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Appointment with a Leopard - Masai Mara one year on


penolva

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penolva

The following morning we headed towards the Sand River area to see if the migration were there. It was a beautiful sunrise and the photographs show how open the Mara is. Not a fan of the balloons but they do make a pretty picture. A lone buffalo made a lovely reflection in the early morning light.1X1A3809.jpg.46f621159c340c713a666801c5cb121c.jpg

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We found a golden lion in the grass with a very punk type hairdo. It took us a while to notice his brother. We had no way of knowing if they were two of the three we had followed a couple of days ago. It's not so easy to tell lions apart as it is cheetah and leopards. A yawn is always guaranteed to get a good view of the teeth.

 

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It was our first time in the Sand River area and it's very beautiful. The river was almost dry and we could see the footprints of thousands of animals that had walked through.

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As we drove on we found a very relaxed rhino our second of the trip. Last year we didn't see any.

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We drove to higher ground and could see across into Tanzania. There were hundreds of thousands of wildebeest there. Even though they had been in the Mara last year it had been difficult to appreciate the numbers when driving amongst them. This time looking from a distance we could really see them clearly. George said we would come back tomorrow as he had heard some looked as if they were coming back. On the way back to camp we found large herds of zebra which were also gathering to migrate. We also noticed that the fires were still burning.

 

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A beautiful full moon and then sunset rounded off the day perfectly. Little did we know that tomorrow would be one of the most exciting days yet on safari!IMG_4702.jpg.d34339140024bbfa524f20035ed29502.jpgIMG_4703.jpg.c1fbe57005867d52835dfb96b4b619f8.jpg

 

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You may have read my trip report from 2017 when we stayed at Brian Freeman's camp in the Masai Mara? During that trip, we spent a lot of time with a leopard called Bahati and she had two cubs, a male

Thanks for following along! A short distance away and sitting under a tree was Imani and her three beautiful cubs. They were quite young and had their 'honey badger' fur clearly visible. They fol

We planned a very early start as George was taking us to the edge of the border between the reserve and the conservancy to try to find the 'Five Musketeers', cheetah coalition, we had seen several tim

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Elephants and cheetah in the same frame! It doesn't get much better than that.

Looking forward to the upcoming excitement.

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Amylovescritters

Well now we are all waiting with bated breath for “tomorrow.” This report is totally scratching my safari countdown itch (74 days to TZ)... Thanks so very much!

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amybatt

Loving this report so far, @penolva.  I'm happy for you with your rhino sightings!!  I'm trying to figure out where your camp was, since I learned on my last safari that the rhinos in the Mara are kept in Mara Triangle where rangers can keep an eye on them.  Do you know were your game drives in that area?  (Planning for my next safari, maybe I can see rhino in the Mara?!?)

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penolva
6 hours ago, amybatt said:

Loving this report so far, @penolva.  I'm happy for you with your rhino sightings!!  I'm trying to figure out where your camp was, since I learned on my last safari that the rhinos in the Mara are kept in Mara Triangle where rangers can keep an eye on them.  Do you know were your game drives in that area?  (Planning for my next safari, maybe I can see rhino in the Mara?!?)

Hi @amybatt we didn’t go into the triangle at all. Malaika Camp is marked on google earth and is on the Mara river. If you can’t locate it I will add a screenshot. The first rhino was literally 5 minutes outside camp. It can’t be correct that they are all in the triangle as we didn’t go there. Pen

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penolva
6 hours ago, Amylovescritters said:

Well now we are all waiting with bated breath for “tomorrow.” This report is totally scratching my safari countdown itch (74 days to TZ)... Thanks so very much!

Thanks @Amylovescritters Only 74 days to TZ! Wow looking forward to hearing if you see the migration. Pen 

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penolva
8 hours ago, Marks said:

Elephants and cheetah in the same frame! It doesn't get much better than that.

Looking forward to the upcoming excitement.

@Marksit was interesting to see the elephant charge the cheetah although it was rather half hearted. ?

