Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 11

The further we travel away from Lake Nakuru the more road conditions deteriorate, at first, paved then well groomed gravel and finally dirt paths. No one is complaining. It is a small sacrifice for that which lay ahead, the Masai Mara region, home of the Big Cats of Africa and part of the epic great migration of the Wildebeest. We are in the southwest of Kenya on the border with Tanzania. The Mara (as the locals refer to it) and the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania are contiguous, and knowing no political boundaries, form a 9700 sq. mile ecosystem, of which, Masai Mara National Reserve represents only 583 sq. miles. The Reserve is surrounded by other large conservatories controlled by local governing bodies.

It is a warm afternoon as we stop at the entry gate to pay the $80 per day per person fee to enter the park. The elevation here is over 6000 feet and the air is dry and thin. The terrain is very different from the other two locations. This is open grassland interrupted only occasionally by brush and small trees surrounding streams and wet areas.

Grassland at entrance of Masai Mara

As we enter the Reserve destined for our camp site, one of the first sitings is this stately male Masai Giraffe elegantly seated as if royalty adorning a throne. Always vigilant of its main predator, the lion, we may have caught this guy taking a quick nap. They only sleep for 20 minutes a day, and usually not for more than 5 minutes at a time. Even though they can run at more than 30 miles per hour, their only real defense is to kick attackers. This is the third variety of Giraffe we have seen, Reticulated in Samburu and Rothschild at Lake Nakuru,with the Masai appearing to be the largest.

Masai Giraffe

It has been a long travel day and there is much work ahead in order to settle in at the new camp. The setting sun announces our destination can’t be far away. Wildlife has been fairly sparse and our concentration seems to be more on dinner than photography. I notice a small group of inquisitive Impalas glowing in the evening’s golden light. Not unusual subject matter, but my brain is screaming that there is something special here. The muted blues and greens of sky and horizon resemble an impressionistic oil painting  juxtaposed with a hyper focused realistic foreground. Many photographers believe that horizons should never be allowed to split an image in the middle for it is too ordinary, too boring. So much for that rule! Printed on canvas, this image will certainly be mistaken for an oil painting. I am sure this simple image will make to my favorite list.

Impalas in Masai Mara

Unpack and organize, clean equipment, download and back up images, pack camera bags for morning, too late for dinner, too tired to eat anyway. Back on the plains to watch the sun come up. It is going to be a great day.

Masai Mara Acacia tree at dawn

In a matter of a half hour, the morning light is already ablaze as we discuss how this fiercely tenacious Cape Buffalo is frequently successful in defending itself from lion attacks, even seeking out young males to kill as a preventive measure. Yet, its ears are a bloody mess from the incessant harassment of insects and parasites. Suddenly the crackle of the guide’s walkie-talkie announces the sighting of Lions. Get down and hold on. We race off bouncing from one rutted path to another. I don’t care what my back feels like tomorrow, I have waited days for my first close encounter with lions so tromp on that accelerator.

Masai Mara Cape Buffalo

Faster, I don’t want to miss anything, hopefully, they haven’t disappeared already. Ever the aggressive driver, David has pulled in tight and put us in perfect position without disturbing the situation. I have popped up and am shooting before the vehicle ever stops. I can’t believe my eyes. This must be a theatre set, nature is just not this orderly.

 Masai Mara lioness with 5 cubs

Five nursing cubs with two lionesses warming themselves in the early morning sun, you have to be kidding me!! When our third vehicle arrives, we have the full attention of the curious cubs, and for a moment, all eyes on the unfamiliar. Mom could care less, she has seen it all before. The golden light, the composition of the grouping, the focused eyes, would even be difficult to replicate in a studio situation with humans never mind lions in the wild. In deed, it is going to be a great day.

Masai Mara lionesses with 5 cubs

The lionesses care for each of the cubs as if they are her own. Although twins are most common, triplets do occur.

Masai Mara lioness with 5 Cubs

Lioness and cub in Masai Mara

I am going to title the photo below “Becuase I said so”. Sort of reminds me of my youth.

Masai Mara lioness with 2 cubs

Although male lions have little involvement with raising the cubs, they do keep track of their pride. After a half hour of observing the group, we notice the dominate male meandering along the opposite edge of the ravine separating us.

Lion in Masai Mara

We are being watched.

Male lion in Masai Mara

With all this action, I hardly notice the colorful Weaver bird

Weaver in Masai

or the Little Bee-eater

Little Bee-eater

or even the beak of this poor guy that has been in too many boxing matches.

Export 1161

It is difficult to take my eyes off the main attraction. This little guy has had his breakfast and it is time to settle down. They will soon slip into the protection of the deep brush shielding them from the intensifying sun and foe alike.

Lioness and cub

Lioness and cub

Click here to see Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 12

Click here to return to Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 10

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 10 | Steve Upton Photography

  2. Pingback: Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 12 | Steve Upton Photography

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