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Lions and Sunsets

We set out today at the crack of dawn. Our objective was lions. Yes, we had seen lions in Amboselli, but not up close. We ran into a vehicle with a flat tire and while Gideon stopped to help, we were able to get out and walk free on the savanna just like the animals. We used the time to enjoy the freshest air anywhere and just observe a sunrise on the Mara. By the way, Mara is a word in Masai that mean spotted, but applies to the land here which is spotted with bushes and trees, instead of covered like a jungle.

Mary Ann the great white tourist searching for game with her binocs with her back to a Mara sunrise.

Mary Ann the guide "Hey, I see Land Rovers gathering over there!

We quickly headed off to see what this herd of humans was viewing. We were pleasantly rewarded with a Momma lion and four kittens. What a great start for a day.

I probably shot two hundred photos of this little family. I told Gideon the kittens look cute enough to take home. He looked at me quite seriously and said "If you want to commit suicide, try."

Suddenly the whole family was interested in something behind us.

They were interested in a group of Zebras. Yum Yum.

Momma got up and looked like she would set off for a kill. But she thought better of it when...

...she remembered all the humans that were there!

We spent a lot of time enjoying the lioness. She and the babies did not pay us any attention. Their attention was riveted on a herd of zebras a mile away. I was hoping momma lion would get up and go catch one, but I was sure she would not leave the kittens behind.

We returned to the lodge for lunch and a nap. All the game drives take place in the morning and again in the afternoon because this is supposedly when the game are most active. There is a train of thought developing that the animals have gotten smart and are now most active while the humans are back in the lodges. It would not surprise me.

We had two objectives for our afternoon game drive. One was a black rhino, the toughest of the big five to see. The other was an adult male lion.

We had driven a long way when all of a sudden the radio went wild like it did the day before for the leopard sighting. Gideon did a bush style u-turn and said to me “You said you wanted to see lions mating. Well lions are mating and we are on our way.”  We flew over hill and dale, past herds of “boring” stuff like zebras and topis. We drove and drove. We got all shook and rattled in the vehicle. Then we came upon the scene. It looked like the paparazzi had found Paris Hilton mating. There were at least twenty pop top vehicles with people pointing cameras at these two poor lions.

Short of being a Gates or Zuckerman and being able to rent the entire park for yourself. modern day big white tourists just have to put up with this. Like I have said before, this is not even high season. There is a lot of online chatter about the parks in Kenya and Tanzania becoming nothing more than the wild life parks in the USA. Most of that chatter comes from the scientists who want the parks to themselves. But I argue that if we mere tourists see this spectacle of nature, will will be more inclined to help suppost it, somehow, after we leave. Additionally, there is nothing in any wild animal park that can compare with the vast open spaces of the savanna. I can compare it to Montana, Arizona and New Mexico from experience. The savanna wins. AND wait till you see the sunsets.

By the time we got to the lions, we were late, they were spent. The lioness looked like she was passed out. The male lion was not in much better shape. We took photos and waited. Gideon told us once they get started they mate 3 or 4 times and hour for 3 or 4 days. We waited for an encore, waited and waited. The male tried to rouse the lioness a couple of times but she was having none of it. I recorded all this for you my faithful readers, so please enjoy what passes for ‘Lion Porn’.

When we first arrived, the pair were in the afterglow, pillow talk stage.

"Wow" says the lion. "I have an audience."

"C'mon babe, time to put on a show for the great white tourists and earn our keep"

"Aw c'mon, please. We can't disappoint the tourists, some came all the way from Kansas"

"Tough luck for you. No show today. And do not forget, I may wear my hair like Don King, but I am the REAL King!

On the way home I took some nature shots and some sunsets, The Masai Mara is a photographers dream. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

I will start with some shots of trees and bushes.

This is called the whistling Thorn bush. It is the bush the Masai make their protective fences from. It is protected from most of the herbivores by two inch long thorns, except for zebras who have a way of eating the soft areas around the thorns.

Excuse me here while I give you a little lesson I learned on safari. You very often see large groups of wildebeests and zebras browsing together. In fact, the zebras accompany the wildebeests on their famous migration from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti and back every year. This migration follows the same circular route each year and corresponds to rainfall patterns, hence growing grass. The reason they travel together is that the zebra eat the tall grass, exposing low grasses to the wildebeests. During the migration, the carnivores feast. Lions and crocodiles get fat for the lean time. The crocodiles, in fact the largest crocs in the world, wait for the wildebeests and zebras to cross the Mara River. Thousands perish. The lions attack at will along the way. The other benefit the wildebeests get from the zebras is that when the lions attack, and the joint herds run, the black and white stripes of the zebras, in motion, confuse the lions.  Still, thousands more perish.

This is called the Masai Sausage tree. Those seed pods hanging down are the source of the indigenous alcoholic beverage of the Masai. They soak it with water and honey for a few days. Gideon, our guide, says that after two glasses you start seeing things.

OK, now to the iconic Masai Mara shots, the sunsets. Until this trip I never thought I would see a sunset finer, more striking or more memorable than the ones I watched from Maui. Hawaii move over, Africa has you beat.

The flat topped tree is an Acacia tree. The animal is a zebra.

I could watch them all day, if only they lasted more than a few minutes. On the equator, sunsets are shot lived phenomenon.

WOW, what an end to a perfect day.

Asante san for reading. Please share with your friends. Please make a comment. Please come back for my next post when HTT Holidays and Incentives takes us to Lake Naivashu and Crescent Island where you can walk right up to a giraffe and knock on his knee!

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Dorreene says:

    Great lion photos–like you could just reach out and touch them. How wonderful that there’s still lots of game to see in Kenya.

  2. Randy says:

    Wow! What a great day. Great lion photos. Meanwhile, here in New Mexico, the coyotes got my cat. The merging of two different food chains.

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