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Kenya - Dreams Realized


MMMim

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As I was musing about the number of bleached bones littering the landscape, the majority being wildebeest, leaving me no doubt that they are the lion’s food of choice in the Mara (there are an estimated 2 million wildebeest in the reserve, travelling between the Maasai Mara and Serengeti), David spotted a lioness and her 2 sub-adult (again maybe 2 years old) male cubs lounging in the shade of a bush along a stream. 

 

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We stopped for pictures (again, so very close to us!), when the lioness spotted something and got up with purpose, and murder in her eyes.  There were some wildebeest and zebra grazing not far away.  She dropped down into the stream-bed and disappeared. 

 

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David and George knew exactly what she was about, so moved the jeep forward a bit and waited.  We were quickly joined by 2 mini-vans, one of which almost ruined everything by zooming past us, luckily David managed to wave them back.  We waited for approximately 15 minutes, noting that one of the cubs was creeping along the bank of the stream, between the bushes.

 

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Then all hell broke loose, there was a lot of dust, and wildebeest and zebra running everywhere, as I guess the lioness exploded out of the bushes into the midst of the grazing herd.  I couldn’t see anything and just kept pressing the shutter button on my camera, hoping to capture something (needless to say, some of the pictures are blurry). 

 

You can just make out the lioness behind the bushes

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breaking from the bushes into the open

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Meanwhile, George had hit the accelerator, hard, in order to get us there for further action.  We hung on tight.  The lioness had caught a wildebeest right in the middle of the road.  There was a furious struggle.  Obviously, the poor wildebeest was fighting for its life, and at one point, it appeared that it might very well have escaped, and then the lioness adjusted her grip on it. 

 

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Just then, one of the cubs arrived to help, jumping on the haunches of the wildebeest (although it looks like he’s just lounging on the haunches, the weight must have been enough to push it down), while the lioness grabbed it by the nose and suffocated it.

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The other cub then joined them, but didn't really provide any assistance.  He really didn't look like he knew what was expected of him; he was just there for the meal. 

 

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While the lioness was still hanging onto the wildebeest's nose, one of the cubs came over and rubbed up against her face, just like he was saying, "thanks for dinner mom".

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From lying under the bushes resting, to eating, the entire hunt and kill had taken the lions maybe 30 minutes to execute.  Once the cubs were eating (and I'm pretty sure they were eating before the wildebeest was completely dead), the lioness retired to the shade of a small bush to recover; she was exhausted.

 

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All throughout the struggle I found myself crying, not because I was sad for the wildebeest (lions have to eat too), or because I watched an animal die (I have seen a lot of animals die), but because this was so intense.  I’ve watched this scene unfold on nature documentaries all my life, but wow, they just don’t, and couldn’t possibly, capture the rawness of the moment.  We were so very lucky to get to experience this!

 

We were pretty sure that experience couldn’t be topped, so it was time to head for camp.  One of the last questions I asked David and George that day was why they wore very bright shukas on game drives, when tourists were always told to wear ‘bush-like’ colors so as not to scare away the animals.  I said that my favorite color was bright pink, just like David’s shuka, but I had followed the rules and worn dull green.  They just laughed, and we continued on in silence, watching the landscapes change, as rain fell across the hills, and the sun began to go down.  The lighting was dramatic and beautiful.

 

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When we reached the conservancy, we came across Nebahati and her cubs at their impala kill.  Nebahati and one of her cubs were still eating, but the other 3 were stuffed like ticks, and were reclining, their faces still uncleaned.  I’ve never seen tummies so round. 

 

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Back at camp, we had an early shower to wash off the dust, and then sat with John and Gwendolyn at the fire enjoying our sundowner; everyone else was still out on the evening game drive.  We shared with them the events of the day and how exciting the lioness hunt/kill had been.  All of a sudden, all the monkeys and bush babies around the camp set up a terrible noise.  We should have twigged, but the Maasai told us that the monkeys and bush babies were making distress and warning calls, as there was a leopard in the camp (in the river along the camp).  No wonder we need night guards and escorts (not to mention Simon and Susan, the resident camp hippos).

 

The noise eventually settled down as the others returned from the evening game drive, and we went for dinner.  After dinner, we retired to the fire for one last drink and said our goodbyes to the English Ladies, as they were off very early the next day for their balloon trip over the Mara.  Our last night, so sad.

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2019 October 12 (Saturday)

The next morning, we went on our last game drive with David and George; we had the vehicle to ourselves.  We drove along the river for sometime trying to find the leopard that had been prowling around the camp the night before.   Unfortunately, there was no sign of it.  We were lucky to find 3 lioness sisters, part of the big pride that we had been observing in bits and pieces over the last few days. 

 

African grey woodpeckers

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Coqui francolin

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Our next stop was with the cheetah brother coalition, 2 of Nebahati’s cubs from a year or two ago.  The females are solitary, but male cheetahs form groups called coalitions.  These 2 boys had brought down a young wildebeest in the early morning hours, and were just finishing off their breakfast when we arrived.  Their stomachs were just bulging! 

