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Cruel paradise and its spotted angels (8 days in Masai Mara)


bettel
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Another outstanding trip is over. I know I say it each time, but it was the best safari ever. It was just packed with big cats and action.  I was in Porini Lion for the whole stay (8 nights)

 

To name a few highlights of these 8 days: we saw 10 successful kills, one outstanding attempt of 5 male cheetahs to bring an adult wildebeest down, 14 different cheetahs (Malaika and her two boys, Musiara, Imani, two Imani's daughters, 5 Musketeers, Mjala and her cub), 4 leopards (Fig and her 5 month old cub, Lorian and her adult daughter Luluka), close to 150 lions that belong to different groups (Moniko pride and its males Olerai and Ole Kiti, Eseketa pride, its new males and Eseketa pride split, Oldikidiki pride, Enkoyanai pride, Ololparpit and Olbarnoti males, Blacky and Lipstick males, Ridge pride, Dann's pride, Marsh pride, nomad coalition of 5 young males, nomad coalition of 3 gold mane males, etc), multiple unsuccessful hunts/chases including the one, that was done by the laziest male lion ever :), new born or couple day old calves (Tommies, topis, giraffe, etc), 3-4 week old lion cubs and much more. 

 

I loved November. So far for me this is the best time of the year in Mara.

 

I would want to add here a few words about my guide Meshack: he was just the best! I mean he worked extremely hard to know location of each cheetah group we were interested in on daily basis as well as to know what each of those group did in last 12-24 hours so that we can make the right choice for each day. We spend with cats from 6 am to 7:30 pm. No break no matter what. We were even having lunch on our knees as cheetahs were not always cooperative :). And Meshack was always enthusiastic, dedicated, hard working and patient (lol even when we crossed Talek river 4 times during the day, trying to understand what sighting was more promising).

 

Well, I should say the whole Porini team was outstanding. Starting from Julie that was extremely helpful and responsive (as usually) and ending with all drivers, camp workers, chef, Patrick (the camp manager) and everybody else who were making sure that our back is covered.

 

While I am loading all photos, here are a few warnings:

- this report is heavily loaded with cheetah photos (like 70%). Pretty much I shot animals other than cheetahs and leopards only on our way to them or while we were waiting for things to happen

- photos were taken with a lot enthusiasm but it did not help their quality :)  

- report will be quite graphical so the viewer discretion is advised

- my spelling can be horrible so I apologize one time for the whole report :)

 

While I am loading my photos here are couple taken by Meshack, they show the time between actions :)

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Day 1

 

Till the last moment I was not sure if I am going to make it to Kenya (because of all this political circus around election). Never in my life I was watching news so attentively. But thanks God, Canadian travel adviser did not change Kenya status and I was happy to board a plane.

 

I stayed at Weston for the night and had a 5 minute drive in the morning to Wilson. My luggage was quite higher than 15 kilograms allowed (it was 20 :)), but they were very nice not to charge me anything. Well, my suggestion is to have a weight limitation not for the luggage but for the traveler and luggage together :).

 

We tried to find Fig (female leopard in Olare) but she was not home. We found only some very sleepy lions from Eseketa split (I saw very many different spellings for some of prides like Iseketa, Eseketa, Seketa, etc) so I am not sure which one is the correct one)

 

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We also saw a bee-eater (the disclaimer: my ornithology knowledge is very close to being negative, my best achievement is to be able to name at least common name for some of birds… well, for very few birds)

 

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There was a very pretty welcoming towel composition in my tent:

 

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After lunch off we go (ready for the safari):

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I have a soft spot for zebras as they are little cute horses:

 

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More lions:

 

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We started with Malaika, but the family had no intent to move:

 

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We went to check Imani’s girls (they were kicked out by Imani 3-4 months ago), zebras on our way there:

 

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Reedbuck:

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Edited by bettel
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Day 1 Continuation:
 
Girls were in hunting mode:
 
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They made a pretty decent chase attempt but failed:
 
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And then Meshack noticed that there was a new born tommy. Cheetah almost ran over it. And not only this, but they walked maybe in 50 meters when they chose a new direction for movement. It is unbelievable how small things can completely change somebody's life. This is one pretty lucky baby:
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End of Day 1:
 
After spending some time with young cheetahs we went back to Malaika. On our way there we saw a freshly born topi:
 
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and a male lion that was very professional in ignoring everything around him: 
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Crowned plover:
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Malaika was hunting but pretty unsuccessfully as one of her boys was very impatient, so we were waiting and watching playing zebras:
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On our way back to camp:
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Great start. 10 kills in 8 days?  Wow!  Glad the little tommy made it unscathed, I must say. 

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8 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

10 kills in 8 days?

Yes, i think it is partially due to the number of very young calves around. They are easy but small prey so cats have to hunt often.

8 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Glad the little tommy made it unscathed, I must say. 

I was extremely glad too. 

