AKR1

Eight Glorious days in the Mara- a new appreciation for a quintessential safari destination

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Posted (edited)

Itinerary:

 

First night after 10 pm arrival in Nairobi at the Ole Sereni hotel close to the airport.

Day 2 flight at 10 am from Wilson

Day 2 to 7 at Mara Toto camp (5 nights)

Day 7 to 9 at Naboisho Camp (3 nights)

Day 10 – leave at 11 am flight to Wilson and then day room at Embakoko Lodge in Nairobi Game Park with drop off late night for flight home.

 

Agent: Bill Givens, the Wild Source

 

Trip taken with two other friends who are also occasionally on SafariTalk AAAfrica and Sharmajd. I have included some of their photographs in this report with their permission and credited them- all photos without credit are mine.

 

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We arrived at in the Mara right on schedule at 11 am after spending the night in Nairobi at the Ole Sereni hotel. Ping was waiting for us and I immediately liked the Mara Toto vehicle that was roughly identical to the open Great Plains vehicles in Botswana except that it had two rows behind the driver rather than three. The weather was beautiful, around 75 F with bright sun and a light breeze. Shortly after leaving the airstrip we came across a group of elephants that we spent about 15 minutes with and made it to Mara Toto camp in about 35 minutes thereafter.

 

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The camp managers, Richard and Lorna along with several staff members were on hand to greet us and we were shortly shown our tents, had lunch and were on our way. I had mentioned that we planned to be out before first light and get back after dark each day, taking with us a packed breakfast and Richard & Lorna offered to send us lunch wherever we were.

 

First impressions of the camp were very good. We were the second guests the camp had with the first group leaving the previous day. The location of the camp is excellent, by a beautiful small stream just inside the main park border with the Olare Orak Conservancy (OOC) a mere 500m away and Mara Plains camp that is currently under construction exactly 1 km away. The camp has a significant advantage over other camps in the Mara in its transversing rights- they presently have access to Mara North, the OOC/Motorogi conservancy and of course the main park. This is a huge area, and while access to the OOC is temporary until Mara Plains opens on June 1st, gives Mara Toto guests plenty to do for an extended period. In addition, as we found out on a few occasions, the wardens are very strict about enforcing the 7 pm curfew in the main park, meaning you need to be in your camp by then or past the park gates or risk a minimum 10k shilling fine. For Mara Toto however, if you happened to be 90 minutes away while watching developing action in the park, provided you were not very far from the Mara North or OCC border, you could always head north and cross several entry spots outside of the main gates and get into the conservancy at night (around 7 pm), make your way to the OCC/ Mara Plains location and cross the 500m into the main park to Mara Toto.

 

 

 

The camp itself was perfect for our needs. The brand new tents were designed personally by Dereck Joubert and I cannot imagine a more practical, yet tasteful, design. You have two tents, with the bathroom in the second tent, but fully integrated. The bathroom is large with a huge shower area with wooden slats that prevents shower water from wetting the rest of the bathroom floor. Most importantly, there are several plug sockets in the bedroom tent for charging camera batteries and other paraphernalia. The main light switches are conveniently located on the bed headboard so they can be operated from the bed. Tea and coffee self service is in a beautiful picnic chest with steaming hot water in a flask that was amazingly hot early morning several hours after it was placed there.

 

All tents are very close to main area, which is a simple large tent with a rustic dining table with 10/12 chairs, a bar armoire, and a small sitting area for about six people with worn leather couches and old safari related books etc. That’s it, except for a bonfire area with chairs outside. Perfect for our needs, but limited for anyone who is looking for an elaborate in-camp seating area, pool etc. Food was three courses at dinner with a vegetarian choice and consistently very good. Lunch and breakfast were sent/taken to us and were also very good, and they accommodated any requests.

 

At a time when the term eco-friendly is overused, my impression is that Mara Toto is the real deal and the footprint it leaves in the wilderness is minimal. No cement was used and all camp operations are closely monitored to be environmentally appropriate (I was told by Richard the same approach will be used at the new Mara Plains).

 

We were in the vehicle for our rest of the day drive by 1.30 pm and spent the afternoon partly in the park but mostly in the OOC.

