Now then, if day 1 hadn’t been gripping enough, day 2 was about to get off to a unimaginably good start. We headed out early – always just before dawn for the best light – to see what was out and about. Then one of the drivers got a shout over the radio that there were leopards. Leopards! My bogey animal! Up until this point I’d never seen a real, wild leopard. It didn’t take us long to catch up with the other vehicles that had spotted the big cats. Imagine our delight when one of the two leopards was a cub! A cute, shy cub staying close by mum and not quite sure what to make of us in the vehicles. What a moment to savour.
After a while, we left the leopards to their own devices to avoid over-stressing them. Further round the back of the bushes and trees that the cats were sitting in, a pair of dik-diks could be heard alarm calling in the direction of the predators. Hunters are often given away by the behaviour of the animals around them and if we hadn’t already had the heads-up about the leopards, the dik-diks would have given us a good idea where to start looking. As you can see from the picture, these tiny antelopes were exceptionally alert and on their guard.
Out on the plains, we passed a couple of sparring male topi antelopes and a pair of white bellied bustards – some of the hundreds of species of birds in the Masai Mara.
The previous evening’s lion cubs put in another appearance, bounding around and misbehaving so that mum admonished one of them with a mock head bite. He won’t do that again in a hurry!
Just to prove that it’s not all about mammals in the Mara, here are a few of the countless birds we saw. There’ll be plenty more, too. When you point your lens to the skies in the UK, 9 in 10 birds seem to be crows, gulls or pigeons. Actually, I’ve got a lot of time for all those birds in the right place, but in Kenya, 9 out of 10 birds are rather special.
One of our clients, Bill, was particularly keen on his birds and there was certainly a huge variety of colourful characters to keep him and the rest of us busy.
Don’t worry, there’ll be eagles, cranes and vultures and so on in another post 🙂
Ok, that’s enough birds for the time being. If you’re not into our feathered friends, skip over the next few pics and back onto the mammals…
Once we’d had our fill of the birds of the plains, we headed out towards the border with Mara North conservancy to see what we could see. On the way, we spotted three giraffes: two adult females and a baby. When I say baby, newborn giraffes are as tall as I am, so it takes a while to absorb just how big these creatures are. If you look closely at the picture of mum and baby touching noses, you can still see the umbilical cord of the little ‘un.
Almost at the conservancy border I asked if we could stop with a herd of zebras because the light was beautiful. We aligned ourselves with the low evening light behind the running animals to get some atmospheric shots. But we didn’t stay long because our guides had spotted elephants! A herd of a dozen or more were moving with purpose towards the border. Although elephants often appear to be moving slowly and sedately, they travel with surprising speed and are virtually silent. The exception to this is if they’re eating, in which case they make quite a bit of noise snapping twigs. Moses and Boston manoeuvred the vehicles so that we were ahead of the animals, but not in front of them. Elephants area easily spooked and guides know how to give the best photographing opportunities whilst keeping them relaxed.
The herd eventually headed off into the sunset so we jumped out to stretch our legs and have a sun-downer. The sunset, as it almost always is, was breath-taking. But there was one last surprise: Moses and Boston excelled themselves with a competition involving how far each could spit a projectile. This is a game that I’ve not come across before, particularly if I tell you that the projectile involved was an antelope poo!
Come and join us on 2016’s Kenya photo safari!
Part 3 coming soon.