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Leopards

 

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Lions

 

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L'cheetahs

 

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There is no doubt that the greater Masai Mara park has the Big Cats in abundance. Even when it pours every day. even when the rivers are roaring through the grounds and the parks are covered with verdant healthy grasses which is when prey supposedly disperses. At least, not in the conservancies of Mara North and Olare Motorogi. The conservancies are pumping. 

 

And as a mere observer, I simply am just a recorder of events. and so this is, nothing more. 

 

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We (hubby and I) were in the MNC and OMC from Jan 13-20 this year. I was in these conservancies, plus the main reserve, three years ago on a most enjoyable and memorable trip with two lovely companions @safarichick and @graceland. It was a return I looked forward to. 

While hubby confirmed his place at Serian main camp in MNC (Jan 13-17) and Kicheche Bush Camp in OMC (Jan 17-20) a month before the trip, I confirmed and paid up 10 days before the trip. 

 

We flew to Bangkok via Thai AIrways to connect to a flight to Nairobi via Kenya Airways. We landed half an hour ahead of schedule in Nairobi, and met the transfer person from Chameleon (which also belongs to the Kicheche group).

 

We went straight to Wilson Airport where we were to take the 11am Safarilink flight to Mara North's airstrip. For a green and off-peak season, the Safarilink airport terminal was full of people going to different destinations. As we boarded the plane, a friendly gentleman and his wife chatted with us, noticing the Tadoba T-shirt I was wearing and that started the brief chat with @KI-NRT who we learned were staying at Serian Ngare and moving to OMC thereafter, a similar itinerary to us. We didn't have much time to chat but we bumped into each other at almost all sightings in both conservancies and waved to each other. Sometimes you meet lovely people ,and sometimes you don't. Most of the safaris - I've been fortunate to have met friendly people, especially those with same interests and outlook on wildlife. 

 

safarilink (all taken with mobile phone)

 

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Landscapes from plane Nairobi - Mara North

 

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what looks like farmed/defragmented land close to the Masai Mara region

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At the airstrip, James K from Serian met us. On my last trip James K was responsible for making fantastic calls which resulted us being the only one - or one of two vehicles at most - at awesome sightings like the leopard cub stalking an elephant, the leopard cub at Leopard Gorge or the hunt by Malaika and her 4 cubs being trained on a baby tommie (or was it an impala?). His skills were never in question on this trip either. 

 

As we began our ride to the camp I grinned at hubby and whispered "we are in Africa". he laughed at me. 

after all my safaris, I'm still giddy like a novice. So the first sightings were of course recorded : 

 

 Thomson's Gazelles

 

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warthogs and babies - it was a baby boom - so many hoglets running away with their tails up. 

 

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a muddy warthog

 

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Topi

 

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a young topi 

 

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and then a clan of hyenas all fat and lazy after feeding on a carcass

 

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and their good friends - vulture and marabou stork

 

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as we neared Serian camp, James swerved a little into a bush and mentioned something about a spotted cat. and sure enough, there she was hiding in the thick of the bush.

 

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she darted from thicket to thicket, obviously hungry and looking for a meal. but finding some time to rest and trying to swat the pesky flies that were hounding her (real flies, she couldn't reach the pesky human flies who also hounding her).

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Edited by Kitsafari
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As I looked through my photographs, I've become enthralled by her - she is the most beautiful leopard I have ever laid eyes on.

 

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she climbed up a tree, scanned and spied a family of warthog in the distance. The wily cat darted in and out of the treeline to close the gap between her and the pigs. But as she neared it, the warthogs scattered away from the treeline. so she settled, relaxed, on a branch before melting away into the bush where we couldn't follow. So, now for some spamming of this stunning cool cat. 

 

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can you see her below? 

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what a fantastic welcome from Mara!

 

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A fantastic vwelcome indeed! A beautiful leopard, excellent photos- I look forward to the rest of your report.

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@Kitsafari as I'm sure you know I couldn't wait to see your trip report. I just love your photos of the leopard. I have some ideas for you and your gentleman husband Herman if you decide to return to Kenya.

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@TonyQ thank you for the kind words Tony!

 

The skies were grey and a slight drizzle was no barrier to us leaving the camp at 4pm. we went back searching for the female leopard as James thought she was still hungry and wanted to hunt but we couldn't find her. 

Instead, a way further along, James noticed a male lion on its own. as we moved closer we were greeted with a sorry sight: 3 miserable wet cubs huddling together for warmth and protection from the earlier rains. The babysitter - the male lion - was yawning and disinterested in everything around him.

 

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Across the plains lionesses were scattered along the treeline. 

James remarked that male lions are usually laid back and won't hunt when the lionesses are around to do the work. But to prove him wrong, across the plains, a second male  lion scooped up something and laid down with it. as we came closer - we found the male lion chomping down a snack - a baby warthog he had hunted himself. an easy and quick meal.