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Edited by AKR1
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Ive been looking forward to your TR, and review of Mara Toto.

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Naboisho Camp:

First a little about the Naboisho conservancy. The conservancy is fairly new having been officially created in spring/summer 2010. Naboisho is bordered by the OOC on the west, and Ol Kinyei Conservancy on the east. The main park is about 45 minutes to the south west to the Talek gate but there is a buffer Masai land and village between. I noticed the animals in Naboisho generally were less comfortable with vehicles and one needed to work much harder to find game, especially as Naboisho camp does not have radio contact with other camp vehicles and while we were there we were often the only camp vehicle out. Naboisho is also home to two research projects- the Big Cat project and the Elephant project, the latter has a small yellow plane that flies around daily and one we encountered on several occasions. The Big Cat project documents each big cat and every/many safari vehicle in the conservancy is given. It is impressive as when we saw a lion or cheetah we were able to check the binder and know all about that particular cat. Naboisho has three large lion prides in the conservancy and one of them, the KGS pride for Koiyaki Guiding School has 22 lions (Incl. cubs) and this particular pride often hung out right in Naboisho camp. The conservancy also has 16 cheetahs and at least 9 leopards.

 

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The camp itself is very nice. It’s significantly larger than Mara Toto in terms of land, with fairly long walks from the tents to the main area and the vehicle pick-up area, depending upon which tent you are in. The common area is beautiful with a large, separate dining area and spacious sitting areas, an elevated wooden deck with chairs overlooking a large grassy area, from where large amounts of game are visible at about 200m. On the grounds there is a fire pit with chairs set for bonfire evenings. The whole area is upscale and fancier than MT, and from what I understand, somewhat comparable to the old Mara Plains (have not stayed there). The tents were very nice with everything you could want with one important exception- there is no charging facility in-tent and all electronics have to be lugged to the common area to charge. After the convenience of MT, this was a pain. The bathroom is integrated into the single tent and has indoor and outdoor (bucket) showers and good lighting. Hot water flasks and mineral water are set at each sink and we were told to only use mineral water in the mouth). The front area of the tent has a bench and chairs overlooking the conservancy but is inside the tent. There is no seating area outside the tent. Morning tea/coffee is served at wake up. We had a chance to visit Rekero camp one day and Roulef, who was there, gave me a tour- the Naboisho tents are a definitely more upscale than Rekero’s tents, but the rest of that camp is beautiful and has a stunning location. Food was three courses at dinner and very good. Lunch and breakfast were sent/taken to us and were also very good, and they accommodated any requests.

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Giraffe skull identifying my tent

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Posted (edited)

Weather/Landscapes:
Landscapes in the main park and the conservancies were very beautiful to absolutely stunning with full advantage taken of the golden light in the mornings and evenings. Superb sunrises and sunsets. Importantly, the weather in February was exceptional with highs in the low 80s F and lows early morning and at night 55 to 60F. The sun was hot but there was generally a light breeze and always comfortable in the shade. There were no mosquitoes whatsoever, but large numbers of houseflies that were real pests inside the vehicle during the day, especially in the conservancies. I have to figure out a housefly repellent as deet based products were generally ineffective.

For many people, Kenya epitomizes Africa and the Masai Mara is its crown jewel. The Masai Mara Reserve has one of the more spectacular landscapes of any safari destination. One of the world's last great wildlife sanctuaries, the Maasai Mara reserve is unique, home to over three million large animals, extends 695 sq miles of extraordinary safari terrain, and contains areas that are both isolated and those that are absolutely packed with game. This is big cat country which accounts for a lot of its popularity and overcrowding problems. However, as we discovered, outside of the migration summer period when overcrowding is undoubtedly a problem, the Reserve remains exceptional.
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Unlike the Reserve, the adjourning private conservancies never have an overcrowding problem and enjoy yet have significant permanent game including lots of big cats. The Olare Orak Conservancy is also very scenic with riverine woodland and has the Olare Orok and Ntiakitiak rivers, the Ntiakitiak Gorge and associated escarpment and acacia woodland.

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Mara North Conservancy lies above the Musiara marsh area of the main park, has the Mara river flowing through it and is surrounded by open acacia plains and riverine woodlands. Lots of wildlife but also high number of cattle in certain areas.

