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It was one of the best days - Porini Lion, Olare Motorgiri Conservancy


pomkiwi
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Round Two

Having sorted out mother it was time to go and find another victim.

 

 

 

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The adult female seemed happy to be left alone.

 

 

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A sibling makes a good wrestling partner

 

 

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Yep - I'm on top again.

 

 

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No contest really

 

 

 

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Ok bring it on....

 

 

 

 

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Running out of options

 

Next opponent on the rank was one of the sub-adults (a cousin as all of the cubs were the offspring of four sisters). Apologies for the quality of some of the shots - a combination of rapidly fading light, fair amounts of unwanted vegetation and sudden movements mean that not all are as sharp as I would want. I did however very much enjoy the interaction we were witnessing.

 

 

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Hey shorty - my turn.

 

 

 

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Really think you'r tough enough?

 

 

 

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C'mon then

 

 

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Ooops I'm in trouble..

 

 

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Time for a restorative snooze

 

 

 

Regular readers may wonder why the neat and clean lions we saw yesterday are now almost black with mud.

 

We were wondering the same thing when the cubs sat up and were clearly looking at something in the gully below them.

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They then disappeared into the gully.

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We moved forwards to try and find out what they were up to......

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Enjoying the trip report and the superb photos....thanks for sharing.

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Ladies that lunch (3)

 

Ok some poetic licence needed here.

 

Firstly although no adult males were present I'm sure some of the assembled cubs must have been male, secondly it was now sometime after 6pm so lunch was dragging on a bit.

 

I will also need to apologise for the quality of these photos. It was very nearly dark, raining and most of the action was at the bottom of a deep gulley. Other than that it was easy. All of these photos were taken at ISO 8000 and I haven't done much in the way of noise reduction.

 

As we moved the car forwards to see where the cubs had gone none of us (including Jackson and Christpher) quite expected to see this.

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The adults had clearly killed a zebra very recently and this was lying in the stream bed - any of lions going down there quickly became very muddy.

 

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One of the adults had returned and was followed by the rest of the pride

 

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The youngest cubs were clearly a little unsure of what to do with the zebra.

 

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When they did try and feed it appeareed as though they were struggling with the thick skin, one of the adults was keeping a close watch on procedings.

 

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One of the cubs got distracted

 

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It clambered up and went to find one of the adults for some company

 

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Some comfort was duly given (and maybe the first futile attempt at cleaning)

 

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Meanwhile in the stream there was a lot of clambering around

 

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In an effort to make it easier for the cubs one of the adults tried to move the zebra around - her strength was impressive to watch

 

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This allowed the cubs access to easier feeding

 

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It was all too much for one youngster

 

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As it was all but dark we headed back to the camp having sacrificed our sundowners willingly for this half hour. As we arrived back the rain started in earnest and poured heavily for several hours.

It had been a great day but we still had one of the best days to come.

Edited by pomkiwi
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Seniortraveller

@@pomkiwi, it was such a pleasure to meet up with you at the Nairobi Tented Camp. Who would have believed that a three night stay could have produced so many wonderful sightings. I am really enjoying both the narrative and the photographs in your trip report, the topi at sunrise is incredible.

I agree with your earlier comments about the service provided by Gamewatchers. From the moment I arrived until I left, everything was organised for me.

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One of the best days

 

After the diversions of playful lions this report will now return to more serious sightings(mainly) and some better quality images....

 

The rain stopped in the middle of the night which made it less slippery than the previous morning. Jackson and Christopher started the day searching for something to position in front of a sunrise but ran into two problems - firstly it was still cloudy and slightly misty and secondly the favoured giraffe was not keen on wandering along a ridge line.

 

So we made do with an acacia.

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As well as couple of atmospheric giraffe images.

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A pair of female lions were making their way resolutely across the plain. Jackson explained that they were not part of the pride we had seen the previous days.

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They did not seem to be planning to hunt and did not appear to be likely to stop anytime soon so we left them to it.

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A hyena was cleaning up.

 

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We then saw large numbers of hyena converging on a single area but it was not at all clear why. Although we counted around 30 individuals in total we could not see any evidence of a kill that might be attracting them.

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Just getting caught up with your report. You had such excellent sightings!!