 

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The boys were definitely being watched, not just by us, by so many vultures, 4 jackals lurking around, and 8 hyenas that hadn’t quite organized themselves enough to provide sufficient threat to the cheetahs. The jackals, for their size, were fearless, dashing in for mouthfuls of nasty bits and to chase off encroaching vultures; the vultures crept ever closer. 

 

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One brother gave up and wandered off, and everyone inched in a bit further.  Eventually the other brother finished up, leaving the carcass with a good deal of meat left on it.  The jackals rushed in for their share, and when they had taken what they wanted, and moved off, all of the vultures descended.  It was quite a spectacle; a heaving mass of squabbling, squawking feathers.  In just a few minutes, a jackal rushed in and scared them off, and we saw that there was nothing left but bloody bones; even the hide was gone.  We were told that after we left, the hyenas moved in to finish off the bones.

 

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We returned to camp for breakfast and to finish our packing.  At 1000 hrs, David and George took us to the airstrip for our 1115 hrs flight back to Nairobi.  They said that the flights could leave early, so it was better to arrive early, just in case.  We said our goodbyes to George and David.  Well, as 1115 hrs came and went, we were told the flights were running late, and our flight might be there at 1200 or 1300 hrs, or whenever they got there.  The plane eventually showed up 1.5 hours late, and we said our final farewell to David.  

 

As we took off, I was crying (a bit).  I had such a wonderful time here.  We flew directly to Wilson, no milk-run, arriving only a bit later than originally scheduled.  We were taken to the Eka Hotel to our dayroom, where we had lunch, re-packed, had a shower, and slept for 3 hours, before being picked up by Sammy and taken to the airport at 0830 hrs. Pretty typical airport proceedings, security screening of baggage into airport, check in, etc., etc. The flight left Nairobi just before midnight, and was pretty much unremarkable, apart from the fact that I actually slept on the way to Amsterdam.

 

2019 October 13 (Sunday)

We arrived at Schiphol at just after 0700 hrs, and were able to navigate the huge airport to the departure area where we were booked into a YotelAir cabin for 4.5 hours of our 7-hour layover.  The little cabin was great, soundproofed, a shower/bathroom, and a bed.  We collapsed into bed for a few hours, and then showered before catching our flight back to Edmonton.  We arrived back in Edmonton at 1600 hrs, exhausted, but happy. 

 

Our whole trip was amazing.  I am not sure we will return to SA and Uganda (so much to see, so much to do in this world), but Kenya on the other hand…I knew after our first day in Amboseli that there was no doubt I would be back.  Besides, I saw all of the big 5, except the rhino, so I have to go back!  Now I am counting down the days to our return to Kenya…2022.

 

Question: Is February a good month in the Mara?  We thought we might go after the short rains and see it when it was green.

 

Thanks for following along.

Cheers

Heather

 

 

 

Edited by MMMim
Corrected some bird ids
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@MMMim thanks, Heather, for your wonderful report. You had a lot of amazing sightings. Very good PR for the Mara conservancies. Actually, I am planning to go in Februari, after reading a number of TRs about that month. 

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wilddog

@MMMim lovely report and your joy at what you have seen shines through.

 

Although I normally go to more remote areas I have to say I loved Porini too. hey do it all so well and the sightings can be amazing. Good luck with planning your return.

 

Given the unpredictability of weather patterns these days, answering your question will be tricky.

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Zim Girl

Really enjoyable report.   The lion/wildebeest kill sequence of photos was excellent.

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@Biko Thank you and enjoy your trip!

 

@wilddog Thank you.  Yes I figured I'd throw that question out there realizing that weather patterns have changed so much.  The couple from Dundee highly recommended February, but David (our guide) sent lots of pictures and video from a rainy, cold February this year (although the conservancy was hardly recognizable it was so green).  Getting into Porini Mara was quite a challenge too, as the little river you have to cross was very swollen. You just never know I suppose.

 

@Zim Girl Thank you!  We couldn't believe our luck watching the lioness hunt.  Something I'll never forget.

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Zubbie15

Thanks for sharing @MMMim, you really had a great trip. And a lion kill, very nice - we still haven't seen one in the safaris.

 

Like you, we're a big fan of the Yotel at Schiphol. I wish more airports had that, it's really great for catching a bit of sleep. 

 

I'm also considering Kenya for February 2022, maybe it paths will cross. 

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@Zubbie15 Yes, the lion kill was one of our high points. Even our guides were thrilled, as they said it is something they don't get to see that often, and they are out there all the time.

 

I had never heard of the yotels, and was just looking for a lounge we could pay to enter and I stumbled across them.  Really awesome.  We were still pretty tired when we got home, but it made the last leg of our travels somewhat bearable.

 

It would be great if our paths crossed in 2022.  I'm not as adventurous as some on the forum with out of the way safari destinations, so I'm pretty sure we'll be back with Gamewatchers, just some of their different camps (to see rhino) and an add-on in Tanzania.

Cheers

Heather

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  • 2 weeks later...
Atravelynn

Is Kili-envy a thing?  Great shots of the mountain. You managed wildlife in front!  What a very exposed Lesser Kudu.  Speaking of exposed, the loo setup seems very communal and friendly.

 

Nice going with the spitting cobra and the warthog-impala standoff.  Two African Hoopoes, my fav bird x 2.  Oct 11 was very prolific for cats and everything!

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