It’s with immense delay that I finally manage to upload some of the images taken during a one week photographic safari in the Masai Mara in mid-August. In late July and early August the rains returned and the plains went suddenly from dust brown with almost no grass to bright green with short fresh grass. This obviously attracted the Wildebeests back from the Mara Triangle. I witnessed one of the most dramatic and heart breaking crossings of my life near Lookout hill. After a long wait a large herd of Wildebeests concentrated in the bushes on a bend of the Mara River. The banks were so steep in that place that I hoped they wouldn’t decide to cross in that spot. But they did. A couple of Wildebeests descended the bank in a small and steep channel. Many others followed, launching themselves down the banks, falling from more than ten meters of height on the sand at the water’s edge. The pressure from the herd behind caused many of the Wildebeests that were closer to the banks to fall dramatically. Most of them just ended up with broken legs and backs on the river shore, while the few that managed to survive the fall continued to cross. It was the most painful crossing I ever witnessed. Fortunately, after a few minutes the herd found a less steep way down into the river, and the crossing proceeded normally with less casualties. A group of Lionesses was seen hunting frequently at one of the crossing points. We witnessed a couple of unsuccessful attacks.
I was particularly happy to finally see the female Leopard Lorian with her seven months old cub in the eastern side of the reserve. She spent some time along a seasonal stream surrounded by bushes and olive trees. One rainy evening we found the cub eating a Wildebeest in the galley. Lorian was some distance away. As she walked towards the cub she flushed a family of Warthog who had taken residence in the same stream. The Warthogs ran at lightning speed towards where the cub was. The cub saw the Warthogs and in a flash she was on top of the highest tree. The speed at which she climbed was unbelievable. Lorian reached her after a few minutes and called her to let her know that it was safe to come down and that there was nothing to worry about. As they met they exchanged a rapid greeting in typical Leopard style. We saw her a few times before one morning she decided to cross the plains and disappear into a thick patch of bushes where we lost track of them. It was wonderful to see her inspect a Wildebeest carcass on the way, and to see the cub being chased by a small herd of Wildebeests.
Not only Lorian has a cub at the moment. Siri, the female Leopard who lives along the Mara River, has also recently given birth. She is quite secretive and she likes to keep her cubs hidden in the bushy hills until they are old enough to come to feed on meat. We didn’t see the cub on this trip but we found her at a kill on a solitary tree in the plains. She climbed the tree after sunset, when all the cars had gone and peace had returned.
Another highlight of this trip was of course Malaika the Cheetah, who gave birth in early July to a litter of six tiny cubs in the eastern side of the reserve. For the first six weeks she didn’t move the cubs much from the area where they were born, which was duly closed off to vehicles by the park’s authorities. But in mid August she started walking with them on the plains. It was a fantastic sight. We spent quite some time with her, even watching her kill a Wildebeest calf. The cubs hadn’t started to eat meat yet by the time, so she kept them hidden until she returned full bellied in the evening.
Different prides of Lions also had tiny cubs in August, particularly in the Musiara Marsh, where many females have given birth to cubs, so many that it is hard to keep up with all of the different litters. In particular, we spent a lovely afternoon with one female with four tiny cubs. At first we found a solitary cub at the edge of the forest, its mother was in the marsh with the rest of the pride. When she returned to the cub, she greeted it for a few minutes and then started walking along the edge of the forest until she found her remaining three cubs. At that point she returned with them to the pride.