Okay, it’s time to conclude this trip report.
First – we need to get you up to speed.
If you are only joining me now, head on over to the previous 2 “episodes” first before returning here.
Right, now we can carry on.
We woke up to some half-decent light on our penultimate day in the Mara (which was also our last FULL day of this safari). We decided to scout for the big cats of the Oloololo Escarpment before heading out to Purungat bridge and Kiboko to see if there might be crossings today.
One of the things I miss most about the Mara is standing upright in the Land Cruisers with the pop-top up as we head out into the field, with the crisp morning air blowing around my head and the excitement of the day lingering ahead of us. We found the lion creche first up – walking in the road!
It would prove to be a CatFest this morning!
Not 20 meters from where the creche eventually flopped down we found this grand lady in her tree again (remember her from “Part 1”?).
And a little further back one of our vehicles was scouting out a leopard who was in a tree with a kill…
She was sleeping quietly, so we used the opportunity to get the iconic “lion-sleeping-in-a-tree-landscape” shot.
We quickly turned back to go and see the leopard, but unfortunately another vehicle from a well-known lodge/safari group in the area was in front of us and they recklessly chased down on the tree, scaring the wits out of the young leopard, chasing her off her kill and into the drainage lines, robbing us all of a decent sighting.
Needless to say we were furious. We returned to the lions to ease our tempers. The cubs and their keeper for the day were all checking out the commotion. How awesome is that though? Three separate big cat sightings in a 200 square meter radius.
Gotta love the Mara!
Three of the vehicles then moved on, slowly making our way towards the crossing-mecca, while Marlon’s vehicle staked out the tree in hopes of the lioness coming down.
They eventually got something better – a second lioness going up the tree to join her sister!
Here are some scenes from our drive towards Purungat bridge…
As we got to the bridge we saw that the dead bodies in the river had increased dramatically.
We could see some wildebeest building on our side of the river, but we soon received word that there was a mass crossing earlier that morning, in a spot where no vehicle can get to on either side of the river, and the river was so strong from the incessant rains (it was coming down by now and we noticed the swell daily), that a great majority of the herd that tried to cross was swept away and drowned!
It was a real reminder of the life-and-death struggle these animals commit themselves to in order to make this pilgrimage to greener pastures, which we often so relish when photographing…and the smell wasn’t peachy either!
We crossed the bridge and went to the rest stop (toilet spot) just on the other side, where we could actually stand on the banks of the Mara river and watch hundreds upon hundreds of dead wildebeest drift by as the current was still cleaning up from the fatal crossing point upstream.
We headed back over the bridge and all 4 Wild Eye vehicles met up to have our breakfast under a large tree near the Tanzanian border.
Still, we were hopeful of still seeing some river crossing action and we decided to head over to Lookout Hill on the Masai Mara side to scout out the well-known crossing points from an eagle’s eye view.
From up there it was evident that there would be no more crossings for us on this trip.
The plains were almost deserted.
We enjoyed our packed lunch and a cold Tusker up on the hill, and of course the magnificent view with the usual storm clouds building up over the plains.
As we got back to the plains north of our camp, we had basically 2 options – sit with the lion creche (who were still in the same spot), or stake out a female cheetah who was resting on a termite mound.
It was the same female who’d made the kill earlier the week, and we opted to sit with her.
We hoped to see her hunting again but there was no potential meal in sight.
Wildlife photography is about patience, and in a sighting like this you need to wait for the right moment in the right light.
As she flopped down again and the sun was starting to set, we decided to move on to the lion cubs.
By now, most of the other vehicles were starting to leave that sighting and make their way to the Reserve gates – oh the joy of camping inside the Triangle! We had them to ourselves for a good 20 minutes.
One of our vehicles left the lions earlier than the rest, and they were lucky enough to find a large male leopard up in a tree, who descended right as they stopped there – 2nd leopard of the day after a leopardess week thus far!
Back at camp we had an eventful evening planned.
Around the fire, our Maasai hosts took some time to explain more of their culture and nomadic lifestyle intertwined with the wildlife to us.
