Maasai Mara

Encounter Mara, Part 1

To try and remedy the slow-loading, I’ve changed the page names and separated them into several pages. I am also optimizing the photos to reduce their size, which should also make for a faster load, meaning more time on my end so there’s less on yours. I’d be interested if you notice any big difference in the images and load times.

Let’s continue the journey south and west from Nairobi National Park to the Naboisho Conservancy. Although, to me, the conservancy seems not much different than Maasai Mara, it’s actually a little bit to the north and east of the Maasai Mara proper or so I understood.

The plane is very small and you are only allowed to have 15 kg of luggage and only soft-sided bags. That’s cause they smush them all in so everybody’s bags have to flexible.

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I didn’t have my camera ready when we took off so by the time I got it in hand, I missed getting a photo of two white rhinos. Even from up high, the shape and size of the rhinos were clear. As for the camera, you know I clutched it from them on. I love taking photos of the landscape from planes. The last photo, above, shows some elephants, the first wild elephants I’ve seen in Kenya. Here’s as close of a close-up of what looks like a group of four as there are two together under a tree.

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I wondered if this was a sign of more to come or if these would be the only ones I came across.

I’d never been in such a small plane before and there’s always stories and complaints about their being soooo uncomfortable and their being lots of upsetting, bumpy motions so I was a little nervous. But it was great; no problems at all. Safari Link had excellent and informative magazines about the area and I learned about some things, like the Marsh Lions, that I hadn’t known about. People were excited that the photographers of that show were actually in the Mara at this very same time.

The landscape was definitely different than that of the Nairobi area, rocky and more spacious, that’s for sure.

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We passed a Thompson’s gazelle. They are the tiniest things, even the adults. And they’re so cute. You’ll find it’s hard not to say ‘cute’ a lot when you are looking at animals in Africa, or anywhere for that matter. Along with ‘cute’ there’s ‘adorable.’

Then a giraffe or maybe two, you never know how many might be there. It’s amazing how they can just disappear.

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I noticed that those coloured patches on the giraffe aren’t just the same skin with some different colour. If you look closely, those patches are actually bumpy and raised.

Who knew?

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From there we passed a bird. Not just any bird, a crowned lapwing And are these some feisty birds! (All in good time.)

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This olive baboon was busy pawing at the ground and eventually moved off but I couldn’t tell if it got anything from all the effort.

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This is Maasai country, after all, and that means cattle.

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The Massai and the Conservancy work together to find a way for both humans and animals to thrive. It works well, up to a point, but I;ve read articles that indicate areas of friction. Attempts to control against one predator may well be devastating to other wildlife.

Another giraffe, but this one is much paler than any others I’d seen, indicating a greater variety in colouration than I had been aware of. Just being in the presence of these animals teaches you so much you hadn’t known or understood.

This giraffe looks younger than the other one, to me, but what do I know? I can’t see the bumpiness on the colours. Perhaps it’s something that develops with age. I noticed hair growing from those darker areas on the other giraffe and wonder if there might be an age factor in that.

You can see clearly that this one has a veritable spray of hair growing on the horns which indicates this a female. Perhaps whether male or female is something else that the raised areas could be affected by. As an untrained tourist, there’s not enough time and too much distance to notice the important and distinguishing details of what you are seeing. The guides are there to find animals but not all are necessarily able to answer more complex questions, even if you remember to ask. Although, when it comes to getting your guide to do what you want, nothing beats just coming out and saying what you do and don’t like, once you figure it out. More on this later.

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Next we spot a group of topi. This is a kind of antelope I didn’t see before on my journeys in Southern Africa. Here the topi are joined by a giraffe who does its best to disappear in the trees as does a topi. Although we have understood for a long time that animals evolved their markings and colouration to better hide, I now wonder whether plant evolution has encouraged plants to look like animals and what evolutionary advantage there might be for the plants for that.

In the photo, below, there are some  young topi. The young are much lighter in colour, probably to blend in better with the grass. The one lying down is probably less than a year old, based on the tiny horns just emerging, while the one in another photo, standing and nuzzling its mother, would be a bit older.

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After this pleasant ride of about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, we arrived at the camp, Encounter Mara.

The luxury tent main room.

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The view through the mosquito mesh. I didn’t not see any mosquitos but did take doxycycline for the entire trip, beginning 2 days before and for 28 days after.

The bathroom.

All you could ask for in comfort while still being truly far from home. Fantastic.

More next time from Encounter Mara in the Naboisho Conservancy.

