Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 14
The streams of Masai Mara are the lifeblood of the ecosystem. No water and there is no life. But even for all it provides, the river can be a very dangerous place. Being excessively territorial, Hippopotamus will attack indiscriminately while the Nile Crocodile will lay in ambush devouring anything that strays too close. Crocodiles in Kenya usually are in the 13-16 foot long range weighting 1000lbs or so but we also saw many 20 footers topping the scales at more like 2000lbs. Amazingly, they can lay in open sight and appear to be a log or a stone.
They will warm themselves in the sun for long periods leaving their mouths open to ventilate.
Their jaws are like a pair of giant vice grips with long penetrating teeth to clamp on to prey with insurmountable force.
Their powerful short legs and webbed feet allow the Crocodile to pull struggling prey into an underwater death spiral eventually drowning its victim.
Even though Hippos and Elephants can kill full grown Crocs, especially if they are endangering their young, this is rare and the Crocodile flourishes. This is not to say their population doesn’t suffer periods of stress. This prolonged rainy period in Kenya has provided many secondary drinking pools rather than the small condensed river channels normal for this time of the year. Of course, this means fewer opportunities to eat. Fortunately for the Crocodiles, they are capable of surviving 10 months on the feasts eaten during the Great Migration where large adults may have consumed 2000lbs of Wilderbeest or Zebra meat.
This small mud puddle provides safe haven for the awkwardly positioned Masai Giraffe who might be more vulnerable at the river.
This young underfed lion, most likely recently driven off from the pride to began fending for himself, timidly attempts to cross the river. We watched him for 45 minutes as he paced the rim of the banking overlooking the river. Twice he descended the embankment only to retreat to the rim. He desperately wanted to be on our side where the grasslands were visibly flush with game but had to be sure the Hippos below had moved down stream and the area was clear of Crocodiles.
This adolescent will be searching for other young males to form a hunting party while they develop their own survival skills. David, our 64 year old guide, watched with us as the young male swam the swollen river. He informed us that, although, he had witnessed lions cross water bodies hundreds of times this was the first occasion he had ever seen a lion actually have to swim.
Having crossed the river, even our untested Prince demands the attention of the Zebras normally reserved for the King he will likely become.
Mothers with young are not waiting to find out his intentions.
With the open grasslands announcing his entrance, there will be no dinner today.
The Hooded Vulture stands by just in case junior gets luck.
While life simply rolls on for the Malachite Kingfisher….
And the Lilac Breasted Roller…..
as well as the Red-necked Spurfowl.
Our solo juvenile swimmer is searching for a group like the one we encountered later in the morning. Survival will depend upon developing hunting skills their mothers demonstrated.