Monday, February 22, 2016

Day Seven -- The Mara As It Should Be

I was up before the alarm went off again, as lions were nearby from about 3:00 onward.  It's funny because it's sort of like me with thunderstorms in the summertime, I wake up well ahead of them and wonder why I'm awake, then the storm comes.  Only I like lions so it was fine to be awake for no real reason only to then hear them roaring their heads off some distance away.  They were not as close as the night before, but I relish any opportunity to hear them.

The askira were very late picking me up at my tent.  We were meant to leave at 6:15 and I was ready at 6:00 as they usually come too early for me.  Today I was ready and they never came.  I had to call on the walkie talkie for a lift.  It seemed that without the Porini vehicle there they forgot to get me.

No matter, after I apologized profusely to my new car mates, we were off at 6:30.  I'm back with Nabala as a guide, who was the one who picked me up on Friday and did the evening game drive.  Right away, we went to look for the leopard from last night but didn't find a sign of her.  Hyenas and jackals were about, which made us think the carcass had been dragged nearby, but we never found it, or her and her cub.  Nabala then decided to drive on and look for lions.

It didn't take long to find them.  In the early morning light, we saw two coming across the plains.  We met up with them both just before they got to the orange leafed croton bush they'd be dozing in all day.  At first it appeared to be a young (1 1/2 years) male and female, but on further investigation it was two males, one of which just hadn't developed much of a mane yet.  The other male was the boy we saw wounded the other night!  I was so happy to see he is still alive.  He is indeed walking with a pronounced limp and quite the scratch on his right hip, but he's moving and much farther than he was able to when we left him on Friday night (which is to say, not at all).  Nabala posits that perhaps these two lost their pride or were pushed out, or they just had a bad mother.  Their biggest challenge will be learning to hunt and eat on their own, as they are too young to be out of a pride yet.  Perhaps what we saw happen the other night was them trying to integrate themselves into an existing sub-adult pride.  We will never be sure, but we can guess.

We then heard from other Asilia guides that there was a pride of lions feasting on a kill near the Ol Seki airstrip.  We got there in plenty of time, after a fast rough ride to get there.  This was, Nabala said, the Sampu Enkare pride.  They normally number 10 but we saw 9.  There are two males that appear somewhat older than the others.  One of those males is actually a female displaying male characteristics.  They will be watching her to see how she develops in life and whether she gets any mating opportunities at all.

We moved down to a plain where the three male lions were spotted this morning but found no obvious sight of them.  By then the sun was high enough that it was likely they were in the bush asleep already.  So of course we decided that was the perfect place to stop for breakfast.  I will say that using the bush bathroom with the potential that lions were watching was somewhat unnerving!

Breakfast was good, same as the other days with granola, bread with Mara honey (which is awesome!), hard boiled eggs, coffee, juice.

The rest of the game ride included stops for hippos in a seasonal pool, Coke's hartbeests and zebra.

Back to the camp for lunch.  I think I prefer splitting the game drives.  Doing long days every day is tiring.  Not much really goes on out there once the cats go to sleep, unless you like plains game and hippos.  Plus I miss my onesie, my nap and my book.  A couple hours in bed in the afternoon with the warm breeze blowing through here is a luxury unique to safari.

Lunch today was salad, buffalo mozzarella and tomato and a veggie mix over rice.  It was reasonably good.  The fruit salad with a dab of vanilla ice cream hit the spot though.  It was pretty hot back here today.  That's the one thing, you don't get the breeze here like you do out in the vehicle, I think it's cooler out there at times!

We headed out tonight and went right for the Maasai gift shop that is at Asilia's other camp in Naboisho.  I think we were all expecting much more.  I managed to find two more beaded bracelets I liked and a Mara Cheetah Project tote bag, but the big score was a new toothbrush.  I've been nervous with my last one since I accidentally rinsed it in the faucet water the other night.  I feel better having a new one.  Now if I can only keep this one clean!

From there we heard that they'd found Osirata the leopard again and she was in the mood to hunt.  We were the second vehicle on the sighting and there appeared to be a sick/lame/weak impala right nearby the bush where the other vehicle said Osirata was hanging out.  They thought sure that she'd go for the impala, because it was a ready-made meal.  Well the third and fourth vehicles came and spooked the impala and off it went.  I felt immensely guilty about that.  It was another sense that we shouldn't be here and be this close in her world.  Our being here was preventing her from hunting successfully.  But she carried on and we tracked her for a bit, playing leap frog with each other and with her.  

It then appeared that she'd go for one of three jackals that were in front of the bush she was in.  The jackals were more worried about us and all three headed straight for the bush she was in to get away from us.  The first one got by her, but she tried to pursue the second and just missed it.  The third jumped a mile and started barking like a lhasa apso to warn all near and far that a leopard was in the area.  She didn't stand a chance now.  But carry on she did.  And off towards some impala further down the hill.  As she approached she was spotted by them and they started firing off warning calls.  Both Sammy, the youngest son of the family I'm traveling with, and I asked Nbala not to approach so closely.  Sammy felt as bad as I did about this.  Finally we all left her to it.  She was approaching a large harem of impala when we left her so hopefully she can score a meal without us around.

I will say though that Osirata is a beautiful cat.  I'm glad I got to see her after she was all hidden in the bush last night and sent her handsome male cub out instead.  I talked to Andrew about her and he said she's about 5 years old and this is her third litter.  This is the only cub she's raised to this age (about 8 months) and originally there were two, a male and female.  The female suddenly disappeared.  He says she tends to disappear for long periods at a time so that she's shown up again now is great.  Victoria, the mother of the British family I'm traveling with, asked Andrew if the animals are terribly bothered by us interfering and he didn't think so.  He said that all the animals are used to vehicles coming by and nothing we did ruined her hunt tonight since we didn't get between her and her prey.  It's an interesting argument nonetheless.

We went to have sundowners by a hippo pool and watched a gorgeous full moon rise over the water.  Nabala brought an assistant who had an infrared light which we used for a night drive on the way back, but all we saw was a waterbuck and a bush baby way up high in a tree. Not a lot to write home about.

Dinner tonight was cream of tomato soup, red snapper over red bliss potatoes and spring snap peas and a custardy pudding thing that was good.  I had my new favorite red wine with that, the Unbelievable blend.

Off to read a bit before I start my last full day in the Mara.

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