 

Day 2
 
My biggest dream for the trip was to spend as much time as possible with cheetah Musketeers (the male coalition of five). They are a very special case as they belong to 3 different litters (I also heard version that it was two different litters). I had been watching updates on them for the last 7-9 months and wanted to see them badly. Thus in the morning we went to Talek gate area but there were a lot of distractions on our way. 
 
First we bumped into Oldikidiki pride. This is the resident pride of the Porini Lion camp. And they have little bit hard time now. They lost their males (Romeo and Mohican) some time ago (one was killed, one ran away). They were "adopted" by males from another pride (Olbarnoti and Ololparpit). But these males don't stay with the pride a lot. They come and go. The issue is there is a split from another pride nearby (Eseketa pride split) and they have couple 2.5-3 year old males with them. When Olbarnoti and Ololparpit are with pride they can protect cubs, but when they are with their other pride, lionesses had to be very cautious not to allow Eseketa split males to kill their cubs.
 
 
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Then we met topis that were fighting:
 
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The next meet was Lipstick (or was it Blacky?). One of the Ridge pride males:
 
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More of Day 2
 
As soon as we left this sleepy male lion we bumped into a very cute scene. Mother giraffe was trying to make her very young calf  walking with her. And the calf refused. 
 
The mother was coming and comforting her kid and then she was walking a few steps away and was waiting. The kid was stubbornly staying where he was. 
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Mother would repeat the whole process again.
 
Common, kid, let's go! 
 
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The kid did not move :)
 
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I think it took 5-6 attempts for the little calf to start walking with his mom. 
 
And then we stopped at one of the Ridge pride lionesses den:
 
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That giraffe is very young, it looks like in the last shot you can still see an umbilicus.  Poor thing, but you gotta move or become lunch!

 

Interesting topis fighting, I'd not seen that.

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1 hour ago, amybatt said:

That giraffe is very young, it looks like in the last shot you can still see an umbilicus.

Yes, it is just day or two old. I know it is not professional language, but it was one of the cutest sightings :)

 

Day 2 and we are still on the way to cheetahs :) :)

The next stop was Dann's pride.

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This lioness wanted to be alone, she changed her position couple times to avoid everybody, but every time she was joined by her pridemates, she was not happy :)

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Cubs had been fed well

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Elephants nearby
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.... and then we got stuck :)

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But we were lucky as there were other Porini cars right there so we were out in 5 minutes :)

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Day 2 in progress :):)

By 9-10 am we got to Musketeers, they were sleeping in bushes: 

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I was like a rock star fan that could see his idols :). They are so beautiful beasts. 


And then we stopped for breakfast as it seemed to be quiet time and nobody was willing to move:
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Day 2 nope, it is not the end of it

After breakfast Meshack suggested to go and check what single cheetah was found nearby. It was a heavily pregnant Musiara. She probable has given birth by now:

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Musiara was lazily enjoying sunbath and everybody else left as things seemed to be very slow.... and suddenly her body language changed completely.

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We looked around and there was a Thompson baby that stood up. It was alone, no other tommies nearby so it might got asleep and then a herd moved. Musiara did not think long we just left the scene not be on the way and she went for it (I was surprised as the distance was quite big, but Musiara probably knew that the baby would be able to overrun her anyway):

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Got it:

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Still Day 2

After killing the calf, Musiara looked around as there was another carcass with hyenas and other scavengers not far away:

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Then the jackal arrived. I was afraid that it would start to bark and it would bring hyenas attention, but the jackal was very polite and quiet. He lied down and was patiently waiting for his turn: 

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Well, when the carcass was almost done, the jackal decided to remind Musiara that he wanted his share. S/he almost bit her tail:

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But some common sense was still there, so he never went for it and waited for Musiara to leave.
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Wonderful trip report so far @bettel.    No problem with all the Cheetah photos - more please!

 

The photo sequence of the newborn Giraffe and its mother is very endearing.

 

I especially like the photo of the Crowned Plover guarding its nest. 

 

Looking forward to following along with the rest of this report!

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51 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

No problem with all the Cheetah photos - more please!

Lol, you will regret these words :)

52 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

Looking forward to following along with the rest of this report!

Thank you for reading it!

 

Day 2 (I guess by now you realized that I was not joking about the number of photos)

We went back to Musketeers and it was good timing as they started to wake up. It looked like that it was always the same guy that was deciding where to go and everybody followed him. It also looked like that he was the most hardly working "horse" as he was doing pretty much all first long chases and everybody else just tried to help him. But maybe it was the coincidence. 

It was interesting to see the completely different technique of hunting (comparing to female cheetahs). Female cheetahs try not to show there presence as long as possible and boys were hunting like wolves :). They separated from each other and were trying to direct herds towards each other like sheepherd dogs and they start to chase from far, really far. 

