Sunday, February 19, 2017

Another day in Lion Country

Another good night of sleep, not too windy or too cold.  I only heard lions once, quite far off in the distance.  I don't know how that bodes for the day.

We were up at 6:00 and on the road at 6:30.  It was a beautiful painted sky sunrise today, lots of hot pinks and orange.  The sun was just about coming up when we came across Offbeat pride males Jesse and Frank, heading back toward the same hill we saw the moms and cubs return to yesterday.  It seems as though Jesse and Frank had just manhandled the nomadic sub-adults out of this territory, as we came across them next.  There were five of them, although one was Leia, a veteran Offbeat female, fully grown, whose job it is to coach these sub-adults on how to behave themselves.  While the nomadic lions were headed towards the spot where Frank and Jesse just retired, Leia guided them away.  I asked David how likely it is that these nomads would form their own pride, and he said unlikely.  The survival rate of 14 nomads isn't good anyway, but to have the Offbeat pride, the Acacia pride and the River pride just here in Mara North along with the Moniko pride next door in Olare Motorogi, there's almost no room for anyone else without some serious competiton.

We stopped along the way to watch some elephants and to watch a group of hyena, two of which seemed to be in the courtship dance.  I thought for sure they might mate, but then they ran off rather than consummate the dance.

While we were watching the hyenas though, Kappen and David were watching the hill ahead of us.  They noticed that some buffalo got driven downward and some zebra scattered, so they headed that way.  It turns out that this is Acacia pride territory and a lioness had left two 5 month old cubs deep in a bush for safe keeping while they went out to hunt.  We saw both, one more clearly than the other, sitting there patiently until their mom returns.  That's putting two and two together and getting a sighting, for sure!

We stopped for breakfast after this, surrounded by gazelle, zebra, wildebeest and eland, which was pretty cool.  Today we had pancakes, hard boiled eggs and little muffins with coffee and juice.  It was pretty filling.  Just as we finished breakfast, Kappen jumped up, having been sitting there staring at the hillside as he finished his coffee, and said "I see cheetah".  He grabbed his binoculars and true to his word, it was Amani and her two cubs again on the opposite hillside, maybe a mile away.  David said she wasn't too far from where we left them yesterday, and they still hadn't eaten.  So off we went.

We tracked her again for about 2 hours as she was foiled a couple times by nearby baboons or zebra who spotted her.  She never really got too close to executing a chase, but my hope was always there.  All three cheetah look very thin, they definitely need a meal.  Once a fifth car showed up and started following, we left.  David believes that the cars tracking a cheetah can ruin a hunt for her, which I completely appreciate.  I'd rather that she eat than I get to see a hunt.  It was still pretty cool though to get some great photos of her on termite mounds as she assessed the area and watch her cubs as they followed her (or in some cases led her) around.

Today has been cooler than we're used to and no sun until lunchtime.  It was a challenge taking in that light but I think I made the best of it.

Lunch today was delicious.  There was vegetable lasagna, roasted carrots, tossed salad and a chickpea salad.  For dessert was a tropical fruit salad.  I'm eating very well here.

Off for a quick nap before the afternoon drive.

The afternoon drive started off a bit quiet.  David and Kappen really want to find a leopard for us at eye level, not stuck way up in a tree.  But I think Rana has packed it in and called it a week.  He's likely recovering from yesterday's stranding up in the tree.  So we just drove along and enjoyed whatever we saw.  Some vervet monkeys, some baboons.  What was interesting was a large tower of giraffes, about a dozen, but one adult was teaching a youngster how to neck, or crash necks together as adults do when they fight.  It was sort of half-hearted but interesting for me to see nonetheless.

We kept driving in search of leopard, it really felt endless for a bit.  Then Kappen, from far across a valley, noticed a spot of lion yellow in the bushes across the way.  So off we went, and there were three Offbeat lionesses asleep in the bush.  It was Napono, the alpha lioness, and Lucinda and Polypoly. These were the three, apparently, who stranded Rana up a tree yesterday.  They were passed out cold and looked unlikely to rise.  Until they did.  Something behind us caught their eye and they became quite intent.  Then the yawning started (a sure sign they'd get up) and Kappen figured out that the zebra and impala on the hill behind us were the likely targets.  So we headed that way.  The zebra were conveniently located near a watering hole, which is a prime location for lions to ambush zebra (as I well know from my safari here last year).  The zebra, predictably, headed down to the watering hole, and about half had crossed through it when the one lone lioness who decided to make a strike was spotted, thwarting the effort.  Seriously, I'm collecting thwarted kills like bad pennies!  Another one!  So that was ruined.  Her sisters didn't seem to be too into it, since they were just catching up to her when we got on scene.  So maybe it wasn't a serious effort anyway.

We drove a short distance further and found two lionesses with a bunch of cubs, which was great, except that our little guy Lucky and two of his cousins were missing, which is not great news.  Ugh.  I can't handle losing that little guy so soon after seeing him.

Offbeat set up a great sundowner at a pretty much ideal location under an acacia, with a firepit and everything.  It was excellent and very enjoyable for all the guests to meet up there.  And then it started to rain.  Kenya desperately needs rain, and it got it.  For the next hour and a half it was pretty torrential.  We got back to our tent, had a shower and got to the dining tent just as the deluge happened.  As I write this at 10 p.m. It's pretty much stopped, but for a while there it was hairy.

Tonight's meal was fried fish with couscous, herbed cauliflower and peapods. Appetizer was a delicious ravioli with a sweet tomato sauce.  Dessert was a delectable Amarula mousse, which is wonderful as I'd been drinking Amarula before dinner!

Tucked safely into bed for another early morning.  I still can't believe how much I love it here and how each day is a blessing in some way or another

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