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Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari

A Kill Right In Front Of Us! …

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Brendon’s News from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:

Our first full day in the Mara started really early when we set out in the predawn darkness, ready to greet a truly spectacular sunrise. The colours in the sky were breathtaking, the golden light and crisp clear air made the whole world look quite magical.

We found a lioness with three really tiny Cubs. They were too cute for words and although they were obscured in the bush and not easy to photograph we really enjoyed seeing them. They looked not more than eight weeks old at most, and still protected by mom in deep bush.

When we left the lions we headed to a ridge where we hoped to see a pride of lions that frequent the area. A male with four lionesses and eight Cubs were there, and there were no leafy or rocky obstructions. We could see them all clearly. The Cubs ranged in age from about three months to a year or so. They all looked healthy and strong as the whole pride languished in the early sun rays, basking in the early warmth and very relaxed. It looked wonderful, and to complete the picture the sky behind the pride was beautiful with scudding, fluffy while clouds in an azure blue sky. Just lovely! We were able to use different techniques and a variety of angles, including low angle shots to capture dozens of superb photos.

When the lions moved away to a rocky area where we could not follow them we looked around and in the distance saw the shapes of more lions. We hastened there and found a very handsome male with two females. They were just settling down to sleep for the day so we left them to rest and moved on.

We decided to take a chance and check the area where we had seen the cheetah. We arrived to find her stalking some Thomson’s Gazelles. We watched with bated breath as she crept closer and closer. Suddenly she broke cover and gave chase. The herd scattered, panicking, in all directions. The cheetah had her sights on a youngster and within seconds she made her kill. She was very close to us, and I had to remind everyone in the excitement to keep photographing!

Whew! That hunt and kill happened so quickly that we almost could not believe it! Our timing had been perfect and we had arrived to witness the whole action. We remained with the cheetah as she settled down to eat. We watched a number of hyenas that were very close by, but they made no attempt to steal the kill. Maybe the action had been so fast that they hadn’t even noticed the drama right there next to them.

We left the cheetah to enjoy her meal and went to enjoy our breakfast that was served under a tree out in the bush.

Then we drove around, checking for other predators. And again luck was with us. We came across a female leopard. Ahah – we had seen her before. She was the amorous female that we had seen mating previously, but now she was alone. She wandered around, walked along a riverine, but then she decided to check us out. She walked around our vehicle, sniffed the tyres and bumpers, and in doing this we were able to amass quite a collection of full frame closeup shots. She was so relaxed, so cooperative, and we took advantage of each and every moment.

We took a slow drive back to the Lodge for lunch, passing plenty of game along the way. Buffalo, elephants, large herds of giraffe, plenty of zebra, and even a few Wildebeest that hadn’t migrated yet could be seen.

Our afternoon drive started and actually ended with the lions again. Everyone was keen to capitalise on the brilliant sighting and our cameras were very busy indeed.

When we left the lions for a while we photographed elephants and other game and then we found a male cheetah. He was very lazy and as he showed no inclination to move we left him and headed towards the camp.

On the way we spotted another female leopard. Wow! She was also feeling very lazy and sleepy, and although she didn’t move much it was certainly special to see a second leopard in one day!

After this fabulous day everyone is exhilarated, looking forward to dinner and a good sleep before our early start in the morning …

Our Amazing Intro to Masai Mara! …

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Brendon’s News from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:

We all met at the airport at Nairobi from where we climbed aboard a light aircraft for our trip to Masai Mara where we landed before lunchtime.

The drive from the airport to the camp was superb and a wonderful introduction to the area. We saw elephants, buffalo, giraffe, Black-backed Jackal, Thomson’s Gazelles, hippos, Impala, and more. And this was before we even reached the Lodge.

When we arrived at the Lodge we checked into our superb accommodations, and then enjoyed a very welcome lunch. Everyone was keen to get going and we grabbed our camera equipment and set out with much enthusiasm and as much expectation.

We had hardly left the camp when we came across a large herd of buffalo. There were loads of giraffe dotted around and it didn’t take long for us to spot our first cheetah. It lay on a mound, not doing much for a while, but then gave us some great poses when it got up and stretched and yawned widely. We hoped that she would hunt in the late afternoon, but she was too relaxed and not bothered to hunt for now.