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The Naboisho conservancy is located fairly high up and from its plains, on a clear day one can see a lot of the Mara ecosystem from the Oloololo escarpment to the Siana hills west to east. However there is a significant amount of rough short brush and rock filled areas. The area near the Ol Kenyi conservancy (we did not have access unless you see a major sighting and are allowed to cross only after spotting the sighting from the Naboisho side) is particularly beautiful with a garden of Eden feeling with large volume of Giraffe and other plains game attracted to salt lick and naked rock floor. Naboisho has a very large resident giraffe population and we saw more giraffe here than anywhere else in the Mara. The riverine woodland here is prime leopard country. We heard some conflicting information on the animal history in Naboisho. Some people had said that only when the Masai left when the conservancy was founded did the majority of animals including the lion prides really move in, but Benjamin disputed that saying the animals had been there all along only now more in the open and there were few groups of new animals that moved in post conservancy establishment.
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Finally, the Motorogi conservancy that anyone who has access to OOC can also transverse is spectacularly beautiful, particularly this February due to an unusually huge volume of flowering acacia trees that scent the entire area and attract large volumes of plains game all the way up to its high plains. This is also where the controversial Virgin group camp, Mahali Mzuri is located.
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Image below by AAAfrica:

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Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

Sighting highlights:

 

Predators- our interest was big cats in particular but any interesting animal behaviors’ in general.

Leopards: Four different sightings, two excellent, one exceptional and one mediocre. In general, finding leopards was very hard and required a specific mission with large blocks of time with success definitely not assured. The “excellent” sightings were in the OOC of a leopard named Yellow found after some superb tracking by Ping that involved painstaking checking of every likely spot but success was achieved by sound, not sight. Ping heard jackals calling in a particular way and took off in the direction culminating with us reaching just after Yellow had made a kill and we saw him dragging the baby hartebeest impala up a tree just as a hyena approached. Yellow sat in the tree not eating the kill, and Ping said he liked to eat on the ground, as do many male leopards. Sure enough once the hyena left, down came Yellow and we saw him carefully removing the antelope’s fur and then starting to feed.

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Photo below AAAfrica:

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Tongue twister (photo AAAfrica):

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Photo AAAfrica:

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Photo AAAfrica:

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Next Leopard #2, 3 and 4.

Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

Leopard #2 was seen by pure luck at this time as he was strolling in the open in plain sight of where we had been observing Yellow. This unnamed Leopard, also a male, was very comfortable around a vehicle and posed for us up and down large mounds for an hour and then very thoughtfully climbed a small tree where we had breakfast directly facing him for another 45 minutes. (Ping believed Yellow was the father of this leopard but did not have confirmation). He then shifted rather quickly into a hunting position moving fairly fast to the edge of a large meadow/field with a lone male impala in the distance. We were sure we were going to see a kill as he slowly crept into the field and headed towards the impala. Ping positioned the vehicle perfectly into a spot halfway between the leopard and the impala but well off to the side. Well, at this point we noticed the impala location had much lower grass than the rest of the field. The leopard saw this as well and made an immediate decision to lie under a bush where he promptly went to sleep. We were with him for the rest of the afternoon as he occasionally raised his head and the impala stayed mostly in the same spot it was originally seen in. To make a long story short, the leopard finally moved in from the side but hesitated in making the rush into the short grass with about 100m to the target, eventually the wind shifted, the impala smelt him and took off. So did we but later that evening in fading light and in the midst of a downpour we and a couple of other vehicles saw him make a charge into a group of hartebeests and to the best of my knowledge miss. Exciting stuff.

 

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Branch oversight (Photo AAAfrica):

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Watching every move you make (Photo AAAfrica)

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Photo below AAAfrica:

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Heading to the target Grant gazelle

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Up and down trees and bushes

 

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But finally decided not to go for the kill:

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Edited by AKR1
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I don't want to question your ID skills or those of your guide - but are you sure this is a baby hartebeest (which would be called topi or kongoni in Kenya) - to me it looks more like an impala...

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Posted (edited)

AKR1- Excellent start- a wealth of information on the camps and brilliant images. Cannot wait for more!

 

 

PS- See that you got that map. It really is an excellent one, isnt it? I was told that a much bigger and even more detailed one is in the making by the guy who had done the one on the reserve, but I have found this one you posted here, extremely useful.

Edited by Anita

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Lucky with leopards! While the sunset shots are moving that map is darn useful. Thanks for including it. I see Ping surfaces again! He starred in Anita's report. Back to your arrival, how was Ole Serena? Could you see anything in NBO Nat Park from the windows? Picking up on Ice's point, did PIng think the kill was a hartebeest because the leopard charged into a herd of hartebeest? Elaborating on Ice's point and practicing my Swahili names for Tanzania, isn't a kongoni a hartebeest and a topi is a nyamera?

 

Feb seems like a nice time to visit. You probably got a bit of a price break, too.

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Posted (edited)

Leopard number 3 was seen in the main park again after a fairly lengthy hunt, of about two hours near Entim camp where we were looking for Olive, a mature female but finally found her daughter, called Seven in Swahili (for the 7th offspring). This turned out to be a fairly disappointing sighting as we had to follow the leopard across a rocky stream where she sat down looking straight at us. A beautiful smaller female (especially compared to Yellow who is a huge male). However, we had less than 5 minutes with her when another vehicle from a name brand camp arrived and rudely drove past us to the leopard who took off into the bush. Ping was furious but only said he was disappointed by the other driver whom he knew (in 5 days with Ping it was clear everyone in the park knew him and vica- versa). Shortly thereafter 3 additional vehicles showed up and all of them drove right into the bush where the leopard was lying down. We left and Ping called the warden to complain on the behavior of the other vehicles. The only amusement in this sorry episode was a white minivan who could not cross the stream and its driver asking various camp vehicles if they could show his guests the leopard.

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Why are all these vehicles coming here?

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Now you see me

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And now you don't:

 

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On Leopards, the best for last. On our last full day at Naboisho camp we came back into the main park and after some spectacular sightings ran into Olive walking in the open being photographed by a professional in a completely open vehicle with one door removed. Beautiful day and Olive was preening like a star. We got about 20 minutes before a bunch of vehicles showed up and we left for Rekero close-by where we were to pick up our lunch (and get a tour as Roulef was there for the day). On the way back we passed the Talek river and noticed some buffalos looking in one direction and snorting and Ben said he saw a leopard. We pulled over the side and noticed two impalas soon joined by a big male impala coming back from the river. Just as we were about to leave as we had left a cheetah with three cubs prior to this, we saw a leopard creeping up in full hunt mode from the river. It was Olive and there were no vehicles around as presumably everyone, including our sister Rekero vehicles were in for lunch. Olive could not strike as the impala were just a little to far away but she slunk into the undergrowth and Ben did a brilliant job of following her through the rough brush and positioning the vehicle in an amazing spot with a direct view of a short grass Mara plain with the three impala, male, female and a calf. We were sure this was a kill and our position 20 m from the leopard but discreet enough was perfect. Exclusively us, no other vehicles in this hidden spot! To make a long story short, despite a Topi in the distance (200m) staring straight at the leopard (they have exceptional sight), the clueless impala walked within 3 to 5m (Ben says 3m) of the concealed leopard and inexplicably she did not strike, rather flicked her tale and revealed herself to the startled impala. What happened next was unbelievable. The impala, far from running away, snorted and made loud sounds while moving towards the leopard and managed to make Olive slink away. Ben was beside himself saying he had never seen such behavior and something was wrong with Olive. Despite not witnessing the kill, it was a fantastic exclusive sighting right next to Rekero. Bottom line, you never know what will happen in the wild.

 

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Olive - photo below Sharmajd:

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Buffalos at the Talek river banks

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Just missed those impala because I had go all the way around due to those blasted buffalos

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You are not getting away. I'll go around the side and cut you off.

 

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Did you smell something? No go back to grazing

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Leopard 40m from impala

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Now the impala have walked very close 10m to the leopard- its now or never

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Something smells weird Dad

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Just kept looking and did not strike?

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I see you, leopard. GET OUTTA HERE

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Finally, on leopard sightings, despite significant effort and time in Naboisho, we saw no leopards. We were told more than once, our fellow STer, Anita, holds the all time record of leopard sightings in a single visit at Naboisho camp, seeing 9 leopards during a recent visit.

Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

Thanks to GW for posting this on FB or it may have taken me longer to find!

 

Love an ARK report for sure! Have taken a glance at the pics; love the cats...

and will be pouring me a sundowner to sit down and enjoy your adventure at leisure. :D

 

The tents look awesome....as does the landscape.

Can't wait to read all the details!

 

Thanks AKR - I know everyone has been eagerly awaiting your report....

Edited by graceland

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You mean you aren't on ST 24/7? Oh Graceland, what shall we do with you?

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AKR, love the way you've reported on the camps which is a real help to people planning future trips. You had wonderful leopard sightings, I'm very envious. I also doubt the hartebeest calf kill, doesn't look to have the ears for it.

 

Glad Ping reported the behaviour, it gets rabid around the Talek - leopard hot spot.

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Correction on the baby hartebeest - replace with impala. I think I confused it with the evening attack of Leopard # 2.

 

Ole Sereni hotel was fine but we did not see any animals on the end of the park it's on. My only complaint was slow check in after a long flight but the breakfast the next morning was excellent and made up.

 

Graceland, I hope you enjoy the report!

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Exceptional stuff. you have me sitting on the edge of my seat!

 

So Saba is now on her own? I saw her with Olive in October when she was already 12-13 months old. One reason Olive is cautious is because she has cubs ( how she is 17 and still going strong is beyond me!). I dont think anyone has seen the cubs but Rekero keeps posting referring to the cubs on FB.

 

I found Ping and Ben to both be excellent with patience, anticipating behaviour and positioning - and always going that extra mile in terms of thinking where to position next. Overall I found Ping in a different league but both of them very very good.

 

Look forward to the cheetah section :)

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Posted (edited)

Thanks AKR1, Lovely start ..... Toto looks awesome and looks like the grass was tall? You mention you were close to Entim camp? How did you find that area? Crowded? Tall grass?

 

look forward to cheetahs too.....

Edited by madaboutcheetah

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Thanks Anita & Hari. I will comment on the guides later but both were really very good.

 

Hari, the crew at Mara Toto remember you well from Mara Plains. The Entim area just south of Rekero camp in the Burrangat Plains did not have very high grass as I recall. The vehicle density was lower than most parts of the park and not very crowded in February.

 

I think you will like the next part of my report because your favorite cat is up next!

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Masai Mara is the best place for me. Thank you for share the incredible shot of leopards!

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Posted (edited)

Cheetah: We were very fortunate having multiple sightings of Cheetahs both exclusively in the conservancies and with other vehicles in the park. We almost always found cheetahs when we were on a mission to find them, in contrast to decidedly less success with leopards. In total we saw 15 + different cheetahs and I will describe three memorable sightings:

 

 

First, in the Mara North, after some searching in an area known for a particular cheetah mom called Narasha and her three cubs we just ran into them sitting on the side of the road in a great spot eyeing a large number of plains game directly across and finally getting interested in some Grants Gazelles and Thompson impalas not far from where they were sitting. We spent 45 minutes observing their interaction, getting very interested in the antelope then fizzing out, repeatedly. To my surprise despite all of this on a “main” road in Mara North, not a single vehicle passed. Eventually and rather oddly, the Cheetahs headed away from the gazelles and all the mass of plains game slightly further down south (towards the main park), towards a beautiful large open plain area, completely devoid of game. They staged several photogenic scenes on mounds etc and were looking for the absent game. By this point two other vehicles showed up and the three of us continued watching. Next came a heavy downpour that drenched the cheetahs and had us closing the open flaps all around the vehicle. We had sundowners as the rain ended and it was around 5 pm and the other vehicles left. The cheetahs suddenly began to move fairly fast and we followed for about 1 km till they stopped in another field that was deserted except for a solitary male Grants gazelle. The light was fading as Ping positioned the vehicle about 250m directly across with a panoramic view of the action. Naroisha and her cubs hid behind a bush as the gazelle walked up and then down a steep escarpment and then inexplicably directly towards the waiting cheetah. Action, and Naroisha sped like a bullet towards the startled gazelle as he walked past her. Lights out? No, the gazelle reacted instantaneously speeding away and avoiding the cheetah’s outstretched claws on two occasions and the whole thing was over in 15 seconds. Through binoculars the Grants Gazelle looked considerably bigger than the cheetah. Grants Gazelle 1, Cheetah 0. No matter, an amazingly exciting afternoon and a fantastic exclusive sighting.

