Finally.... a stunning African sunrise, spent with "teenage" lions play fighting and taking turns eating their way through a dead buffalo. Charles excelled himself again by predicting the behaviour of the adolescents and getting us into the perfect position for this shot of the brothers sharing a morning slurp.
We left them as the sun started to heat up and the lions activity slowed down. We wanted to find more cheetahs as we didn't really have any action shots of these high speed cats - which are one of my favourites - they have so much going against them and with two males recently found dead through viral disease, their future in the Mara doesn't look bright. We set off in search and came across all manner of things... Vultures and Maribou stock fighting over a stripped carcass, (just a ribcage really), a Kestrel performing acrobatics and Egyptian Geese mating (which looked more like drowning) but we eventually found "Amani", a female cheetah - Imani's mother in fact. We sat with her a while, until a really noisy truck from another camp announced it arrival with squealing brakes and serious engine roar - it's a wonder the p
assengers have seen any wildlife at all!
Today's lesson from our American friends, (prompted by the mating geese), was that of a "Rapid Roy" - which equates to a British "quickie", something the African wildlife seem to favour - although the Lions apparently practise the "Rapid Roy" every 15 minutes for 3 days!!!!
We passed a 2 week old Thompsons gazelle with Mum, and another dead Thompsons that Amani had not eaten. We, however, ate very well, with Eagles flying overhead - this mornings 4 course picnic breakfast consisted of a fantastic mushroom and potato frittata with chilli sauce and sausages, yoghurt and cereal, fresh papaya, pineapple and melon, fruit juices, Earl grey tea, pastries and banana muffins - totally spoilt and totally stuffed!
Charles' Swahili Lesson for today
Imani - Faith
Amani - Peace
If you call someone a....
Leopard, it means you are secretive
Cheetah means you are fast
Hippo means you are fat
Fisi (Hyena) means you are greedy
Warthog means you have a crap memory
"ooh-ka-joo" (no idea of the spelling) - means you're smart!
Charles' Wildlife Lessons for today
1) Hyena hierarchy dictates that the lower ranking females get left with the bones. The females are more dominant than the males as well as physically larger, yet still the entire family greet each other by licking each others bits!!!
2) Leopard and baboons live in the same habitat and have the same lifestyle which is why there are often disputes between them.
Tiredness is beginning to take its' toll now - seriously falling asleep behind the lens today. I don't suppose the G&T at lunchtime helped - but hey ho - am on holiday this time instead of a purely photographic tour which is kinda nice. Incidentally there was nothing on the camera trap last night so Darren kindly reset it for us for tonight.
Noticed during our down time that both feet are now missing a fair amount of skin through scratching and sweaty socks, but the talc is helping - shame the anti-histamine isn't. Managed a 1h20m nap after lunch too which was much needed - and thankfully put me back on track.
All the Masai staff here have taken to calling Caroline, "Caro" which takes a bit of getting used to, since it is a new one she hasn't been called before - but I quite like it. So as we left on our sundown game drive, Caro joked with our amazing driver, and requested 3 things... As it was our last evening drive, she wanted a perfect buffalo skull with dark horns, a cheetah kill, and the perfect African sunset - she got them all within a couple of hours! Charles you are simply outstanding.
We were still within site of camp when we snapped away at a perfect buffalo skull, before spotting a massive herd of gazelles legging it across the horizon.... the chase was on.... moments later we were watching "Narasha", a lone female cheetah, looking very hungry and thin, hunting for a baby gazelle.
We learnt that gazelles hide their offspring in the depressions on the plains when danger approaches and they apparently remember exactly the spot they left them and the babies instinctively know to lay low and keep still and quiet. It was fascinating to watch all the mother gazelles trying desperately to distract the cheetah from where they left their young... drawing her away. Unfortunately for one mother though, Narasha stumbled in the wrong direction and came upon a very young Grants baby - which she quickly grabbed by the neck and started feeding. Surprisingly she didn't kill it first -
the baby remained alive a lot longer than I ever imagined it would - it was quite alarming as the mother was only 100m away looking on, clearly distressed. Jennifer was also slightly distressed - but equally fascinated. The mother continued calling her young - the baby continued replying. In fact, the baby was still moving and calling, even after its innards had been eaten! The stomach was still full of nutritional mothers milk, so Narasha ate it, before moving to systematically skin the foal over a period of 45 minutes, whilst vultures circled overhead. At one point, we realised the mother still wasn't sure, when she saw off a couple of approaching black-backed jackals in the hope that it wasn't her baby that Narasha was munching on. Narasha didn't seem nervous at all, she ate, scanned the horizon occasionally and then ate some more. Typically Cheetahs have to eat very quickly as scavengers will often steal the kill. But on this occasion she was able to continue till there was nothing but hooves and skin left - she even ate the skull and brain which would have still been soft because the foal was only a matter of days old.
The adrenaline and rapidly diminishing light caused some frustration with camera controls, particularly for Caro, but admirably she persevered and we both got some great shots. Amazing experience. We then raced to capture our last dramatic sunset, lying face down on the plains whilst our American companions took dodgey photos of us and drank wine - our last drive together as a group was rapidly coming to an end and we giggled our way back to camp with the wind in our hair. So going to miss this place. It's simply magical.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins