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Big Cats of Kenya (Olare Motorogi Conservancy)


BonitaApplebum
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BonitaApplebum

Hi everyone! Covid meant it would be the longest I had gone without travelling to Africa for safari since I went on my first one nearly 15 years ago. Early this year I decided to return to Kenya, but this time to visit one of its conservancies instead of the national reserve. I was happy to support the local Maasai and see how this ownership arrangement worked, and as a photographer I was looking forward to a lower density (at least with regards to people) location with freedom to head off road. I had read great things here and elsewhere about the Olare Motorogi Conservancy and the abundance of big cats so I focused there. I then landed on Kicheche Bush Camp and booked 9 nights. I know this seems like a lot of time at one place, but it was purposeful. First, these days I don't tend to visit more than two camps/lodges on a single (approx. 2 week) trip as I like to maximize time in the parks and minimize time travelling between them. Second, I like to get settled in and more familiar with the animals as I think that leads to better photographic opportunities.

 

I really enjoyed Kicheche Bush, and being there for an extended period meant I got to really know the staff well. The tents were very spacious, with a large bed, ensuite bathroom with flush toilet, and separate shower area indoor as well. I was very impressed with how they utilized solar to provide 24/7 power as well as hot water on demand. As someone with lots of batteries to charge, it was great to have total flexibility to do it at my convenience. The camp also has very fast/strong wifi. I know many people like to switch off on safari and so this isn't meaningful to them, but I did very much appreciate being able to check in with work/family. Dedicating a bit of time each day to connect and go through emails actually allowed me to relax and focus more the rest of the time as I knew I didn't have a crazy backlog piling up for my return.

 

I'll share some of my favourites from the trip. 

 

Before dawn we came across a pack of hyena nipping at an injured buffalo. As this went on the commotion attracted the lions who took their turn. The other buffalo mounted a strong defense and repeatedly chased the lions away, until they eventually moved off. The buffalo, however, ultimately succumbed to his injuries anyways. It was quite the chaotic scene, not only watching the lions attack the buffalo but also spar with the hyena. 

 

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The hyena were numerous and very aggressive but met their match with this lion. She was quite fierce and eventually sent the hyena scattering.

 

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I spent more time with cheetah on this trip than any other cat. They aren't nearly as shy as leopard and are more active during the day than lion. As I got to know them better, I was really hopeful to see them hunt. There were two brothers I followed extensively and I watched them hunt, unsuccessfully, for days. 

 

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After three days without a meal, my guide and I started out the day looking for the brothers as we knew they'd be very hungry and likely to hunt again. We found them watching a group of topi and positioned ourselves to watch if anything would play out. It had been close to three hours when suddenly one topi stood up and unexpectedly (to us) gave birth! Suddenly there was this baby struggling to get its footing, getting to its feet and then stumbling to one side or the other. After 15 or 20 minutes it was stable enough to start nursing. We were mesmerized by this, what an incredible moment! Of course, we weren't the only ones watching. The cheetah were intently aware and you couldn't help but feel these topi, both mother and young, were not long for this world. Sure enough, another 20 or 30 minutes later, the cheetah made their move.

 

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One wrestled down the adult, while the other collected the newborn. It all happened so incredibly fast. To top it off, not 5 minutes after the deed was done did a lioness arrive and steal both kills. The brothers would have to try yet again...

 

The main attraction at this time were two leopard cubs, estimated at 3 months old, that were hidden amongst a rock outcrop in the conservancy. I made time every day to go camp out and hope for a sighting, but they were understandably very skittish. However, as my time with them went on they slowly grew more accustomed to the presence of the safari vehicle and eventually emerged into plain sight. They would explore cautiously and play with each other, quick to retreat at any sudden sound or movement. Their eyes were still piercing blue.

 

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Midway through my time, we got word that a famous cheetah named Kweli and her three cubs had crossed over back into the conservancy. She has raised several litters and is a stunning cat.

 

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She was always on high alert, either looking out for predators or a potential next meal. Her cubs would keep up but always found time to pounce and play with each other.

 

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At one point they spotted a jackal and gave chase, a great opportunity to refine their hunting skills. They trapped the jackal in a bush and it howled frantically until they lost interest and moved on.

 

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I did have one opportunity with a gorgeous adult leopard, named Akira. 

 

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I was also very fortunate to spend time with lion cubs. These lionesses had moved their cubs from the pride as they were quite young and vulnerable. The cubs were tricky to photograph as the never stop moving!

 

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I had a wonderful time in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy and at Kicheche Bush Camp. Happy to recommend both. It was great to be back in Africa and I hope I never have to wait so long between trips again.

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Tom Kellie

~ @BonitaApplebum:

 

Thank you for the generous assortment of superb images.

 

Young cubs, action shots, safari beauty — you've shared so much with us.

 

May your next return to Africa be sooner than you expect!

 

      Tom K.

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BonitaApplebum
59 minutes ago, Tom Kellie said:

~ @BonitaApplebum:

 

Thank you for the generous assortment of superb images.

 

Young cubs, action shots, safari beauty — you've shared so much with us.

 

May your next return to Africa be sooner than you expect!

 

      Tom K.

 

Thank you, Tom! I've already booked Botswana for next year so it won't be too long.

 

 

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Magnificent pictures. Thanks for sharing these. 

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I LOVE your photos. They are gorgeous. 

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@BonitaApplebumBeautiful photos. We loved Kicheche Bush when we visited.

Going for nine nights worked well for you.

What dates did you visit?

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Africalover

Fantastic Shots - keep it coming 😊👍

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Fantastic photos. The lion cubs are just beautiful!

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Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures!

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Fabulous. We also very much enjoyed bush camp, I think we were probably there a few weeks before you.

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BonitaApplebum
On 11/8/2022 at 2:16 AM, TonyQ said:

@BonitaApplebumBeautiful photos. We loved Kicheche Bush when we visited.

Going for nine nights worked well for you.

What dates did you visit?

Hi there, thanks for the kind words. I was there Oct. 7-16th.

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Wonderful portraits thanks @BonitaApplebum. The place looks like carnivore paradise :) .

I love the photo's in particular of the lion cubs.

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Beautiful photos @BonitaApplebum- thanks for sharing with us. The sunsets are beautiful and I'm struggling to pick a favourite photo, but it looks like a very productive time with amazing sightings!

 

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michael-ibk

Gorgeous photos, thank you! 

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Fanastic pictures. Looks an an amazing place 

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Alexander33

You came away with some memorable sightings and great photos. I, too, am a big fan of the Kicheche camps.  Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. 

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Absolutely stuning photos and excellent sightings! It is diffcult to pick up the favourites. The animal babies are one of the best, of course. However, the adult leopard and action photos are also beautiful.

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Really marvelous shots of all those little ones and the predators at work. 9 days gave you many opportunities.  Did you state when you went?  Thanks for posting!

Edited by Atravelynn
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