While the leader was deciding what to do, others were bullying each other. The collared cheetah was especially busy with this task. He was giving hard time to two smallest cheetahs all the time. But sometimes one of other boys were bullying the collared one:

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Boys did one very close attempt very quickly (actually way too quickly as I was not ready for it completely). They chased wildebeests and the leader got close to one, but when he jumped he lost balance and fell. After the hunt cheetahs decided to rest little bit and we went quickly to check on lions nearby:

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Is it only me, but when I make an eye contact with a lion I always want to be a chameleon:

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We returned to boys and then this happened. One of them slept deeply and others left (and when boys are on move, they trot and gallop around, not just walking quietly). Everybody disappeared so when this cheetah came out of bushes he could not see any of them. It was heartbreaking, you could see that he was in stress and he was constantly calling and was trotting around trying to understand where everybody went:

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I felt so useless, I wish I could tell him "Go that way!". But after some quite unpleasant minutes (I was almost crying), boys called him back, so he happily galloped towards them. Well, they gave him pretty tough meeting:

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That was their style of moving around. From time to time the leader just sat and watched others with quite unhappy face expression or he called them actively to move forward, and they were ignoring him (that was introduction to the project management :) ) 

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And we thought we saw lots when we stayed at Porini Lion @bettel!!  That was 7 years ago (almost to the day) and it's great to see that it still delivers. Roll on days 3 to 8 :)

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Wow, Wow, Wow, I am green with envy the Cheetah is my 11 year old son dream animal. We go on our second Safari in September next year, mobile tented to Botswana and Zimbabwe, we are hopeful but not confident to see them either in Moremi or Hwange.

I look forward to the rest.

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Fabulous cheetah sightings, @bettel!  How interesting and very very unique to watch the interaction of this unusual group.  Animal behavior fascinates me, so to see how they get along would be very interesting.

Quote


Is it only me, but when I make an eye contact with a lion I always want to be a chameleon

 

It's the only time I feel like any living being can see my soul.  Seriously!

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1 hour ago, AfricIan said:

and it's great to see that it still delivers

I think Mara always delivers. it is one of the most amazing places. I was always thinking that no way I would return to the same place again and again (life is too short to repeat), but now I just can't imagine any other place to go :)

 

32 minutes ago, Ratdcoops said:

we are hopeful but not confident to see them either in Moremi or Hwange.

I will be keeping my fingers crossed for you to see them. They are my favorite cats.

 

21 minutes ago, amybatt said:

to see how they get along would be very interesting.

I am curious how the coalition will be going forward. There are a lot of opinions on this coalition in Mara. Some people think that boys will split soon, some people think that as they have been together for almost a year, they will stay together.  I really hope that they will stay! It is amazing to watch them.

 

21 minutes ago, amybatt said:

It's the only time I feel like any living being can see my soul.  Seriously!

I know what you mean. I am ready to confess everything that I did and everything that I didn't when a lion watches me :)

Edited by bettel
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Almost end of the second day :)

In the afternoon cheetahs continued to make some hunting attempts and they continued to bully each other:

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That was just a nice flower so I asked Meshack to stop 


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Marking the territory
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Well, cheetah on a tree can be easily compared to a dog on a fence :)
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But I bet, he is still proud of himself:
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Finally the end of day 2 :)

 

At least cheetahs jump better than they climb: 
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And this photo illustrates how close cheetahs can be to Thompson calves that are hiding (at the bottom of the photo)

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The rest of photos are very low quality because it was already dark.  Cheetahs made another attempt to catch a wildebeest but they flushed a Thompson calf. There was no happy ending for the antelope. It was able to over run the first cheetah but then the second one joined the chase and completed it:

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Obviously it was just a snack for the group this size so some of them were more pushy in getting their share:
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Wildebeests lost attention and got pretty close, so one of boys decided to try his luck (but unsuccessfully)

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Day 3.

We started it with Oldikidiki pride that was almost done with a wildebeest carcass. I love to watch feeding lions as they always do it with great passion :), i believe this is what they were born for :):

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But we could not stay long as we wanted to get to Musketeers as soon as possible. These guys are way too good hunters to stay hungry for a long time.

We stopped for bat eared foxes, I could not miss this one :)
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I made a photo of yellow billed stork (?) while we were crossing a river:
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Contrary to our expectations, boys were sleeping without any intention to move. We parked away from them (not to disturb) and were waiting for them to be ready. I saw two kills, while we were waiting for cheetahs, I swear, I am not lying: :)

One :)
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And two
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But I did not add these kills to the list due to their size.

The other entertainment was to watch a weaver building its nest. He was very very thoughtful choosing right grass and leaves:
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We sat with boys for a few hours and they were completely lethargic so we decided to quickly check for Amani's daughters and Malaika with boys (they were very close to each other). We could see both groups at the same time as they were on two sides of a road:

Amani's girls:
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And here, a very very attentive reader with extremely good vision will be able to see yellowish dots, that represent Malaika and boys hiding behind impalas:
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We did not spend that much time with either group as our target was still male coalition and we did not want to miss the possible action. Ostrich nest on our way back:
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