Final Hours on the Masai Mara
You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.
― Karen Blixen,
I’m awakened by the sound of a sliding zipper disengaging and, in a few moments, the click of a table lamp illuminates my tent. Joseph sets a side table beside my bed. How decadent is this, this tea and cookies served before the day even sees the first rays of dawn?
Having had the foresight (and the desire to sleep a bit longer), all I have to do is grab the photo gear I’d carefully laid out last evening, and then wave my flashlight through the door flap of my tent. I see the security guards—the guys who patrol Governor’s Camp all night to keep the wild animals at bay—approaching and I hear the quite chatter of others in the group behind him.
In a minute, we are at the safari vehicles that park in a clearing behind out tents. I find the right one and climb in. Marg and Barbara join me and soon Solomon drives the vehicle out the gate.
This is it; this is our final safari drive in the Masai Mara. Later this morning we will fly in a small plane to Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, where adventures of a different kind await. Right now, my heartstrings are trying to anchor me to the Mara, much like the Lilliputians tied Gulliver to the ground.
Solomon drives to the marsh and one of the first things we see in the dim light of early dawn in a saddle-billed stork with a catfish in its beak. The lack of rain for two years has reduced the water level in the various small stream to mere puddles. We pass one where there is so little water that the fish exceed the amount of water necessary for them to breath and they are jumping and wriggling desperately.
Bad for the fish, but easy pickings for the saddle-billed stork.
As successful as the stork is this morning, there’s always a predator around the prefers to steal food rather than seek it on its own. In this case, it’s a fish eagle that comes in to take the fish.
Though the stork is many times taller than the eagle, it’s no match for fighting and the stork cedes the fish and returns to the puddles for another.
By now, it’s light enough to see clearly and a short distance away, two stunning male lions rest on mounds, watching the females come in from the field.
|A hot air balloon rises from Governor's camp for an early aerial safari.|
My attention turns to the females, just in time to see one hiss and snarl, apparently at one of the males.
The lions cross the ditch close to where the stork had been harvesting catfish for the fish eagles.
They walk right through the few safari vehicles, and take advantage of the shade cast by them.
|It;s been a long night for the little cubs, and when you have to yawn.....|
A male remains awake to watch their approach.
One lioness greets a male with affection, but the other arrives and snarls. The male wants no part of this grumpy female.
I’m not sure what’s happening because I don’t know these lions. Is there a long-term problem here?
The lioness is obviously pregnant and, most likely, therein lies the answer to this behavior. Is she warning him to stay away from her forthcoming cubs?
The first female approached the second lion, as does one of the cubs.
And then, here comes trouble....
And then, here comes trouble....
This is the pride featured in the Big Cat Diaries on National Geographic, and these lions are loved by fans around the world. There is something else at work here. These lions have names and once you are introduced to an animal with a name, its essence stays with you forever.
The male goes over to his brother, as if to commiserate with him about the grumpy pregnant female.
|"Stay away from her today. She's really in a bad mood."|
There's a saying I came across in Australia that fits my feelings exactly: The earth has music for those who listen.
|Grumpy female finds herself alone on the mound.|
The sun rises higher and the day becomes warmer. The lions move about, finding a resting place according to the day’s temperatures.
Far too soon, it’s time to return to camp for breakfast and our impending departure. As sad day, indeed.