Predator’s Preyground 2014

Morkel Erasmus All Authors, Morkel Leave a Comment

My previous post with a similar title looked at the amazing opportunities we had on our 2013 Great Migration safari to witness and photograph the age-old interaction between predators and prey in the Mara ecosystem.

Guess what??

Our 2014 Great Migration safari was even more intense in that regard. We saw no less than 4 kills, start to finish (2x lion kills, 2x cheetah kills), and many more attempts at hunting by these cats.

Let’s take it blow by blow, as I did in the previous post…

2014 Safari – 21 to 27 September

21 September

It started shortly after arriving in the Mara Triangle and settling into camp, on our first proper drive out. We found a beautiful male leopard on our first afternoon, obviously on the prowl – but eventually lost sight of him as he skirted the banks of the Mara river and moved into some thick foliage.

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Besides a Spotted Hyena moving between the wildebeests, we also found a pride of lions lounging around – young ones, females and two impressive males…lazy as per usual. A great start in terms of predators! The prey was all around of course – the herds had all made their way into the Mara Triangle by now…

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22 September

Our morning started with a lovely sunrise, after which we found one of the three resident male lions of the area in pursuit of some females. Sikio, as he is called, let them be and we had a wonderful time watching the lionesses interact on a high termite mound in front of dense woodland.

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Although we had many sightings (and our first crossing) on that day – this account focuses on the predators. On our afternoon drive we also spent time with this group of lions, specifically the males – but they were being very lazy and only really gave us a couple of nonchalant looks. We ended the day following a lioness moving between herds of topi and zebra in near-darkness.

23 September

After kicking off our morning with elephants in golden light, we eventually found a pride of lions on multiple kills towards the Lamai wedge (Tanzania).

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Our morning drive took us to the river looking for crossings, and eventually as we got back to camp we came upon a herd of zebras trying to drink from a bend in the Mara river less than 500m from our campsite. We stuck around for more than 3 hours, as we could see there were two hungry crocodiles lurking in the river.

Our patience was rewarded when we had a very interesting turn of events – you can read more on this blog post by one of our guests on the trip.

(This image below is actually not an indication of how it ended)

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We spent our afternoon waiting for a lioness who was sleeping in a very photogenic tree to descend back to terra firma…you can read more about that sighting here.

24 September

Not more than 1km out of camp on our dawn drive we came across one of the infamous male lions, Morani, trying to mate with a lioness. She was having nothing of it, and he ended up having to chase after her for long distances as she tried to evade his amorous advances.

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Our day got even more exciting when we came across a lone lioness hunting along a marshy drainage line where herds of wildebeest were grazing after fresh green upshoots. This was her first attempt…and she successfully claimed a wildebeest calf.

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She proceeded to drag the kill to a nearby shrub where she called out her young cubs to come and join the feast – to the delight of our guests (despite the fact that the light was harsh and it was too far for quality photos). It didn’t end there! We drove around and came back about 30 minutes later, seeing the wildebeest were grazing there nonchalantly again – and she immediately bust out of the bushes in an attempted hunt again, albeit unsuccessful!! We stuck around, and she went again about 20 minutes later (all the while the cubs could be seen feeding on her first kill). That’s the thing with these Mara lions – they are VERY opportunistic at this time of year (something we would see later in the trip again).

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Our day ended with a beautiful male lion sleeping on the banks of the Mara river right across from our camp. We put out our comfortable chairs, got some drinks, and waited for him to start waking up. He only got up when the rain started coming down, at which time we had time snap a few quick images.

25 September

This morning started off wonderfully, as we met up with the infamous Scar/Scarface as he walked away from a buffalo kill at first light (we’d heard them feasting all night long). What a magnificent lion this is!

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We ended up driving towards the Tanzania border, and there we came across a gruesome scene where a pride of lions had killed 4 wildebeests in quick succession. They left two of the carcasses to the plethora of scavengers that were gathered, and it made for some great interaction to photograph…

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The day got even better during the course of the afternoon when we linked up with a female cheetah and her 5 balls of fluff (cubs). She made our guests’ day by stalking and bringing down a Thomson’s gazelle in full view of everybody, after which she and her cubs fed vigorously in the kind of downpour of rain the Mara is known for…

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26 September

The next morning started with the obligatory male lions lying on termite mounds, but we also found a lone lioness looking to stalk some of the moving herds. She eventually gave up, and we decided to explore a bit further on. We found some more lionesses lounging around with full bellies – but as usual this didn’t stop them from going on high alert when some potential prey started running past their position – the hunt was on!

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The lionesses left the little wildebeest where they smothered it, and went back to sleep. That’s the way nature flows in this time of plenty. They would probably feast on it during the night. As we drove away we came across the lone lioness we had left earlier that morning, and she too had made a kill and tucked it into a drainage line. We went in search of our female cheetah again, and she was in the same areas. After spending some more time watching her interact with the cubs and taking them on a march across the plains – she again spotted an easy target…a young gazelle fawn that was lying on the ground some distance away.

She made a quick dash over there and brought the spoils back for her cubs – seeing her do this twice in two days was truly special!

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27 September

This was our last day in the Mara – we would fly back out to Nairobi later that afternoon. Yet, the predator-fest continued as we found our favourite coalition of male lions right outside camp. What followed as a lengthy game of teasing-the-lover by the female we saw hunting for her cubs a few days earlier. She lured the males higher and higher up to the escarpment and away from the cubs, never really giving them what she was promising. It was fascinating to watch – and you can read more of that story HERE.

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A good portion of our last morning was spent watching an elusive Serval cat hunt for rodents in the red oat grass. It’s always great getting to spend time with these felines.

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It truly was a phenomenal week of predator vs prey – and our 2015 season has recently started as well, continuing in the same vein (keep watching the blog for updated trip reports).

Our 2016 dates are live on the website, you can check them out HERE if you want to join us (there might even be a chance to hit a last minute open spot for our 2015 departures).

Until next time…

Morkel

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