We found ourselves driving through the midst of the Mara’s Marsh Pride at high noon, its members surprisingly active given the usual lion habit of spending the day lying around. They had made a kill, an antelope of some kind, and the ‘under-lions’ were still eating: one very elderly male and three females – while the dominant male prowled the perimeter, exchanging grunt-like roars with another male who was lying in the grass. They seemed quite unconcerned as we stopped to watch, no interruption to the grunt exchange caught here in the photo. Rather puts one in one’s place in the animal scheme of things.
It’s not easy taking a photo of a moving lion, and for all sorts of reasons – not least, the excitement. This is another shot of one of the members of the Maasai Mara’s celebrity Marsh Pride. I think that confident stride definitely says ‘I’m in charge here’. And just look at the size of those front paws! Scarily impressive even in this somewhat aged photo.
We visited the Maasai Mara only three times while we were living in Kenya, but every trip there delivered many breath-taking moments. We were lucky too. Kenyan wildlife guides are among the world’s best – so generous in the sharing of their knowledge – whether of grasses and dung beetles or leopards and rock pythons.
Desert Date and the Oloololo Escarpment ~ indelible memory Mara-style
This week at Lost in Translation, Paula’s March Pick A Word includes five word prompts: commanding, coarse, gibbous, incremental, indelible. Please see her interpretations and be inspired.
We came upon the Maasai Mara’s famous Marsh Pride on a morning game drive out from Mara River Camp. It was August – as close to winter as Kenya gets – the skies leaden, the plains parched and dusty, the whole place waiting for the short rains that will not be happening for another two months; and perhaps not at all. In fact this trip had started out from Nairobi in thick fog, and descending the Great Rift escarpment was even more hair-raising exciting than usual.
But to get back to the lions. The pride was resting up in home territory, most of its members – mothers and cubs – scarcely visible in the grass. For one thing they were the same colour as the vegetation. For another, it is what lions do – disappear in twelve inches of grass.
As we drove nearer we spotted this male. He was pacing through the grass, roaring. This was answered by another male some distance away. It seemed they were busy marking out their patch. They ignored us anyway, which was comforting, though I have to say that lion-roars, especially ones at close quarters, make your spine resonate, and not in a good way.
Another hair-raising exciting moment then.
We watched them for a while from the safety of the safari truck, then left them to it, the roars following us down the track. By which time we were wondering if we were really there at all. Out in the African wilds it mostly feels like dreaming.
Profile: Panthera Leo
Simba in KiSwahili
Weight: Males 420-500 lb/110-135 kg
Length: Males 5-7 ft/2.5-2 m
Lifespan: Males 12 years
Thursdays Special: Profile
Please visit Paula to see her fantabulous shot of a snowy owl.
In winter at the Equator, Africa comes in many kinds of monochrome. At first light all is sepia. This lioness was captured at dawn in the Maasai Mara. She is watching out for hyena that are moving in on the Marsh Pride’s kill.
At sundown in Lewa, in Northern Kenya, all is old gold as these kudu stop for a moment before melting away into the thorn scrub. Did we really see them?
Related: …of Maasailand a travel piece that was long-listed in the Brandt Travel Guide writing contest 2000
Ailsa’s ‘environment’ challenge at Where’s My Backpack
First light on the Mara plains, and the Marsh Pride lionesses have eaten well. In the night they have killed a giraffe and are resting up near the remains of the carcase. The peace doesn’t last though. And it isn’t us who are bothering them.
Other predators are moving in on the leftovers. First a black-backed jackal comes trotting by, watches hopefully from the side-lines. Her chances are looking slim…
…already the heavy mob are moving in – a pack of spotted hyenas.
As I said in an earlier post, hyenas do not only scavenge, they are powerful hunters with jaws like demolition-crushers. And despite their lop-sided gait, their feet with blunt, non-retractable claws, are well adapted for the long-distance chase. They can take down a wildebeest and eat and digest the lot (apart from horns and rumen) within 24 hours. They will also eat anything, including the faces of sleeping humans caught out without sufficient night-time protection. This was a commonly reported horror while we lived in Kenya. In consequence they are East Africa’s most successful large predator, apart from politicians, that is.
Here, one of the pack has made a rush on the kill and escaped with some leg bones, but it doesn’t look as if sharing is on the hyenas’ menu.
The lionesses go on watching, alert in that laid-back kind of way that cats do so well. The remnants are not worth fighting over. When the time comes, and bellies are empty, they will make another kill.
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copyright 2014 Tish Farrell