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Encounter Mara, Pt. 2

Afternoon Game Drive, Pt 1

It was lunchtime and I dined with the only other guests, two teachers from Vancouver, Canada, the second Vancouver, while I happen to be a resident of the first Vancouver in the State of Washington. We dined semi-al fresco in the dining tent with a few fewer dishes than originally planned. Seems that baboon I had seen outside my tent had moved on to where the lunch was waiting and taken our salad. He was a cheeky fellow; a big cheeky fellow and it took some doing to dissuade him from snatching another course.

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The teachers had visited a Maasai school and a village and were pleased to have brought some gifts that were appreciated. They had been in some other places in Kenya and although they saw lots of wonderful wildlife, they said what they really wanted was to see a serval cat.

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From our dining room table we could see some wildlife some distance away having their lunch.

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Soon it was time to head out!

My guide told me they have a number of lionesses in the area who had cubs a few months ago  but unfortunately a group of rogue males had come in and killed the cubs. But one crafty mama lion, Simaloi (not sure of the spelling), had moved with her babies into the Reserve near the entrance which was why we had driven in from the back.

We drove for about 6 minutes, and the sky started an amazing show for us.

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A few turns later we passed a couple of Coke’s hartebeests looking rather demure and a topi.

Another ridge and something entirely different.

One of what I wanted to see most on this trip!

A lion cub. OMG, there’s two more a little ways up the hill.

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We spent the next two hours with these guys and their mama, Simaloi.

Here is an overview of the terrain with the cubs. You gotta look close to spot them and then we can see the loner joining up with his or her two siblings.

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I’m not really up on lion anatomy and I have no idea if you can tell from the head at all so I am not entirely certain how to tell whether these little guys are male or female but this one is giving us a pretty clear view of the appropriate region and I’d say, “it’s a boy!” Agree?

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I also think he is the same one we saw by himself earlier.

And here are the other two. They are two together so probably the same two who were together when we drove up.

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What name can you give the colour of a lion cub’s eyes? Other photos I’ve seen they look brown but these are unnameable.

We are now eighteen minutes into my first afternoon drive. Yeah, pretty glad I didn’t fly back home from Nairobi National Park. Amazing.

The two are having a clutch and tussle.
Looks like they could be males also.

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“Hey guys, it’s time to head up the hill.”

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Come on guys! ….. Guys?……Sigh.

Come back for the next installment and find out what we missed in an earlier photo. Discover what’s at the top of the hill.  More to come but because I’ve been moving house there’s still way too much to do on that front.  I really want to continue this lion adventure soon but we’ll see.

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Encounter Mara, Pt. 3

Afternoon Game Drive, Pt 2

Our first game drive didn’t get far as we had stopped just barely outside the Naboisho Conservancy. We left off last time with the three cubs at the bottom of the hill with one of them seeming to urge the other two to join him on a trek up the hill. 

Here’s a little one who’s got hold of something. Is it something to eat? Looks like a clump of turf. Yum.

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All three cubs finally got up and started climbing up the hill and we drove around to the top, to see what was what. On the way, the sky renewed its best efforts to upstage what was happening on the ground. Gotta love those amazing rays!

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But the sky can’t totally eliminate the lure of the land and so our attention turned away.

I mentioned earlier that my guide had told me that this afternoon, the little lions had had their first taste of meat. We drove to what they feasted on, or perhaps just sniffed and nibbled. We saw the topi that their mother had caught. From the looks of it, neither the cubs nor the lioness were very hungry as it was mostly intact. But the way it works out here, by morning all of it would be gone after being eaten by a variety of scavengers who, thankfully, help clean the environment of dangerous, decaying animals.

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We also passed an almost dried up waterhole and I discovered that the large boulder or perhaps glare from the sun I had seen earlier was really a large hippo trying to find a way to stay wet in these drought conditions.

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You can see him/her here much clearer than in the earlier picture, which was posted in the last installment, and again below. I hadn’t known what I was looking at then but f you look closely, you can just sort of make out the contours of the hippo in the curved depression, below the solo cub, near the bottom of the slope.

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So what was at the top of the hill the cubs found so attractive? In the case another famous animal, we just don’t know why the bear went over the mountain but in this case, we were pretty sure we would soon find out. But, at first glance, there was nothing. 

Well, nothing except the sky and a rainbow, partial but still counts. Surely they weren’t coming up the hill just to enjoy the heavenly opticals. I considered it a sign welcoming me to the Maasai Mara.

But then we saw. The one thing a lion cub doesn’t want to get too far away from, at least not when the cub is only about three months old, and having just had his first taste of meat that very afternoon. You guessed it, Momma!

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Not just any momma, this was the smart one, Similoi, who, alone, had saved her cubs from the big, bad boys. She was keeping them safe everyday by living inside Naboisho Conservancy.

