HOME Blog This Week at Angama #313

This Week at Angama #313

Some new discoveries are made on night drives in Amboseli and we see the return of familiar favourites, like the Inselberg males and Ruka and Rafiki, in the Mara
Above: The dynamic duo of Ruka and Rafiki


A few months ago we spotted a nomad lion, Osunash, who was injured and receiving treatment for a wound by the Kenya Wildlife Service and Lion Guardians. This week, we were excited to see him back in Kimana Sanctuary, albeit with a few new scars. Lion Guardians confirmed that he has recently been involved in territorial battles with a lion in Selengei, a region neighbouring Amboseli National Park. Despite the altercations, he seems to be doing well as we found him with a freshly killed wildebeest.

F 8, 1/800, ISO 400 | Sammy Njoroge
F 6.3, 1/800, ISO 800 | Sammy Njoroge October 2023
F 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 3200 | Johnson Salaash February 2024
F 4.5, 1/1250, ISO 640 | Johnson Salaash

Two days later, during our nocturnal wanderings, we found him in the company of a new male whom we are yet to identify. We suspect these nomadic males could be from the same pride as they were quite comfortable with each other. This could be the beginning of a formidable coalition as his counterpart seemed stronger with a bigger stature.

F 5, 1/250, ISO 5000 | Sammy Njoroge
F 5, 1/250, ISO 3200 | Sammy Njoroge

You may wonder why these lions don't have large manes. Over the years, researchers have proposed various social hypotheses to explain the primary role of the mane in these social felines. These hypotheses range from intimidation — where a large mane creates the illusion of a bigger animal — to providing physical protection for the head and neck areas from other lions, to enhancing sex appeal. However, manes come with a cost: they provide unnecessary, and possibly detrimental, insulation for lions in hot regions. As an adaptive genetic trait, lions in Amboseli and other warmer climates tend to develop smaller or no manes as a coping mechanism.

F 5.6, 1/250, ISO 6400 | Sammy Njoroge

The bat-eared fox is a captivating nocturnal creature mainly found in East and Southern Africa. Easily recognisable by their distinctive large ears which can grow up to five inches in length, they are found in various habitats ranging from open grasslands to shrublands within the region. Despite their fox-like appearance, they are not closely related to foxes but rather belong to a unique genus of their own (Otocyo). These adept hunters primarily feed on insects, particularly termites, using their keen sense of hearing and acute sense of smell to locate prey under the cover of darkness. Their presence in Kimana Sanctuary adds to the rich biodiversity of the area, offering our guests the chance to observe these specialised nocturnal predators in their natural habitat.

F 7.1, 1/200, ISO 6400 | Sammy Njoroge

Grasshoppers, renowned for their chirping and jumping prowess, are currently flourishing in Kimana Sanctuary thanks to the bountiful grass growth following the recent rainy season. These insects contribute significantly to the ecosystem by serving as a vital food source for various species like birds and reptiles, participating in essential predator-prey dynamics.

F 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 250 | Sammy Njoroge
F 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250 | Sammy Njoroge

These insects also play a crucial role in regulating plant populations by feeding on vegetation which helps maintain plant diversity and prevent overgrowth. Additionally, their consumption of plant material contributes to nutrient cycling as they enrich the soil with essential nutrients. Through their activities, grasshoppers influence plant community composition and structure, highlighting their integral role in sustaining the overall health and balance of the ecosystem.

F 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200 | Alice Mantaine Lesser flamingo
F 6.3, 1/2500, ISO 250 | Alice Mantaine Greater flamingo

As you drive from the Amboseli airstrip to Angama Amboseli, a fun challenge is to try and distinguish between the greater and lesser flamingoes that grace the nearby marshland. In terms of appearance, the greater flamingo typically boasts a larger size with notably pinker plumage and light pink beaks with a dark tip, while the lesser flamingo tends to be smaller and displays a deeper shade of pink, almost bordering on a coral hue and their beaks are a dark red with black tip. The greater flamingo also possesses a noticeably longer neck and legs compared to its counterpart. –Sammy Njoroge

F 7, 1/1500, ISO 500 | Alice Mantaine Greater flamingo

The Mara:

Every safari here is a mini adventure, breathing in the fresh air as the sun gently kisses your face — a chance to participate in the most rewarding natural treasure hunts. We set out in search of cheetahs after hearing some radio chatter that they were spotted close to the border. Unfortunately, we missed them so we decided to take photos with guests at the border post. While they were posing, Angama Guide Robert scanned our surroundings and noticed a leopard up a tree. We quickly got back in the vehicle, headed toward the tree and confirmed it was the female leopard that always hangs along the border.

F7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500 | Joseph Njenga

For a while now, we have not seen the Inselberg males but this week Head Guide Sammy had the pleasure of sighting them. The Inselberg males mostly dominate the southern part of the Triangle and it seemed they had covered a lot of ground as they appeared exhausted and panting a lot. The scorching sun was also not favouring them at all, but despite that, they still showed their brotherly love and at one point they were seen giving the head greeting. –Joseph Njenga

F5.6, 1/1000, ISO 250 | Sammy Komu
F5.6, 1/1000, ISO 250 | Sammy Komu

White-faced whistling ducks are waterfowl known for their distinct calls and family dynamics. We ran into a parent with more than ten chicks in the Egyptian Pond area. Adults will have a white face and black crown with a chestnut chest, while chicks will be more greyish but with time will show the distinctive colours of the adults. These ducks are devoted partners that mate for life and work together to raise their young. The female will lay around ten eggs and both parents share the incubation duties for about 27 days; the chicks will follow and learn from their mom till they become independent around 70 days after being hatched.

F 2.8, 1/6400, ISO 400 | Andrew Andrawes

Angama Guide Sophie reported seeing cheetah brothers Ruka and Rafiki on three consecutive days. The fascinating thing was where she spotted them — one day they were near the border on one end of the Park, next they were near Serena, and on the third day they were near Maji ya Ndege. That means they travelled nearly the entire length of the Park in just a few days. Coalitions patrol large areas and work together to increase their chances of survival and over the years we have seen the relationship between these two brothers work to their advantage. They seem to move in synchronisation as they silently communicate and anticipate each other's movements. With such few cheetahs left in the wild, it was wonderful to spend time with these brothers as they moved from mound to mound scanning the horizon.

F 8.0, 1/500, ISO 320 | Andrew Andrawes
F 9.0, 1/500, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes

Hippos dominate the Mara River and you are guaranteed to see them in the water throughout the day. If luck is on your side, you might be able to get a good look at them while they are outside the water. We were fortunate to run into a male hippo on its way to the river during the morning hours.

F 9.0, 1/500, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes

After reviewing the images, I noticed a visible unique adaptation — the magical 'blood sweat'. This reddish oily secretion is produced by glands in the skin; the key chemicals are called hipposudoric acid and norhipposudoric acid. The main function of this natural sunscreen is to absorb ultraviolet light while also acting as a natural antibiotic preventing bacteria and fungi from growing on their skin. Interestingly, the substance has adapted to be waterproof and can last several days while continuously being secreted. This is important as hippos have no hair on their skin and are vulnerable to harsh environments.

Along the banks of the river, we also ran into a mother and her calf. Newborns can weigh up to 50kg and can swim right away, holding their breath for up to five minutes. These little ones are quick learners and very playful, honing their social skills at an early age. –Andrew Andrawes

F 8.0, 1/500, ISO 250 | Andrew Andrawes

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Amboseli , Maasai Mara , 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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