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@@pault I'm afraid that we never found out where they were heading or what they did as we got somewhat distracted by other events. There will be a significant hyena episode but not for another 24 hours (safari time). This probably means several days in report writing time......

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Stalking

 

We went down to the edge of the river which was quite heavily wooded. We were hoping to find evidence of a leopard as apparently this was a common area for them to stash kills in the trees. We didn't however expect to see this:

 

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A young but large male leopard was sitting out in the open and looking intently at a group of gazelles. The group were around 300m away. The leopard began stalking

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We kept a distance away to avoid interfering and stayed more or less alongside the leopard rather than drifting in front between it and its prey. These shots are taken at 400mm using a crop sensor and some additional cropping for the close up views.

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It was fascinating to watch the predator creeping across the grass as it got lower and lower

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The focus was unwavering

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Eventually however the gazelles noticed the threat and moved away. This provided the opportunity for some portrait photography.

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We had enjoyed nearly 20 minutes alone with the leopard but two other vehicles arrived (nothing to do with Porini). They were disappointingly noisy and as the leopard started to move again the newcomers moved quite assertively to get in front of the cat. At this point we were uncomfortable with the interference and moved off.

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Great sequence of the stalking Leopard!

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Uhhh, it must have been a very special experience, sharing the intensity of a leopard stalking! Your photos have captured this intensity, @@pomkiwi !

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"Opposite us was a car with some very serious cameras on board. There was some fairly aggressive shouting and we were waved away as 'they want to shoot with wide angle cameras'. Slightly to my surprise we did move but I had to smile a little when another vehicle moved into our space 20 seconds later...."

Karma always shows up, doesn't it?

 

I can smell the rain in post 47. Love it!

 

The lion cub sequence is adorable... especially when he's bested by the sub-adult.

 

The leopard looks quite miffed about having to shift to portrait mode. ;)

Edited by AmyT
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@@michael-ibk Thank-you - the leopard made it very easy for us.

 

@@xelas Thank-you as well, this 20 minutes ranks as one of the most enjoyable periods I have had on safari so far: the light was amazing, it was completely silent and we were totally absorbed by the methodical approach of the leopard. So much happened later in the day that the memories of this morning encounter were a bit overwhelmed - one of the reasons it is so good to revisit through composing a trip report!

 

@@AmyT I think he was still reasonably full from a previous meal judging by his fairly full belly. It was interesting that he chose to cross 300mm of open ground in full sunlight rather than working is way around the bushes that were available for cover.

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Love the stories and the photos. The lion cubs are adorable, but the leopard stalking sequence is truly amazing. You captured it well, you can feel the tension and the focus.

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To the Mara River

 

After we left the leopard we were asked if we fancied breakfast by the Mara river. This seemed like a good idea and we headed off.

 

It was a little further than I had imagined and I guess we took about 30 minutes driving there. Although we made steady pace we did allow ourselves to be distracted by a posing topi

 

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This tawny eagle appeared to be in the process of breakfasting on a dragonfly.

 

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There were also a large group of eland with some fairly young members.

 

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We stopped on a raised bank above the river. As we arrived we saw a large crocodile on the bank opposite us but by the time we had stopped it had gone (if you are a particular crocodile fan no worries as they will play a part in a little while)

 

We did however enjoy some nice hippo sightings while we ate.

 

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This view gives a graphic illustration of why the hippo can be so dangerous.

 

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The weavers were busy.

 

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As we finished up we became aware of wildebeest arriving opposite us. We were a bit excited that we might witness a crossing there and then but Jackson gently told us that they wouldn't be coming over while we were wandering around.

 

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We decided that we would head off to gain an audience with some cheetahs but on seeing how many zebra and wildebeest were gathering it was an easy decision to come back again after our visit.

 

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offshorebirder

Just catching up with this report - fantastic stuff @@pomkiwi! You were so fortunate with that Leopard - wow.

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A 'royal' audience and cubs at play

 

As we drove towards breakfast some radio chat informed jackson that Malaika and her two cubs were close by. Since a number of other vehicles were off to see we elected to have breakfast first and then head off. It was a fairly wet and slippery drive over and we sighted three cheetahs under a clump of trees.

