Wim’s News from the Masai Mara Migration Safari: Five Cat Sightings – and a Crossing!
Because of the massive buildup of wildebeest, zebra and Impala preparing to take on the crossing of the Mara River, we wanted to get to the river as early as possible to be in position before the first animals attempted a crossing … we left the camp about an hour before sunrise!
But before we even reached the river, we had so many surprises …
First, we were hardly 100 meters from the camp when we encountered a large female leopard. She was quite skittish and disappeared into some thick bush – but only after we had some quick images of her in the dark. (The camp staff reported this evening that they spotted her a while later with a kill in a tree).
We carried on towards the river and a few kilometers from our first destination we found a huge male lion with a large mane. This male is one a a coalition of four – in the past there was a well-known male named Notch in the area, and these are four of his sons. We photographed him using backlighting and side lighting and then the early rays of the sun, and when he spotted a buffalo and showed interest, we waited … hoping … but no! He wasn’t hungry enough and instead went to flop down on a large termite mound.
So we pushed on and lo and behold! We were still about two kilometers from the river when we found another male lion – and he had a female with him. The two were honeymooning, and very intent on their flirtations and mating rituals. They moved right past our vehicle before they disappeared into some thick vegetation.
We carried on and can you believe, as we came over the crest of a hill we just saw vultures everywhere. Flocks and flocks of them seemed to cover every surface. There were so many that at first it was quite difficult to see what was going on but then we managed to pick out no fewer than three kills – lions had made the kills during the night. In fact there was still one male feeding on one of the carcasses!
This was our third lion sighting – and fourth lion in under twenty minutes! We managed some fabulous images of the lion as he fed with vultures all around and then went to rest nearby, having had his fill.
We eventually arrived at the river where we found that for some hours the wildebeest dithered along the edges of the river, debating whether to cross or not. For quite some time none did, so we enjoyed a scrumptious bush breakfast. Why do meals taste just that much more delicious out in the bush?
Finally at midday we managed to see a few hundred wildebeest and zebras making a crossing – with all the noise, pandemonium, drama, and excitement that accompanies these events! The wait was well worth it.
When the excitement died down and peace returned to the river, we were served a delicious bush-lunch in the shade of a huge Shepherd Tree.
During the afternoon massive storm clouds built up again, and on the way back to camp we just had to stop to photograph the unfolding landscape. As we drove through hill after hill, kilometer after kilometer, there were massive herds of wildebeest, zebra and Impala as far as the eye could see. The buildup this year is quite extraordinary! The scene looked wonderful, with beautiful sunrays piercing the clouds and falling on grass or animals. It was breathtakingly beautiful!
Then just before we reached the camp we found a lioness with her five subadult Cubs strolling down the road. It was just starting to drizzle lightly, and this seemed to energize the lions. They chased each other, grabbed tails, played around, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as we photographed them in the headlights of our vehicles.
So, although we only saw one crossing today, our day was spectacular – with cats from early morning to late evening. Tomorrow we plan to arrive at the river early …
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