I was back in East Africa in early 2013, for a trip covering Kenya and Tanzania from 27th January to 10th February. My main focus on the Kenyan leg of the this visit was to spot the big cats at Masai Mara Game Reserve in the vicinity of Governor’s Camp and thereafter check out the Elephants at Amboseli National Park located at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the Kenyan side.
On the 27th morning, my brother Pala and I boarded a domestic flight from Nairobi to arrive at Governor’s Camp airstrip before noon. We were transported to the Main Camp in one of their converted open top 4×4 classic Land Rover Jeeps. Our stay at the camp was for three nights covering eight trips to the savannahs of Masai Mara. I had been to Governor’s Camp several times before, but it had always been during the time of the annual Wildebeest migration in the months of July, August and September. This was my first visit there outside the migration season.
On our first game drive on the afternoon of the day we arrived, we came across four lion cubs of about 5 months old of the Ridge Pride. There were no adult lionesses with them. They may have gone in search of food. The cubs kept our busy for a while. On our way back we sighted two adult lions, but they were at a distance and there was also a heavy downpour of rain at the time.
On the morning drive the following day, we had a sighting of the famous Marsh Pride in the vicinity of the Governor’s airstrip. We learnt that two male lions named Romeo and Claude who had dominated the Pride for a long period had been ousted by four young males that came from outside the territory of the Mash Lions, in October 2011. Apart from three adult females, we saw ten cubs; four of 6 months, four of 5 months and two of 3 months old. It was fascinating to watch them at play and to photograph them. We were there for almost an hour and later went in search of big cats in other areas. We sighted a Cheetah and a grown cub of almost two years, near a water hole in the savannah. They were looking for food and chased a Reedbuck, but failed in their attempt to hunt it down.
We returned to the camp for breakfast but were back out for a mid day game drive and headed to the area where we had sighted the two Cheetahs. At a distance, we noticed a few stationery vehicles together in the savannah and sped towards them to check what they had seen. As we got closer, we were amazed to see two Cheetahs on top of a Jeep, while a tourist inside the vehicle was taking pictures through the opening of the hood. It was the same Cheetah and the cub we had observed that morning. Usually, they get on top of the ant mountains in the savannahs for better sighting of potential prey out far. But getting on top of a 4X4 gives them far better sight.
Cheetahs are the most vulnerable of the world’s big cats. After a successful kill, the Cheetah has to feed on it while on the ground but risks losing it to stronger predators, particularly the Hyena. They don’t have the advantage that leopards have of being able to climb a tree with a kill to protect it from Hyenas and other scavengers.
In the afternoon safari that day, we went in search of the four males of the Marsh Pride, but without success. We continued the search the following morning. We still couldn’t find the four males but did come across the rest of the Pride on the move, looking for food in the vicinity of the Governor’s airstrip. They were facing the sunrise and we were able to take some good shots in that backdrop. We then lost track of the Pride as they went into a thicket. Moving along, we saw some Jeeps in the distance had spotted the Cheetah and the cub again and diverted towards the group. But as we drew nearer, I decided not to pursue the Cheetahs as I felt that we were disturbing them in their quest to make a kill and satiate their hunger.
On this drive, we had another sighting of the four cubs of the Ridge Pride. Subsequently, our driver/guide using binoculars spotted the Marsh Pride once again. They had walked quite a distance within an hour, since our last sighting of them at sunrise. As we moved away from the pride in search of a suitable location to have our picnic breakfast, we stumbled upon two male Lions with a Buffalo kill. They were identified as two of the dominant males of the Marsh Pride. At last we found two of the foursome! On our afternoon trip, as expected the rest of the pride was at the kill. It was interesting to observe the cubs, feeding on the buffalo meat.
The following morning, on our last safari drive of that trip at the Governor’s, we found the vultures in control of the remains of the buffalo carcass. We also tried to spot a leopard but failed. Having been to Masai Mara many times, it was the first time that I had not had a leopard sighting there.
By noon, our return flight landed at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi. After a tasty rice and curry meal at an Indian Restaurant in the city, we continued our safari tour in a 4X4 Land Cruiser and headed towards Amboseli National Park located 240km from Nairobi.