 

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Below AAAfrica:

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Image below AAAfrica:

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After the rain (PhotoAAAfrica):

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Photo AAAfrica:

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Photo Sharmajd:

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Time to get this done:

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Heading towards the field with the Grant's Gazelle

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On Target:

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and finally, this grainy image at dusk, you can barely make out the Grant Gazelle heading towards the cheetah. I could not capture any of the chase as I was watching with binoculars but Sharmajd did just great

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Images below of cheetah hunt sequence by Sharmajd:

Narasha and son looking at target:

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On the lookout for prey:

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And, the hunt begins with Narasha exploding out from behind the shrubs and the Grant's Gazelle taking off even faster

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Both mother and cub in hot pursuit. It is nearly dark now and I recall barely seeing this through binoculars

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The gazelle accelerates avoiding the cheetah's outstretched paws attempting to trip him:

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Narasha tries to again trip the Gazelle and comes close

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....but the Gazelle accelerates through the turn

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and sets up the getaway

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Gazelle 1, Natasha and her cubs 0.

The cubs go hungry for the day.

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View of the field where the action took place showing how dark it was getting:

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Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

Cheetah encounter 2: Naboisho conservancy on two occasions. Male un-named cheetah that we named ADD cheetah for his completely unpredictable and seemingly illogical hunting techniques. A beautiful big male, he would look hard at prey, stalk them and then turn in a completely different direction with no game and go down the valley into an area where the conservancy met Masai lands and there was definitely no prey. Perhaps he was trying to get rid of us which he succeeded admirably and then turned around and came back. But we left him one evening after a fruitless stalk of potential prey and found him in exactly the same spot the next morning rolling around like a big housecat and doing the same thing. We never saw him eat successfully. One morning he walked across a large open plain in full view of impalas and other gazelle who more or less ignored him and suddenly charged a large group of Wildebeests causing them to run and then stop, looking with amazement at the cheetah as if saying what’s wrong with you buddy, we are too big for you. An altogether funny cheetah, totally different from the females who were intent only on getting the job done as they had young to feed. This guy was leading the bachelor’s happy- go- lucky life and food did not seem particularly important.

 

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Photo below by Sharmajd:

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Will you guys just get out of my face. Get a life.

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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What's wrong with you Cheetah. We are too big for you.

 

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I'm not hungry right now. Otherwise you guys were toast.

 

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Look at me

 

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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Goodbye- you can't follow down here.

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Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

Cheetah encounter No. 3: This was in the main park where we spent several hours with a mother and three sub-adult cubs- the "Lookout Hill" cheetah and cubs. She was definitely hungry and carefully and strategically eyed prey but determined she only had one shot and wanted to use it for a sure thing. Beautiful time with the mom and cubs interaction in an extremely picturesque setting. Although we had found them near the Topi Plains area, we had seen this same family a few days earlier near lookout hill on a hot afternoon that was a long way from their location today. The encounter was also enhanced by a big female lioness that seemed to follow this cheetah family and settle down wherever they had last been causing them to continually move to a new location. At one point the lioness moved to a spot under a tree where the cheetahs had been and then suddenly climbed a fairly large tree- the trunk was vertical for about 8-10 feet and the big lioness climbed it easily and settled down for a nap in the branches, something Ben told us he had not seen before in the Mara. A number of vehicles stopped to see this fairly unique sighting (perhaps this lion had been in Lake Manyara at some point?) and then also moved a few hundred meters into a field where the cheetahs were lying in plain view. Earlier as we were driving past the cheetahs, the vehicle scared a large hare who took off in one direction and like a flash one of the cheetah cubs was on him in a full blown chase with several corners and turns at high speed but came up empty handed. A spectacular sighting but the cameras were out of reach and the whole thing lasted 30 seconds.