 

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i wondered if we should call him Lipstick DSC08722.thumb.JPG.202c5756fdae61221c734fbc6b683cee.JPG

 

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Thank you @optig

 

this is the unofficially named "Serian pride" as its hangout is close to the Serian camp. The 6 lionesses are in fact part of the Cheli & Peacock pride which has grown very large, so these lionesses sought out a place of their own and moved into this area, which had been vacated by the previous pride that crossed the Mara river into Serian's private concession and thus was called the River Pride.

In addition to the 3 small cubs, another lioness has two week-old cubs but because of their vulnerable age, all vehicles are barred from disturbing the cubs until they were ready to emerge. 

 

the clouds parted, the three older cubs shook out the rain and came out to play. we spent about an hour watching their antics. The mum arrived looking quite well fed, and the cubs settled and suckled but for a short while before continuing their play. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mother and cub gentle moments

 

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OHHHH I am so glad you are doing a report :)  And off to a great start! What a beautiful leopardess! She does remind me of Fig, because of those extra furry ear furnishings. I wonder if they might be related?

 

Love the lion cubs too, of course! 

 

More please :)

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Thanks for this TR @Kitsafari.   I am enjoying it so far and looking forward to following along.

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Green carpet of magic?  Hmmm... back to pun school with you.

And then the first post has no colour at all. Over my head, Kit.

 

Oh, I get so catty when I am green with envy.*

 

 

:D Actually it's great and looking forward to hearing more. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*No need to applaud the puns. A modest effort.

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to appease @pault - "greenish gold". 

 

 

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or darkish green - altho it turned out lighter than it was on my screens

 

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or rocky green

 

 

 

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or just greenDSC01963.thumb.JPG.25f30519d474e862b7539f435f615ef1.JPG

Edited by Kitsafari
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@Kitsafari - Just catching up with this report ...... The Mara never disappoints for sure!  Looks like another fabulous trip!

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adding a couple of pics from my hubby of the cute cubs: 

 

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The next morning, the 5.30am wake-up call came with coffee and a flask of hot water for my green tea bags, and a plate of cookies. 6am - we were out of the camp with our packed breakfast, chairs and table. 

 

I forgot to mention that this time round, James was accompanied by Peter (whom for some reason I called Daniel). Peter's in training after obtaining his bronze licence. In Kenya, Peter will need at least three years on the ground before he can apply for the silver licence. Peter was pretty quiet, and not particularly active in spotting animals, or perhaps he did but he didn't direct our attention to whatever he might have seen, or not seen.  But James was more than good enough for the two of them. 

 

The morning sky was a bit cloudy and the air slightly chilly. On the way out of the camp, a shrike was looking for its pals, while a jackal was very confiding and friendly, settling at a bush close to us. 

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On this trip, we saw a lot of black-backed jackals and they were pretty relaxed around vehicles. 

 

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we returned to where we had seen the beautiful leopard, which was fairly close to the camp, and the impalas very kindly pointed her to us: 

 

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she was hunting, or at least trying to hunt.

 

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she checked a hole but came out empty

 

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at first, it was just us, then we saw another vehicle watching her, and finally I think there were about four or maybe five vehicles at the sighting, but all keeping a respective distance.

 But I can't say the same for the hyenas that were shadowing her, hoping for a free meal.

 

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To shake off her hyena shadows, she jumped up a tree. There, we discovered, she had a stash! a white stork - a migratory bird from Europe. 

 

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all the hyenas could do was look wistfully upwards as feathers rained on them. 

 

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our initial angle was not great for photos - we couldn't see her at all. James decided to shift to the other side of the tree, and there, we had a better and clearer view of her snacking on her breakfast. we were the only vehicle to reposition for a better view. DSC09084.thumb.JPG.8ea6187e10a2118f14c8900c39b85c0b.JPGDSC09106.thumb.JPG.e7e800b554aa7f532ba7e057378756d0.JPGDSC09116.thumb.JPG.d7cbba72bc956ef29ad4e658d94ab876.JPGDSC09130.thumb.JPG.90e0cc348d9d11718847c1f3d914d514.JPGDSC09145.thumb.JPG.7cbb658523095f4737426948d9cb7486.JPG

 

 

 

 

Edited by Kitsafari
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Having thwarted the hyenas, the feline decided to take another morning stroll. But much to her chagrin, a small group of guinea fowls spotted her ...

(I digress  - so the collective noun for guinea fowls is confusion which is confusing since guinea fowls were very clear headed on what they wanted and not confused at all, but given the level of noise they emitted, they have the potential to confuse their enemy and perhaps that's where the collective noun comes from?)

...and started to harass her. the abuse hurled at at her attracted more of the fowls, all flying in all directions until she had quite a fowl entourage and quickened her pace towards the treeline. even after she vanished into the dense trees, we could still hear the tenacious birds squawking at her. All in, we spent about an hour with her. It would be the last we see of her on this trip, which was quite sad because she is just so mesmerising.

 

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While we were stalking the leopardess, I was also taking in the surrounding landscape enveloped in thick mist, making Mara North so lovely. I had always thought Mara North was more scenic than OMC, and the sceneries reaffirmed that thought. 

