Falling in Love on the Masai Mara
The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won’t get much sleep.
As the time approaches to meet for our first safari out of Governor’s Camp, I gather up the camera gear, extra batteries, new memory cards, and my visor, and head for the vehicles. I’m was excited about this drive, anxious to see what new things we’d encounter here.
Zebras, topi, lilac breasted rollers, maybe some elephants. Probably some baboons, too. We do see those, along with some cool eagles and storks. What I do not expect is to fall in love.
I’m trying to figure out why the completely open and unfenced Governor’s Camp has a security guard and a gate that he raises and lowers at the entrance/exit, when we pull out, make a left turn, and stop. Charlie’s spotted a black-chested snake eagle high in a tree.
Our new driver, Moses, takes us towards a grove of trees but before we get there, we stop to watch the antics of some zebra.
And sure enough, there are baboons in the area.
Just outside the grove, a small group of elephants eat their way through the famous marsh of the Masai Mara. Two years without rain means there’s not much liquid around, but I see evidence that water is just below the surface of the ground.
|The adult elephant is throwinhg dirt on herself to protect her skin from the insects and the sun.|
We find lilac breasted rollers in the trees and photograph these beauties for a while.
Farther into the marsh, we come across two sleeping lionesses, who couldn’t care enough about our very close proximity to open their eyes all the way.
We see a beautiful saddle-billed stork.
Moses, a photographer himself, has an agenda in mind. He saves the best of this drive for late afternoon when everything seems to have a gossamer veneer of lustrous gold leaf.
Three young lion cubs are lying on the beautifully weathered trunk of a fallen tree. They watch the adult females of the pride, who are sleeping on a grassy mound a couple hundred feet away. Obviously, their mother has left them there and told them to stay.
|Watching out for its siblings is hard work.|
|Especially when one wants a nap.|
|Be still, my heart....|
|A sibling needs grooming.|
With a signal unseen and unheard by humans, all three climb down off the log and make their way towards the pride. At the same time, one lioness nudges another to wake her.
|Oh, time already?|
Then, she walks toward the cubs.
|The cubs rush to greet her.|
When she lies down, one cub heads right for a filling station, while the others continue their affection greeting.
|The nursing cub relinquishes her spot and goes to greet its mother.|
And right here is when I fell in love with lion cubs:
When the cubs have finished nursing, they start out for the rest of the pride, but pause to sniff a spot where one cub had urinated.
And then, all three exhibit the Flehman response, in which the upper lip is pulled back to show the teeth and gums. This from Wikipedia:
The main function of flehmen is intraspecific communication by transferring air containing pheremones and other scents to the VNO, an olfactory chemosensory organ located between the roof of the mouth and the palate. This provides chemical cues which animals use in a variety of ways.
And so does mamma:
That done, they're off to join the aunties with more affectionate greetings:
|With a little play along the way...|
We move closer to the pride and watch the greetings.
The upper lioness isn't quite ready for the cubs.
After a while, the pride moves a short distance away, with the cubs and their antics stealing our hearts.
|Look what I can do!|
And then it's time to return to camp, just a few minutes away. It's the night of a full moon, and I wonder what that has in store for us on our first night at Governor's Camp.