waterfowl to raptors, visitors are often overwhelmed by the variety of avian life to be found here. –Sammy Njoroge

F 13, 1/1600, ISO 800 | Alice Mantaine Bateleur
F 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 1000 | Sammy Njoroge Tawny eagle
F 8, 1/1250, ISO 800 | Guest Katie Brauer Cattle egret
F 8, 1/6400, ISO 800 | Guest Katie Brauer Greater flamingo

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Amboseli , Mara Triangle , Photographic Safari , Wildlife Photography

About: The Photographic Studios

The team in both Angama Mara's and Angama Amboseli's Photographic Studio spend their days capturing our guests' memories and reporting on the fantastic sightings seen out on safari.

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