More Big Cats

Back to one of the first days in the Mara Masai, we went for a drive late afternoon and came across a couple of female lions just lounging around. One moved around a bit, drinking water, sitting around then she went to sleep right in front of us. We have tons of pictures of her close-up … a few are below. As she slept, she rolled over on her back, then rolled to the other side and fell off the small hill she was on. My cat does that at home (see picture of my cat, Sanook, below. Notice the resemblance? Same general color but a little more fur.)

Later, we ran across one of the females with all of her cubs, on a late afternoon walk. Again, right in front of us. Pics are below. This was a nice 45-minutes spent watching all of them.

Down by the River

Moving onto some of the “water loving” animals we saw. We saw the hippopotamus almost every day, although seeing him out of water was a rarity (they are usually in the water during the day and walk on land at night). They actually do not swim. Aside from the mosquito, hippos are the most dangerous animal (as in human deaths caused) in Africa. When a hippo yawns, is is a warning sign. Below are some pictures that Dawn and I took. Notice the crocodiles near the hippos.

The Cape Buffalo is one of the “Big 5” and are huge and plentiful. Dirty too. When they are in the water, there is usually a bird on their back. Below are some pics Dawn took of them, plus some video I shot.

Big Cats

One of the areas of focus of this trip by Wild Eye was “cats”, as the trip was called “Big Cats and Tuskers”. So I should get on with the cats, right? This area of Kenya has lions, leopards and cheetah, and we saw all of them.  The most plentiful was the lion, and we saw them many times, sometimes from a hundred yards away and sometimes from a few feet away. Every sighting of them was unique. Most of the time, they were sleeping but not always.  My cat, Sanook, sleeps 18 hours per day so I see it must be just what cats do.  Dawn LOVED every cat sighting.

Here is one of our early sightings in the trip. It was on the first morning, at 6:45am. While the other safari groups have breakfast in the lodge at 6:30am then head out at 7:30am when everyone has showered and look beautiful in their safari clothes, Wild Eye (our group) has a quick coffee and bread at 6:00am, and heads out at 6:10am, just before the sunrise. The cost is needing to wake up in the dark, but the rewards are that you have many more animal sightings. The best time is 6:00am – 8:00am.

This is a pride of male and female lions and their cubs, just hanging out. The last picture is a male lion named SCA .. or maybe SCAR, the South African accent of the guides in the group made me unsure. 🙂  We saw him again later in the trip, so I’ll write more about him later.

This was our first full day using the camera generously loaned to us by Sam Van Loon … and thanks so much to Grant from Wild Eye for taking the time, on the very first day, to show us how to use the camera and get the best photos. I’ll never use auto-focus again.

The Spotted Hyena

We have seen a few packs of hyena on the trip. Certainly not as majestic as a giraffe or an elephant, but an interesting animal. Dawn likes them. They usually hunt in packs, but not always. They are not incredibly fast but they can run for a very long time and when their prey, usually a gazelle, is exhausted from running away, they catch them and the result is not pretty.

We ran across one this morning and he is in the first two pictures. I think we woke him up. Sorry.
The other pictures are of others we saw earlier in the week.  Very early in the trip, we saw one that had just run down a gazelle. The video and pictures of him devouring the gazelle are below. Don’t watch if you do not to see a graphic scene.

I promise, my next post will be something cute and cuddly. 🙂

Birds

BIRDS … I know they don’t seem as exciting as a cheetah kill, or a hyena kill, but Dawn is developing her photography skills, and birds are quite hard to photograph without them being blurry, blending into the background, etc. Your shutter speed and F-stop are critical, as is exposure. Here is some of her work from Saturday and Sunday.

Zebras vs. Lions

Zebras … underrated in my opinion. They aren’t in the “big 5” but they are interesting to watch. My cousin requested zebra posts from Africa. So the rhinos and hippos will have to wait. The first 3 photos are interesting. In the first 2 photos, many zebras are all looking to the east. Why? Look at the 3rd photo, that is what is sizing them up! Lions! (well, the male is, the female is mostly sleeping) There was about 50 yards between them, plenty of time and space for the zebras to escape. So they put their chests out and won the battle as far as I”m concerned. Then they walked away without (hardly) looking back. Score: Zebras 1 Lazy Lions 0.

The Cheetah vs the Oribi

Late morning, we’re driving through a wide open space and we see a cheetah (probably about 100-120 lbs) standing and staring, we stop and he’s looking at a few impala (like deer) way off in the distance. They see him and take off. Wise choice. So we see him walk further, always looking around. About 500 yards away is an oribi (also like a deer, probably about 35 lbs) that is munching grass. The oribi is distracted with eating and the cheetah moves towards the oribi slowly (about a step every 10 seconds). The cheetah can run down the oribi easily (70 mph vs. 20 mph) but the cheetah can only keep this speed for 200-300 yards until she would have to stop from exhaustion then rest for 30 minutes. Our cheetah gets about 40 yards away and goes from stopped to full speed. The oribi realizes this way too late and only gets about 20 years before the cheetah catches her. The cheetah gets her claws into the oribi and brings her down in a cloud of dust. Then she clamps her jaws around the neck of the oribi to suffocate her so she’ll stop struggling. The whole thing is over within a minute and the cheetah carries her victim to a higher ground so she can keep an eye out for scavengers like hyena and vultures. The cheetah spends about 10 minutes panting from exhaustion, then starts a bit on her lunch, eating the upper leg quarters first. She’ll rest for another hour, then eat what she can. Scavengers will get the rest later.

Here are the pics D took during this process. We had great views for the staking then the aftermath (we drove over to it). The actual kill was a bit far to make out exactly whlat happened by the pictures. They are in sequence. The first photo is one of an oribi (taken from the internet).

The video of the cheetah staring to eat the Oribi is the final slide.

 

Planning to go to Kenya for a safari

In late January, we booked a 10-day “Big Cats and Tuskers” safari with Wild Eye (company based in South Africa). We booked them at the last minute, because we had time and they had a couple of spaces left.  Using them was the recommendation of our friend Eric.  We would probably not have pulled the trigger on something like this without a glowing recommendation from a trusted source.

Here is the agenda:

Description
Few African animals inspire like the big cats & large elephants.This safari is specifically designed to showcase these animals within some of the most iconic wildlife destinations in Kenya as we travel to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha.

Itinerary Outline:

  • Day 1: Morning flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 2: Full day Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 3: Full day Masai Mara, overnight Mara Serena
  • Day 4: Morning Game drive and road Transfer from Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru National Park, overnight Sarova Lion Hill Lodge Nakuru
  • Day 5: Full day Lake Nakuru National Park, overnight Sarova Lion Hill Lodge Nakuru
  • Day 6:Morning Game drive and road transfer to Lake Naivasha, Overnight Naivasha Sopa Lodge – Afternoon Boat Cruise
  • Day 7: Morning boat Cruise on lake Naivasaha followed by road transfer to Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 8: Full day Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 9: Full day Amboseli National Park, Overnight Amboseli Serena
  • Day 10: Morning Game drive and afternoon flight back to Nairobi.