 

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since the leopardess had gone into hiding, we went on our merry way to see what else Mara was offering. A tailless elephant enjoying some fruit on the elephant pepper tree, a young topi with mummy close by, a warthog, a few birds, and as we drove close to the prohibited days-old cub area, a lioness was lying in the open, hoping to enjoy some sun and warmth. 

 

 

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ubiquitious rufous nape lark - they were everywhere and you hear them before you see them

 

 

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cape starling

 

 

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sooty chat

 

 

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this lioness is part of the Serian-Cheli and Peacock pride. there's an interesting dynamic to this pride; the C&P pride grew very large so some of the females split and moved into this area but they meet up with the C&P females once in a while. The males that we saw last evening were Rafiki and Karibu, who were pride males of the Marsh pride in the main reserve. Rafiki and Karibu were thought to have followed a part of the Marsh pride which had moved into the Leopard Gorge area in the MNC (which we would meet later in the trip), although sometimes they return to the reserve. The two males then moved in and took over the C&P pride late last year, thought to have fathered a litter of cubs, then killed those cubs  - which perplexed the Mara Lion project people who deduced that the two males had doubts the cubs were theirs. The latest litter of cubs we saw yesterday and these new cubs should be safe since these two males are currently ruling these prides. So much drama - if it sounds like the Game of Thrones, it probably is, of Lions.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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Awesome Leopard pics Kit - what a great start to your Mara report, I had been looking forward to read about it.

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That one leopard photo of her descending from within the tree and looking right at you is worth the trip alone.

 

I so love MNC too, I agree on the misty mornings!!

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the morning had just begun and James had heard about another Cheli & Peacock breakaway group on a kill close to Kicheche Mara camp so we slowly made our way there. Along the way, we saw a couple of lovely grey-crowned cranes, ubiquitous Egyptian geese and the usual plains game of buffaloes, topis and zebras. these plains grazers were everywhere we went. 

 

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a group of four very well fed cubs - several months old - were slowly making their way to a bank on a small stream. One by one they took the attempt to jump the stream, which probably looked large for them and too wide to attempt on a full stomach. but the braver ones didn't hesitate, finally leaving one all on its own whimpering and soft calling for help. no one came and it had no choice but to dive into it. we didn't see the adults - presumably they had all crossed and had gone into the thick bush behind us. This is the Acacia pride, according to James. 

 

 

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Here we go, says the leader. Just watch me.

 

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eazy peezy. DSC09466.thumb.JPG.0aa27b683408386582555d8c60e5d5c1.JPG

 

OK, number 2 takes the plunge....

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No. 3 says hang on, the stream is just too wide and my stomach can't carry me across.... so he turns back and no 4 steps up to the plunge, snarling at the waters to scare off any crocs that could be hiding to drag him down. 


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Edited by Kitsafari
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Seeing all those action from leopard and lions early in the morning made us hungry and it was time for breakfast. yes, only half of the morning had gone. James went about looking for a nice spot to have full boiled eggs, cereals, fruit and yoghurt. i think there was one more item but i couldn't recall what it was. 

along the way, more animals ignored us. Did I mention how crowded the Mara North Conservancy looked? 

There was a dik-dik and for some reason, MNC was full of dik-diks, and there were many in and around the Serian camp; we saw one behind our tent one afternoon and most of them were not fleeing away. 

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Elephants - oddly, although we did see elephants, there weren't the breeding groups that I had seen three years ago. these were smaller in numbers. Perhaps the rains had allowed the large groups to disperse even more. Unusually, we saw lots of elephants in the reserve when we spent a day there. 

 

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a helicopter (just about make it out in the skies) hovered above the treeline while we had breakfast. James reckoned it was the rangers. DSC09542.thumb.JPG.26d0a0f247eebef9b2a11c14acfb2f19.JPG

 

here you can see one of the rangers' houses (top of the hill) scattered around the conservancy. 

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as we finished up breakfast, we noticed vultures starting to fly above a spot at the valley below us, we packed up and checked it out. it was a carcass, and for all we know, there could have been a cat on it while we were having breakfast! the vultures and eagles started to fly in for a bite. 

 

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steppe eagle

 

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a tawny watching a lappet-faced vulture

 

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- a light/pale tawny eagle

 

 

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African white-backed vultures

 

 

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a very pale tawny eagle

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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You would think the morning's game drive was done. well not quite. This is the Mara. did I mention

that it seems crowded with game, and not people? 

we still had one more cat to see, but we were late to the party. there were I think four vehicles already, but one left when we arrived. It was a lone male cheetah which was feasting on a baby tommy. In a way, I was glad we didn't see the kill though the hunt would have been exhilirating, but it is always incredible tough to watch life being extinguished. You know that is a cycle of life, but it doesnt make it easier. The baby antelope however didn't seem to be sufficient to sate the cheetah's hunger, as he started sniffing every tuft of grass to try to flush any hiding babies out. But it seemed all the babies have fled with their mothers after he caught the first one. As usual, the tommies were high up on the hill, keeping a close eye on the lithe cat. 

 


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