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Amylovescritters

I know there are black rhino sightings in the Northern area of Serengeti around the Mara River, as well. Likely a few moving about in the area...

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Amylovescritters

@penolvaI am entirely sure we will find the migration herds... We have 3 nights south in Ndutu, 3 nights at Dunia in the Central area, and 3 nights at Namiri Plains toward the east... So 9 nights in the greater ecosystem between April 4& 14th. We shall find them. And so much more, undoubtedly. Definitely looking forward to herds but so much else to see, as well, as you know ;) Hoping my 1st ST trip report won't suck. Lol

Very high bar... 

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blindbumpy

It just does not get better than having a rhino sighting.  Excellent!  Anticipating tomorrow's news!

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penolva

The next morning we got up at 5 am as George was taking us on a long drive to the Governors Camp area to see some small lion cubs.  It was cold but the light was stunning. 

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Once we got there we could see several vehicles from the various Governors Camps and Josh was also there. The first thing we saw was a beautiful lion in the grass. 

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There was a lion with two cubs and her sister/daughter acting as Aunty. Josh moved off and gave us his prime position which was very kind of him. The cubs were super cute and we were very close to them. They could not have been more than 4 or 5  weeks old?  We could hear them calling their mother and making little noises. 

 

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We noticed the mother was watching some buffalo that were passing by. We assumed she was concerned they might come to attack the cubs. 1X1A3888.jpg.684e232e002e5147a0289ee03c4dc04d.jpg

 

She must have given the cubs a sign as they both disappeared into the long grass and she began to move forward. She was going to hunt the buffalo. We knew that lion/buffalo confrontation can be very violent and we held our breath. 1X1A3889.jpg.c7c72f4ce93ec7f28375335cca76e95d.jpg

 

 

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The second lion joined her approaching from a different angle. We could not imagine the two would be able to take down a full grown buffalo especially with two others to protect it. They ran at them and the buffalo first panicked then turned round to fight back.

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They had them on the run and were catching up fast. They all ran towards a small clump of bushes.

 

The next moment a huge male lion burst from the bushes and charged at the buffalo. We said 'Where the heck did he come from?". George shouted 'Look out' as the buffaloe turned and ran at full speed away from the lions straight for us. It all happened in seconds and as they passed our vehicle I was able to get one shot. George said the buffalo had missed us by inches and if he had hit us we would have been in big trouble. Buffalo and three lions right on us. 

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Looking at the photograph you can see one lion diving into the bush. I think she was more scared than we were! That buffalo didn't stop running even when the lions gave up. George said it probably kept running for a couple of miles. The male had just missed jumping onto its back to bring it down. He stood and watched it go before returning to his clump of bushes. 

 

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The females rounded up the cubs and walked right beside our vehicle and into the bushes to spend time with their father. 

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In the bushes but no sign of the male. He must have gone back to sleep. 

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We went for breakfast and then onto the Sand River area to see the migration. We didn't know it but we would have another encounter with different lions with tiny cubs later in the day. 

 

 

Edited by penolva
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Wow, what great excitement Cubs and hunt and being close to it all within a few minutes. 

You and DH must have been thrilled. That’s what it’s all about!

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Fantastic report @penolva really enjoying it! The quality of your sightings have been superb.

Outstanding action with the lion and buffalo! We had an almost identical experience in Sabi Sands many years ago, so I can imagine the adrenalin rush this experience gave you.

Looking forward to the rest of your report!

 

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penolva

Thank you @KaliCA and @mopsy. That lion buffalo encounter was something and were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Pen

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penolva

We drove to the Sand River to see if some of the wildebeest had crossed back. They had and we took the opportunity of driving amongst them again. A highlight of last years trip and now this was sitting in the vehicle surround by them making their distinctive noise. We are thinking seriously about arranging a trip to Tanzania in a year or so to see the calving near Nudutu. 

 

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On the way back to camp for lunch we went down to the Mara river and saw some enormous crocodiles with very full bellies and then a large pod of hippo cuddling up. There is still plenty to see down by the river even though the big crossing points were empty.

