I spent most of the month of August in the Mara, partly on my own and partly guiding private tours. At the beginning of the month the famous Cheetah named Malaika had just come out from her den on top of the rocky hills with her two tiny cubs in tow. It was a wonderful sight to see her walk through the plains with them in the tall grass, albeit difficult to photograph. I was actually surprised at how much she made those tiny cubs walk in their first few days out of the den. Especially noticing that one of the two cubs had a slight limp on her front left leg. It struggled to keep up with its sibling and mother. However, Malaika was always there for it when the limping baby struggled.
One afternoon she decided to cross the shallow waters of the Olare Orok River heading east. She descended the banks and walked cautiously on the granite in the river bed. The cubs followed a bit hesitantly, but she couldn’t find a way up on the other side. One of the babies fell in the mud, and she had to pick it up with her mouth to safety. For the moment she decided to give up, but the next morning right at sunrise she tried again. Once more, the limping baby was afraid of jumping the stream, while this time the healthy one jumped easily. Malaika came back to assist the baby left behind, she picked it up with her mouth and tried to haul it across, but it fell into the water. She rescued it again, and then decided to try a different crossing point further downstream. This time the limping baby just went into the water but crossed safely to the other side. Then they were out in the plains and the sun shone through the clouds, casting a wonderful light with dark sky behind them. In the following days she stayed put in that area, killing occasionally but giving the cubs a chance to rest and feed well before starting to walk again.
We spent good moments with the leopards in the Musiara Marsh again, Romi and her female adolescent cub. It was wonderful to see the juvenile exploring the reeds inside the marsh. She is extremely relaxed in the presence of vehicles, giving us many opportunities for close up encounters.
The Lions along the Mara river also gave us some extraordinary action. One big Lioness had just shown her two tiny two-months old cubs for the first time. She had been keeping them in the tall grass along the river, and occasionally she would take them out. One morning she spotted a solitary wildebeest calf and didn’t miss the chance for an easy kill right in front of us. The following day we saw a Lioness from the same Paradise pride stalking and killing a Warthog just out of the reeds. She killed it and then went to rest. One of the four Musketeers, the males dominating the area, heard the commotion and promptly showed up, took the kill from the female and carried it away. As he was eating, a heard of wildebeest crossed the tall grass not far from him. He launched a surprise attack and killed one, just left it there and returned to the Warthog.
Scarface, the famous male Lion with a scar on his right eye, was also in the area and despite a limp, was busy mating with a female along the river. We found him one early morning in perfect sunlight and it was a real thrill to see such a charismatic lion in his prime.
The migration was in full swing in the Mara, with the vast majority of the animals having gathered on the rolling plains along the Serengeti border, in the Mara Triangle. We drove one day to see the herds and it was just unbelievable to see such huge herds of animals in a beautiful scenery of bush-capped flat hills and scattered Balanites trees. During the safari we had some very good river crossings, with animals mostly heading south-west to the Mara Triangle.
During the months of july and august we had large concentrations of elephants around the Musiara marsh. One overcast morning in particular they were extremely playful as they came out of the forest to reach the marshes. Few things are more exciting and entertaining than watching young elephants playfully interact.
Around mid-august I caught up with the Double Crossing female Leopard when she was out hunting in the plains. She failed the attempt but when she stood up to walk it was clear that she was lactating. No one had seen the cubs yet. The next morning she was hunting again, but quickly retreated when she encountered a lioness on her path. She then disappeared in the forest along the river. Is it here that she keeps her cubs?
Over on the east side of the park, the main attractions were the Rongai pride of Lions and the Cheetah Rani with her three adolescent cubs. Meanwhile, the famous coalition of Notch’s sons lost one of its members, Ron. Now only Caesar and Notch Two are left. They are still a powerful duo but far from the days when the four of them with their father roamed the central plains of the Mara.
One of the most memorable encounters was a couple of Ostriches mating right after sunrise in the short golden grass. I had seen Ostriches mating many other times but never in this perfect light conditions.
By the end of the month Malaika with her cubs had crossed also the Talek river and kept walking to the east, past the Ol Keju Rongai. I caught up with them again once more in the open plains at the end of August, one early morning, and I was so relieved to see both cubs now walking and running perfectly.
Before returning to Nairobi to collect my guests for the next safari to Amboseli, there was time for one final encounter. Finally the tiny Leopard cubs of the Double Crossing female showed up. They were still in the den where they were born, in the exposed roots of a giant Fig Tree on the Olare Orok river. One of the two cubs popped out regularly throughout the day to see the world outside for the first time, and it was such a magnificent sight. Hoping to see them again in the following months.