We had heard about a leopard couple that had been mating for the past day or two, and we made our way to them to check whether they were still in the area. As we arrived we found them out in the open, and we quickly filled our memory cards with images of the mating couple. There was no long grass, or any bush to create obstructions.

We left the amorous duo when they moved out of sight into a bushy area, and we started to meander towards the camp. On the way we encountered two lionesses that had killed a wildebeest moments before our arrival. As it was dusk by then we used flash to light the scene adequately as the lions fed.

Whew! What a truly rewarding start to our safari. And what choices we have in the morning – we should check on the lionesses, and also on the mating leopards …

A Cheetah Kill for her Cub …

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Brendon Reports from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:

When we first arrived at the Lodge at Masai Mara it was rather late, but we were able to fit in a quick game drive before sunset.

We headed to where there were reports of lions, and we found them close to that spot. A smallish pride of about eight lions basked in the late afternoon sun. One or two were more energetic and played around.

It started to drizzle lightly, and the afternoon became quite grey because of the overcast sky. When a lioness went to lie on a termite mound we used flash to compensate for the light. The gloomy light also helped us to get some really super moody shots of the lions in the rain.

The lions then moved into a bushy area. We followed them and saw what attracted their attention – a lone buffalo bull. The lions immediately started to stalk the buffalo. They circled around and crept close to their prey. They were meters away when they broke cover and chased the buffalo around. They chased for a fair distance, but the lions are still young and inexperienced and probably have neither the power nor the technique to take down a large animal.

But the whole experience was absolutely amazing, and although we were wet, we wouldn’t have missed one moment of that incredible encounter. We arrived back at the Lodge rather soaked, and totally delighted with our first game drive back at the reserve.

At the Lodge we heard about a cheetah with a very small cub and the next morning we decided to try and find them. While we searched we heard that she had been spotted and when we arrived, there she was with her tiny cub. The cub was in longish grass, but fairly visible, while mom checked the vicinity from the top of a termite mound.

Suddenly the cheetah spotted something, leaped down from the mound and headed off quickly. Then we saw that she was headed to a single impala mother with a baby.

The cheetah crept close to the impala and broke into a sprint. We witnessed the most amazing chase! It ended when the cat grabbed the baby impala, leaving us with very mixed feelings. It was sad for the impala, but of course the cheetah has herself and her cub to consider. We felt privileged to have witnessed the entire episode from beginning to end.

Mom dragged the impala back towards her little cub, and about half way back she started to call. The next minute the little cub jumped up and bounced over the grass to reach mom. It was the most endearing sight. The little cub is about a month old, still with a whitish furry back, and only just learning to eat meat. The two sat on a termite mound for a while before they started to feed. Unfortunately, the kill was in longish grass and we could get a very clear enough view for good photos, but it was great to watch them.

Meanwhile, a herd of elephants arrived and made their way towards the cheetahs. We practised different lighting techniques and with the dramatic sky in the background, we had plenty of scope for fabulous shots.

We heard that two lions were not too far away. As it had started to drizzle again we hoped that their manes would get wet and that they would give them a good shake, sending spray and droplets in a halo around their heads. That looks so good in photographs.

We found one of the males alone. And he did shake his mane for us, so we got exactly what we hoped for. And then we bumped into the other male lion a short distance away. He was with a female and they were mating, giving us even more images to amass.

We spent the remainder of the day with the lions. When the light faded towards sunset, we used flash to supplement the dim light and with a very dark, dramatic sky behind them, our photography could only be successful.

On the way back to the Lodge we saw four little jackal pups. They ran around, chased each other, and fell around clumsily – they are also just about four weeks old. They were so entertaining, and again the photography was outstanding.

Whew! After such a full, exciting time here, one can only imagine what the next days will bring …

Animal Pressure Builds along the Mara River …

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Ben’s News from the Masai Mara Migration Photo Safari:

During the night plenty of lion roars echoed across the plains. We could hear that the roaring emanated from close by and sure enough, when headed out in the early morning we immediately found the large male that we saw before. He was accompanied by seven of his pride – a lioness and some subadults. They were playing when we arrived but within moments they were on the move.

The whole pride paced along with determination, and they roared constantly. They looked and sounded really formidable and it sounded as though they were actually looking for trouble with another pride. The male hung back much of the time and then caught up when his pride turned to wait for him. We pulled ahead each time to photograph the lions as they walked towards us through grasslands, open areas and some bushy terrain.

