"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 26: The Twilight Zone on the Masai Mara

Chapter Twenty-Six :
The Twilight Zone on the Masai Mara

Strange dreams are better than no dreams at all.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

This is our last evening safari on the Masai Mara, though early tomorrow morning we will have a short drive before we fly back to Nairobi.

Now, as the sun begins its all too rapid plunge to the horizon, Solomon positions us to watch the lions of the Marsh pride.  At a distance away, a lioness rises from her sleep and walks purposefully towards the thicket of bushes the pride seems to consider home base.

Solomon knows where she is heading and where he should park, but holds back from heading there directly.   “She might not go directly to her cubs if we go there,” he explains.

She is a creature of the wild, this beautiful lioness, but she and the rest of the pride are as habituated to the buzzing about of the innocuous safari vehicles as they are to the flies that land and bite them.  That is not to say that we could walk on foot through the Mara and be safe from the big cats that live here.   

A few days ago while we were watching three cubs playing on a log, one of the safari vehicles failed to start.   Immediately, several guides circled their vehicles around it to protect the men who jump-started the dead vehicle.

The lioness ignores us and goes directly to the thicket.

The bushes at left are where the pride rests during the day.  The new cubs are behind the bushes.

Solomon drives around a grove of tall trees and maneuvers the vehicles through their trunks, around other vehicles, and carefully turns the Land Rover broadside to the lions.   We are parked right behind the BBC film crew that has been watching and filming the lions all the days we have been here.

We are also parked where, a few days ago, we watched Cape buffalo heading toward that particular thicket and saw the departing lions turn back towards it as if to defend a couple lions that remained there.   Little did we know then that two new cubs were hidden deep within the branches.

We are observing the new cubs while parked on the edge of the trees behind the Cape buffalo, facing this direction.   The lions thicket is out of view but immediately to the left.

It is those new cubs that we hope to see now as darkness impends.

Shoes off, we stand on the seats of the Land Rover to see over the BBC crew.  Our long lenses are firmly balanced on bean bags and aimed at a grassy spot below the dark green bushes.  There is a small opening between clumps of long grass and it is there we see one cub stumbling about its mother’s face.   She has moved them from inside the bushes to this new spot below them.

The cub has that look of an animal whose eyes are not yet fully opened, a slightly closed lookrather than the round appearance of older animals.   It is not yet adept at using all four legs at once on uneven ground and it stumbles frequently as it explores its world.

A staccato of shutter fire bursts from our and other vehicles whenever the cub is in the open.   The lioness pays no attention.

She has just nursed the cubs and the second one is still hidden.

Pick her up and bring her into the open, I silently say, over and over.

Suddenly the lioness raises her head and looks directly at me.  She looks at the vehicles parked near us, then looks back directly into my eyes.

She stands, turns back to the tall grass that obscures the second cub.   In a moment, she brings it into the open, the cub relaxed in her strong jaws.

She sets it down with the first cub and spends a little time grooming them.

I am stunned.   Am I suggesting the lion and I communicated?    Do I have the ability to transmit a silent message to non-human creatures?   Or did the silent hopes and wishes of every person observing this scene combine enough brain power to get the message across?   Dr. Michio Kaku might back me up on that.

We’ll never know, but just between you and me, this kind of eerie stuff happens frequently enough that I really have to wonder and kind of half believe.   But think about this:   she put it in the only spot where we could observe it.   She could just as easily have picked up the first cub and hidden it behind the tall grass with the second cub. 

The lioness soon leaves the cubs to rejoin the other members of the pride just above the little ones.

And for us?   On our last evening safari on the Masai Mara, we burn up memory cards in our cameras to our hearts content.

We are a happy bunch as we eventually drive back to Governor’s Camp, only a few minutes away, even though we have packing to do in preparation for our departure tomorrow.   

Right now?   Photos to download and dinner awaits.


  1. Priceless photos. There ARE times when we just have to wonder about the power of thoughts or "I wish" ... it would seem like this Mama Lion really heard your plea/desire to have the new cubs in full view. I feel transported!! Smiles, Patti (and Cap in Mongolia)

  2. You believe. You don't believe. No in between. You seem to at least be questioning. Amazing communication. Just accept we know so very little. What power gives the lioness the instructions to take care of the cubs. What power gives the cubs the amazing ability to go for food almost at birth. Where is the faucet for me? Wow. Smiles .. Cap