 

We were told that Malaika is known as 'the Queen of the Mara' and she certainly gave us a fairly cursory and dismissive glance.

 

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The cubs were just finishing a game of chase.

 

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One decided to have a rest while the other decided that tree climbing was too good to leave to leopards

 

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Initially all seemed to go quite well

 

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However keeping a grip started to get a bit tricky

 

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At one point it looked as though the cub was hanging on by its teeth

 

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Eventually it got down safely and decided it was time to join in with the family rest time

 

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Overall the take home message from the morning so far is that stalking in open ground is the province of cheetahs and climbing the preserve of leopards - neither skill seemed particularly transferable.

 

Time to get back to the river.

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All caught up now @@pomkiwi and you have had tremendous cat sightings, now lets see that crossing I've been waiting for.

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The players assemble

 

When we got back to the river there were around 15 vehicles lined up in various locations including a couple on the far side. However in contrast to the previous day around the leopard everyone was very relaxed and well mannered - in particular great care was taken to avoid possible obstruction of any exit point from the river. At various times the animals appeared to on the verge of crossing at various points and even then the vehicles were moved in a measured fashion. I was extremely impressed by Jackson's ability to positon us in the best spots whatever seemed to be about to happen - at one point I asked if he was given priority as a super or senior guide :) He smiled and I think it was actually a reflection of his great experience but once more I felt very fortunate.

 

So the numbers of widebeest and zebra on the other bank was increasing steadily.

 

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At one point they appeared to be about to cross opposite where we had breakfast.

 

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But changed their minds.

 

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The activity had not gone unnoticed

 

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As the animals moved up and down the bank the crocodiles would move lazily along underneath them

 

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To complete the cast of those involved there were 3 lions up in the rocks on a hill overlooking the site

 

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The sharp eyed among you will note that only two lions appear in the photo above, this is about to become significant.

 

 

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The impatient lion

 

I guess we spent about an hour watching the stage being set. @@PHALANX wrote about a crossing sometime ago and commented that it seemed unfair that some people arrived at the last minute to witness events but I was fascinated watching how the various animals moved and the anticipation that came from being certain something was about to happen but being uncertain exactly where or when.

 

Eventually a small group of zebra moved down to a flat section of bank leading to a wide but shallow section of river.

The lead moved into the water slowly.

 

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Two others followed

 

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They moved steadily into the river

 

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A larger mixed group came down and it looked as though we were in for a smooth and steady crossing

 

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Then the leaders started to run

 

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The exit looked quite panicked but we could't see why and we were sure there were no crocodiles close by

 

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A few seconds later one of the lead group was running back the way it had come

 

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There was more than a little urgency

 

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As the zebra reached the other bank the reason for the disturbance became clear

 

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One of the three lions had come down and hidden in the rocks close to the river. She had either shown herself or been noticed too early - a minute or so later there would have been a lot of animals coming across but as it was she was left looking frustrated and five zebra were isolated from the rest of the herd.

Edited by pomkiwi
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And it begins....

 

Before the zebras crossed it had been a warm and almost silent morning. The herds on the other side of the river were remarkably quiet and in general the air was one of quiet anticipation. All of his changed once the advance guard realised they were on their own. They started to bray and bark at high volume and continued for the next hour and indeed until their fellows had eventually joined them. Those on the other side responded intemittently and although I am not one to anthropomorphise animal behaviour it was not difficult to feel that these zebra were indicating emotional distress. The overall effect was a little distressing for us observing but also seemed to provoke a lot of activity with the zebras on both sides moving up and down the banks quite urgently.

 

Although difficult to capture due to the amount of bushes there was a steady flow of animals joining the group at the river and there were frquent episodes of rushing to potential crossing points only for them to suddenly turn and retreat.

 

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Eventually it was the wildebeest that lead off and it was intitially quite an anti-climax with a few crossing sedately.

 

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It didn't take long however for a sense of urgency to intervene with some animals leaping over the top of others.

 

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It became apparent however that although the crossing point selected had an easy entry point the exit was narrow and rocky leading to a lot of crowding. The large pods of hippo were gradually drifting out of the way.

 

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Wow! Spectacular sequence with the zebras crossing! I felt like I was there.

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