Eventually we left the lions when they disappeared into a wooded area where we thought they would settle during the day.

And just as the lions disappeared from sight we received a call about another pride that had pulled down a buffalo not far from where we were. On the way to the lions we spotted long columns of zebra and wildebeest as they moved steadily towards the Mara river. We realised that they were planning a crossing and we quickly traveled to a convenient spot along the river from where we could watch the arrival and possible efforts to cross the hazardous river.

When the columns arrived at the river, to our disappointment they simply moved back and forth, up and down the river bank. We waited.

Eventually the animals bunched really tightly, as they do just before they attempt a crossing. Then, as we thought they would start to brave the river and its perils, something spooked them and they scattered in all directions.

Well, we thought, that is it for today. So we left and could see columns moving in all directions, but none were close enough to undertake a crossing today.

We saw a serval – but as we could really only see the ears clearly we moved on and bumped into the pride of lions that we left in the morning. We spent the golden sunset hour photographing the male and his pride with some flash as the sun set.

In the morning we hope that the buildup of animals along the river will be enough to start some group attempts to get across …

Wily Cheetah Cooperative Hunting Tactics Pay Off …

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Ben’s News from the Masai Mara Migration Photo Safari:

On Sunday we encountered two male lions almost as we left the camp. It was daybreak and we first found one lion that kept us very busy as he walked, rested, roared, then walked again. Being so early, as the lion roared we could see the steam of his breath with each intimidating sound. To add to this he was bathed in a little early light with a very dark background that created really fabulous, moody images. As the lion strolled on in the early light, we followed, with our very busy cameras. When he disappeared behind some bushes we followed, and there was his brother, basking in the early rays of the sun. They both fell asleep soon after the met up together.

We carried on and soon heard about five cheetah brothers. They were a distance away and on the move. We caught up with them without stopping for the many distractions on the way, and then spent most of the late morning and early afternoon with the five. They were hunting, and as they progressed along they leaped into anything raised – like logs or mounds – to get a good view and pick out possible prey.

They walked as a tight group as they patrolled the area and searched for a meal.

In the afternoon the cheetah brothers spread out to cover a wider area and that was when the hunt happened.

There were huge numbers of wildebeest and zebra around. They were constantly spooked by the cheetahs because four of the brothers made a show of strutting along, while not actually singling out any animal in particular. Occasionally one of the four trotted very obviously towards some of the animals, making sure that he was very visible.

In this way, the four brothers gradually herded large numbers of animals toward their fifth brother who lay waiting invisibly in some bushes. As the animals were herded and ran past the fifth brother he appeared as if from nowhere and grabbed a wildebeest that he pulled down in no time at all.

We didn’t hang around too long after the hunt. We started to head back to the camp and as we entered a gully we found a huge bull elephant feeding. As we drove into the gully we looked up to see him silhouetted against the beautiful sky with billowing clouds in the background. Out came our wide-angle lenses as he was that close.

We head toward the camp and found a lion close to the perimeter of the camp just at sunset. It was a very pleasing end to a really exciting day.

As we leave camp in the morning we hope that the lion will still be around, and possibly ready to hunt …

Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari: Predators At War … (An Incredible Drama Unfolds …)

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Wim Reports from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:
(Photos from Back of Wim’s Camera)

We headed south as soon as we could leave the camp this morning. We crossed the Talek river without a problem and started our search for the five cheetah brothers. They didn’t hunt yesterday and we hoped that they would be back in action today. We arrived where they had been just as glimmers of colour stared to show in the sky. And there we found hyenas where the cheetahs had been. The brothers had moved off and it took us almost an hour to find them again. They were hunting, but were not really being very enthusiastic about it. They would lie down periodically and look around for prey, so there was not too much effort there.

At one stage a number of animals were in very close proximity. Included in this we could see a Topi with a small calf. One of the cheetahs saw this, and within seconds all five brothers were up. All the animals scattered, including the Topi and her calf. The cheetahs focused on the young calf and there was mayhem as animals streaked in all directions across the large plain. We really thought that the Topi had no chance, but they are extremely fast, being one of the fastest of the antelopes, reaching speeds of up to 70km per hour. And they can run for long distances. This time they outran the cheetahs and both mother and her calf escaped unharmed.