Oh, oh look! She’s got company. DSCN1280-minHe’s staying a ways off. 

Wait, I just noticed, there’s two of them. One on each side.

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I can’t tell if the two we see at the top of the hill are the two who were together or if one is the intrepid loner who was leading the charge up the hill and one of the pair who were less interested. This one seems pretty interested now, at any rate. You can clearly see the spots that lions have. As they get older, the spots fade but sometimes can still be seen in adults but very pale.

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A lion piggyback ride.

Snooze time for two anyway.

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But not everyone is asleep. Meet Bogie. I mean, he’s got that Bogart look and add to that a Lyle Lovett mouth.

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The coolest cat I’ve ever seen. No way this is not a boy. 

“Hey, Mom.” Here comes company.

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Such a nice cuddle. Sometimes you get what you want.

And sometimes you don’t. In this case, the milk shop was closed.

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Will the milk shop ever open? Will the third cub return? Answers to these and more – in the next installment. Please come back and visit again.

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Encounter Mara, Pt. 4

Afternoon Game Drive, Pt 3

The final, installment of the first afternoon game drive at Encounter Mara, inside the Naboisho Conservancy. When we left off, an important question remained.

Important questions must be answered.

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Yesss! The milk shop is open at last, at least for this lucky guy.

So a couple few some more photos of these guys and time to move on.

What a beautiful mom. And look, we finally have the entire family together.

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What a tasty tree. “If I could just get a better grip, I’d have it.”

“Maybe it would be easier if I open my eyes.”

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There’s a really determined-looking guy. Where’s he headed? Like him, we can’t stay in the same place. Really?

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I mean we couldn’t spend the whole game drive just looking at these amazingly adorable lion cubs, right? Well, we almost did.

But after all it had been 2 hours. In the end we finally headed off on a whole 5 minutes drive. Apparently there was something else to see. So goodbye little lions.

What?

My driver points to something over there but I can’t see anything but the ground and the grass.

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There’s nothing there, am I right?

Wait.

It would seem that all that is brown and yellow is not grass.

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Hellooooo cheetah family.

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Here is either a mother and cub or two cubs. Turns out it’s a lot less easy to tell which is which. The cubs look more like the adults than lions cubs look like mature lions. These cubs are about eight-months old and it seems they have outgrown the frolicking age. Or maybe they’re just chilling.

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In this profile shot of the cheetah on the left-hand side, you can see the leanness in, and breadth of, the face that you can’t get head on, meaning she is the mother.

I’m told there’s a third one on the other side of the small hillock they are resting on but I can’t see it. Good luck getting a good picture of all three. But it’s not exactly like two cheetahs aren’t enough.

Oh, but wait again. Now we can see that the cheetah on the left is also a cub because of the fuzz still on the back of his or her head. Maybe the comparative leanness is imaginary because I haven’t really seen the other one in a similar profile.

DSCN1970-minSigh! Cheetahs are not only mesmerizing, they are enigmatic. These aren’t the first cheetahs I’ve seen, as you might know from the Southern Africa page, but they are the first that weren’t adults.

I’ve overused the adjective ‘adorable’ so I’ll leave that to you.

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Soon the pair of cubs breaks up. One stays on the spot and the other leaves.

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Ah, there he/she is and now we see what an adult looks like.

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The cub is behind the, without a doubt, adult, mother cheetah.

Here you can see where the three are in relation to each other.

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Siesta. Time for a short snooze for Mum.

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Junior looks interested in having a snack but Mum’s having no part of that.

Soon she’s off.

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The youngsters follow and we do too.

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But they don’t go far. A higher spot for Mum to use as a lookout for any signs of dinner.

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But, who’s that in the grass? Look carefully, just over the flank of the larger cheetah, you can see a curved tail and two ears.

DSCN2192-minSurely that’s not junior? But if it is, that means he has a lot of confidence to be out there alone and if it isn’t, then that would mean this is not Mum and cub but the two cubs watching Mum in the grass. But that can’t be right. Sigh. I really can’t tell them apart.

Anyway, did someone say dinner? Time for us to get ready for ours back at the camp.

In a minute it becomes clear that the curved ‘tail’ and ‘ears’ haven’t moved at all. Camouflage, ain’t it great! I am totally convinced that it works both ways: the animals look like the bush and the bush looks like the animals.

A last look at the cheetahs.

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Finally, all three together but getting them to look at the camera or not duck behind a leaf is like herding, uh, cats.

Time for us to end this Day of the Big Cats. What will the morrow bring? Or even on the way back? At this moment I feel that anything is possible.

Join in next time. Let me hear from you.

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