Afterwards they performed their traditional jumping dance and we all ate some roasted goat which they spitted in their customary way over the fire. It was a memorable last evening to say the least!
We allowed ourselves to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the incessant hippos who lived in the stretch of the river in front of our campsite…often interrupted by the road of a lion or the rasp of a leopard. We slept well on our last night in this wonderland!
It’s going to be tough denying that we all felt a pang of regret and sadness upon waking to what would be the day we leave the Mara. Nevertheless, we had one morning’s drive ahead of us and thus we headed out in search of one last piece of Mara magic. The goal this morning was to look for the male leopard that was spotted briefly the previous evening by one of our vehicles.
First up we encountered the breeding pair of Crowned Cranes again – such lovely birds!
And guess what? Since it was my birthday on the 28th, the Mara obliged with our first proper golden morning in terms of light!
A nice surprise was waiting for us on the plains looking onto the Oloololo Escarpment!
We also found the lionesses with the 7 cubs but they were moving away from us on the other side of a drainage line that would have taken a good 30 minutes to get around.
We decided to rather continue looking for our elusive leopard.
We found a cat next – but it was another lion, two young males actually, who were basking in the morning sun.
On the same patch where we had the first leopard the previous morning we found another Serval! It was quite skittish and moving away from us so photo opportunities were limited at this sighting.
How could I conclude these reports and not show a Topi?
They are so similar to our Southern African “Tsessebe”. This family was there to see us off on our last drive around.
It would also be a shame to exclude the beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller from this report…
We had a few sightings of this Longcrested Eagle during the week – here he is facing a strong wind.
We had to start making our way up the mountain ridges of the Oloololo Escarpment for our special bush breakfast – a last morning tradition on Wild Eye Migration safaris.
As we were moving in that direction, we spotted our lady from the previous afternoon again.
We sat with her for a few minutes, and then decided to return here after breakfast in the hopes of her fancying a midday hunting stint.
Well, we eventually arrived at one of the best spots you could ever hope to have breakfast at – on top of the escarpment looking out over endless miles of the Great Plains.
The table was set, the food laid out, and eggs were made to order.
The 4 vehicles were coming in one by one from their various explorations.
Marlon’s vehicle had seen a leopard far off in a tree, and it also descended and moved away before they could approach.
Seyms and the Bridgers had spent the morning with 2 male cheetahs who were trying to hunt near the river. It was a good morning all round it seemed. Some relaxation and “drinking in the view” was in order…
With our bellies full, and a good last banter around the table about what the trip meant to everyone, we posed for the obligatory group photos.
First off myself, Marlon and the awesome group of guests we had the privilege of hosting and guiding.
And then the staff who did an amazing job of making it a holistic experience to be savoured.
We took the long slow drive back to camp to start packing up and preparing to head to the Serena airstrip later that afternoon for our connecting flight out to Nairobi.
By this time the terrorist attack had been defused and we wondered what else had happened out in the real world while we were immersed in the spectacle around us. On the way down the escarpment we had one last surprise – Oribi!
antelope I’d never seen before myself. We snapped a few photos, but for everyone the reality had sunk in that the safari is over.
We checked out the female cheetah but she moved into the bushes to lie down, and we decided to head back to camp.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my musings, memoirs and photos from this amazing trip. I personally can’t wait to head back there next September and see what the Mara will dish up for us! If you are keen to join us next year, you can check out the dates/itinerary HERE (costing to be added soon).
As an added bonus, I’m concluding this series with some of the images kindly contributed by our guests. It’s not a comprehensive collection, just a few of the images each of our guests decided to pick out for sharing on the blog (most of them haven’t even processed many images from this trip due to time/work constraints).
I hope you enjoy them, as ultimately that’s what it’s all about for us – putting you in these magnificent locations and providing guidance for you to capture scintillating photographs.
GUEST PHOTOS: (click on the individual photos to view them properly)
Mark and Holly Needham
Inspiring stuff eh?
I personally love what some of our guests came up with – I love seeing how differently we all see the world and how we can sit at the same sighting and interpret it uniquely.
Now, go forth, create great imagery and see you in the Mara in 2014!
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