After this the cheetahs were exhausted so they went to have a good rest while we went for coffee.

We returned to find them still flat, and although we waited for some time, the cheetahs did not stir.

After a very late breakfast that doubled as a lunch for us at noon we returned to the cheetahs again. We stuck around there partly because our vehicle developed battery problems and a new one had to be brought for us.

Eventually, our wait was rewarded as the cheetahs were finally up and hunting.

4 Cheetahs Walk in Single File_2929

They walked right past our vehicle onto a plain. We drove around to intercept them. As the cheetahs walked onto the open area they spotted a very large lion walking across the same plain. The cheetahs immediately dropped flat and watched the lion, trying to keep a very low profile. Then the lion also lay down and flattened himself. As the lion lay there looking around, unconcerned and relaxed, he suddenly noticed the cheetahs. We parked right behind the cheetahs to see what would happen next. When the lion saw the cheetahs he was up in a flash and started to stalk them. We watched in amazement as he started towards them. Our hearts were thudding – what would happen now? The lion came right past our vehicle – within two meters – and ignored us with our cameras. The next second he charged – and five terrified cheetahs scattered in all directions. The cheetahs ran onto the plain and tried to escape from the charging lion. We spent the next hour and a half watching incredulously as the lion kept chasing the brothers in all directions around the plain. The lion chased the cheetahs until he was out of breath, when he would lie down, catch his breath, and a few moments later another chase would begin. The cheetahs were exhausted, especially when a lioness came to join in and they faced double trouble. And we weren’t the only spectators of this amazing scene. Hundreds of animals including Wildebeest, Topi, Zebras, Thomson’s Gazelles watched the spectacle. It was almost as if they knew that they were OK as long as the predators were at war with each other. Our photographs from the sustained drama are outstanding!

We left them all on the plain with the cheetahs huddled together in a group while the lion and lioness lay about 100 meters away, catching their breath. As we left we saw the remainder of the pride close by. The pride is from the eastern section of the Mara, and they are really intent on giving the cheetahs a very tough time.

We are back at the camp, still trying to absorb what we witnessed this afternoon. It was almost like a Nat Geo documentary unfolding right there in front of our eyes. In the morning we would like to return to the scene for our final game drive …

Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari: Thwarted By The Talek River …

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Wim Reports from the Masai Mara Predator Photo Safari:

We left the camp about ninety minutes before sunrise to head south in search of the cheetah brothers. We arrived at the Talek river … uh oh! We could not go any further. The heavy rains have caused the river to flood! There was no way that we could cross through that!

So we had to proceed northward and the area is not quite as heavily populated at the moment when compared with the south because the migrating animals are not here. But this is the area where Scar, that large, dominant male lion rules. We caught up with his pride just as the sun was rising. Scar wasn’t around, but we were able to get some good scenes of the other pride members just as the sun was rising. We spent quality time with the three lionesses and several subadult cubs all in close proximity. They were waking up, greeting and grooming each other.

From there we visited the Mara River where we looked at the famous crossing sites where the wildebeest cross the river during the annual migration. We stopped at Kaburu Crossing for breakfast, and photographed some of the iconic trees that are dotted around the area. Our landscape shots turned out particularly well.

We saw more lions, but they were all very inactive. They all slept, and only occasionally lifted a head to see what going on.

After our midday break back at the camp we set out again. Full of hope returned to the Talek river and found that the water level had dropped a little … enough to allow us to across. We headed due south to see if we could locate the Sand River Lion Pride.

We spotted the five cheetah brothers lying in a wooded area. We stuck with them, hoping that when the rain started they would get up. For a while all they did was to lift a head from time to time. And even when it rained they showed no inclination to move. We could see that their bellies were still full after their wildebeest feast last evening, and they spent the whole day relaxing, with little exertion.

We moved on and found the Sand River Pride. They were very busy grooming one another, then had a drink of water, while the little cubs cavorted around boisterously. We were photographing the lions when we received a call to inform us that the cheetahs were on the move. We dashed back to them to find that they had moved a mere 200 meters, only to flop down again and fall asleep again.

So, we are back at the camp after a fulfilling day … but not as exciting as our previous experiences here! I acknowledged that we have been very spoiled with our incredible sightings until now, and although today would be regarded as great by ‘usual’ standards, the river and the animals did not behave as hoped, but maybe tomorrow again …