After a wonderful night in the bush, falling asleep to the sounds of hippos in the river (with a hot water bottle to take the chill off) it was time for our first full day in the Mara. Up and out before sunrise, we found the same cheetah family as the night before.
Cheetah have adapted to their environment and love to sit on the termite mounds to survey the area and search for both predators and prey.
We didn’t spend long with the cheetah – we were in search of lions. Less than an hour after loading into the vehicles, just northeast of camp on the banks of the Olare Orok River, we found some!
Male lions are forced out of the pride when they reach sexual maturity – these brothers from the Langatta pride, still growing their manes, were learning to live on their own.
We had to take a break from the lions for the sunrise! (I know – cheetah and lions before sunrise – how good is that?)
We moved farther up the river and found more lions. I think this was the more of the Langatta pride (there were others sleeping in the thickets).
They were sleeping and not terribly visible in the thicket so we abandoned them and headed north west. Half an hour later we found the majestic Doah, one of 7 brothers from the Topi Plains pride, and a young female. Love was in the air…
A mating couple will stay together for 4-5 days, mating frequently – about every 10 minutes or so. They rarely hunt or eat during this time.
This female is fairly young, you can still see the spots on her side.
It had been a busy morning and we were hungry, so we took some time for our first breakfast in the field (literally).
After a good meal we found a group of wildebeest that were running. Andreas challenged us to try panning – getting the wildebeest in focus while showing the movement by blurring the background. A couple of hundred photos later, this is the best of the lot…
It’s much easier when they’re standing still!
Pumba and his friend trot across the plains… And yes, every time I see a warthog I think of the Lion King and it (or they) always make me smile.
Now on most safaris at this time of day you would probably head back to camp for some down time. Not this trip. Still so much to see..
These ladies and their babies are part of the very large Topi Plains pride; in this group were 3 older females and at least 2 different litters of cubs. A whole lot of cuteness…
As you can see, there was a whole lot of sleeping going on. We decided to leave and come back later in the day when they were more active.
Topi are yet another antelope and a subspecies of the tsessebee. They are commonly found perched on termite mounds and give this area (and the Topi Plains pride) their name.
There is so much wildlife in this area, but not a lot of elephants. When we did see some, it was special.
We were encouraged to play with the camera settings and creating black and white images…
Hippos are very aggressive. Their large teeth are used to fight off threats (and yes, that includes humans)
At this time of year, most people come to the Mara hoping to see a crossing. So there we were, before lunch on the first full day, waiting for a small group of wildebeest to cross the Mara River. As luck would have it, they crossed – once one goes, they all go. It really is quite a spectacle!
Finally, it was time for lunch! We stopped near the river for a delicious hot lunch.
Yes, that’s right – I said a hot lunch. These wonderful gentleman cooked us a hot lunch every day (except for our Mara Triangle day) and then brought it out to us. We didn’t need to drive back to camp and still had a full meal. Amazing service.
This very large, very full fellow was snoozing on the river bank across from our lunch spot. With all the wildebeest crossings its a good time of year to be a crocodile.
After lunch we saw this small herd of elephants. The little one wasn’t very old and was always touching mom with his (or her) little trunk.
It’s amazing to see the large herds of wildebeest – sometimes grazing, sometimes walking and sometimes running like their lives depend on it.
The southern ground hornbill may be the world’s largest hornbill, but it’s certainly not the world’s prettiest.
We were fortunate that it allowed us to photograph it for as long as we did, and then it flew for us!
At this point it was getting pretty late in the afternoon and we had to start making our way back towards camp. There was just enough time to stop by the lionesses with the cubs to see if they were active yet.
They were and it was pretty much cuteness overload.
The difference in age between these two cubs is only a couple of months – the little one was about a month old, while the bigger one was around 3 months.
Lions are fierce predators, but they can be incredibly caring and tender with each other.
They learn hunting and stalking skills through play…
The older cousin was doing a good job of entertaining the youngsters while mom kept an eye out for dinner.
It was an amazing end to an amazing day – cheetah, too many lions (and babies) to count, wildebeest, elephants and a crossing. After spending about 20 minutes with the lions we returned to camp for dinner and some sleep; happy, but tired, and looking forward to the next day.