Cheetah Family under a tree in the mid day sun
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Male Cheetah cub- boldest of the three cubs and the one who gave a spectacular chase to the hare.
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Cheetah family having being moved by the lioness from their first spot end up under this tree:
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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Appears vigilant:
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The lioness appears in the distance heading to the tree and the cheetahs move onto tall grass.

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Mom keeping watch:
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The surrounding landscape:
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Relaxing in their new spot about 100m from the tree
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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Now on to the Lioness from the Rekero pride

Lioness reaches tree where cheetahs were:
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And climbs up- unexpected behavior in the Mara according to Ben.

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Looking at the cheetahs:
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Quick nap

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Awake:
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Down the tree:
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We were parked near the sleeping lioness in the tree and were about to leave when she came down and suddenly the whole event took on a dark turn. One look at the lionesses face and it was clear she meant business- which was to kill a cheetah. She started to move with amazing speed almost in a full blown charge towards the clueless cheetahs about 200-250m away. What happened next was totally unexpected. Two of the perhaps six vehicles parked between the lion and the cheetah reacted swiftly cutting off the charging lioness. I have no doubt they saved a cheetah cub(s) life as this gave the clueless cheetah mother a few seconds to finally realize the major danger of their situation and all the cheetahs bolted with the lioness in hot pursuit but at all out speed the cheetahs were obviously much faster than the lion, however, never having seen a full blown lion charge at close range in daylight, I was awestruck by the speed of that large cat. All occupants of the surrounding vehicles including us loudly cheered the two drivers who had performed the blocking maneuver even the normally emotionless Benjamin was cheering. Yes, I understand, its interference and that man should not interfere with nature, but at that moment all that was irrelevant and saving the cheetahs from the evil lioness was all that mattered.
Strange behavior of both cats. A sleeping lioness coming down a tree in full attack mode not for the purpose of eating, but just to kill, and a normally vigilant cheetah mother who had already been warned that a lion was following them as they had to leave several locations, lying clueless in the grass playing with sub adult cubs was altogether strange. An overall fantastic sighting.

On a mission:
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Photo below Sharmajd:

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Hey what's going on:
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Look at that face:
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What out cheetah family
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Amazing shot showing the clueless cheetah mom looking away and unable to see the lioness about 50m away.
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Photo below Sharmajd:

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If not for this crowd, at least one of the cheetah cubs was dead:
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The lioness moved like a rocked but was blocked off by two vehicles less than 25m from the cheetahs at which point the cheetahs suddenly realized how close she was and bolted with the lioness in hot pursuit.

Five minutes later. The cheetahs live another day

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Close call
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Photo below Sharmajd:

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A guy who witnessed the whole thing:
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Edited by AKR1
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Posted (edited)

We also saw the “star” cheetah Maliaka and her sub adult cub but it was a lousy sighting with Maliaka jumping on a vehicle’s cloth roof and the cub on the hood and the crazy occupant of the vehicle actually sticking a point and shoot camera over his head blind at the cat. Great Plains vehicles have strict instructions not to allow cheetahs to jump on them and also not to allow lions or other predators to use the vehicles shade. I saw Ping, on several occasions, moving away as soon as a cat got too close to the vehicle whether cheetah or lion. However, with cheetahs in the Mara, it’s a circus and we saw several vehicles jockeying to get Maliaka up their vehicle and no game wardens around to enforce anything. Maliaka had no interest in hunting and was just using the vehicles roof as a comfortable place to lounge. We soon left.

 

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Cat on a hot tin roof (AAAfrica):

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Photo above and below by AAAfrica:

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Edited by AKR1
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I so need to be in the Mara right now...

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Excellent cheetah stories AKR. I'd heard about the cheetah versus lion incident on the Rekero FB page so great to see the photos.

 

I think Great Plains have the right philosophy re the cats jumping on vehicles and sheltering by the car, however, it can be hard sometimes to always react quickly enough.

 

What a wonderful trip you've had.

 

BTW. I only see 2 cubs in your first cheetah sighting and wonder if there was a third hidden. We also saw a cheetah with 2 cubs in the MNC and wonder if it is the same one.

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Awesome stuff! So glad those 2 vehicles did what they did. Great cheetah action for you AKR and wonderful images of the stories!

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