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It was a lovely drive back and we found some hyena enjoying a spa day, lions on a termite mound and some giraffe 'necking'. We could hear the thump as they hit each other. It always looks quite violent.

 

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Just before camp, we saw a waterbuck pair. Little did we know but the female only had hours to live. During the evening drive it was lions all the way. 

 

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Edited by penolva
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Amylovescritters

Poor girl... but predators gotta eat!

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penolva
1 hour ago, Amylovescritters said:

Poor girl... but predators gotta eat!

@Amylovescritters it is sad but nature can be cruel and also kind. When you see the tiny cubs you will understand why the waterbuck was so important to the mother. ?

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Amylovescritters

Exactly @penolva... Feel the same every time I see a snake take a mouse/rat, a falcon take a dove, or a fox stealing eggs from the horned lark pair working so hard to incubate and hatch chicks... 

Do not feel the same way when my dogs bring me “bunny offerings” though. Lol

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penolva

After lunch and a nap, we left camp around 16.00. It was hot. George told us he wanted to check on a lion that had given birth a short while ago. He had not told anyone else about the secret place she had stashed her cubs as it was very near to camp. She had three cubs when he saw her shortly after the birth and she had another female with her acting as Aunty.

 

We very quietly and slowly approached the area he thought she might be hiding them.

 

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Would we see her cubs and were they even alive? We turned off the engine and sat there without talking. She was very aware of our presence. After a few moments, a little face peered out at us and then came out closer and sat by its mother.

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This cub was smaller than the ones this morning. Two weeks old? It was a very beautiful little cub and seemed very interested in looking at us.

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Aunty came over and the two females greeted each other. 1X1A4040.jpg.e4e1709565527ae6d108bf36c6a0952d.jpg

 As they did so a second little cub appeared from behind. George said they were hiding in a hollowed out tree root. 

 

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We waited for another ten minutes but no sign of the third cub.  George said it was unlikely it had survived when ..... but wait was that four??? It was four not three, we couldn't believe it and neither could George.

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 They started to play and explore the area.

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The mother turned and looked at us again and we decided we should leave. The last thing we wanted was to disturb them or draw attention from other vehicles to their location. George said he would leave it another week or so before he took anyone else there. It was so nice he had that attitude and we thanked him for letting us see them. One last photograph. 

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We would see the females a couple of hours later but in very different circumstances.

 

There were storm clouds gathering as we drove around looking for Bahati. No luck. George then got a call to say the lions with the cubs had made a kill.

 

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Edited by penolva
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blindbumpy

What a wonderful experience and photos.  I can only imagine how thrilling it would be to see cubs that little!  

Looking forward to what happens next.

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penolva

@blindbumpy thanks it was wonderful especially when we realised there were four! At that time of year there seem to be a lot of cubs born in the MM so hopefully, you will see some during your trip. Pen

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penolva

We arrived to find 6 other vehicles lined up opposite two lions. George told us it was the mother and Aunty of the cubs. They had just killed the female waterbuck! I have to say we were glad we missed the actual kill as she was such a lovely animal. Apparently, lions don't like waterbuck as they are very fluffy. We could see that the lions were having difficulty opening up the stomach and pulling all the grass she had eaten. 

 

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They did make some funny faces and the Aunty growled at us very loudly. George said she was a very grumpy lion and often fought with the mother.

 

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We could clearly see it was the mother when she stood up. The cubs must have been back at the hiding place under the tree as it was just a short distance away. No one else knew about them of course.

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It was growing dark and we could see rain falling towards the Mara River area. The sky was incredible and we could see ourselves in the shadow we cast on the ground. We eventually left the lions as the sun set and drove back to camp in the dark. 

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amybatt

I never ever tire of Mara sunsets (or storms for that matter!). Your last shot reminds me why!  Nicely done!

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Wow! What sightings! Cheetahs with cubs, lions with cubs, elephants chasing cheetahs, rhinos - how are you ever going to top those sightings!

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