Unfortunately I start the latest update of the past 3/4 days while Andy is currently horizontal under our vehicle! This morning we had an issue with our Land Rover whereby the anti roll bar mount, part of the chassis severed during our morning drive, we are just hoping that we can continue on as we are only half way through our three week trip in the Mara! He is currently trying to make a fix by removing the entire front anti roll system. Not really a job that you want to be doing in 30 degree heat, added to the fact that poor Andy has been a little poorly in the last couple of days with a stomach upset so he is finding this afternoon a little tough going given he has not eaten properly in the last few days.
So, for the next few days we will continue to bring updates from the Narok (north of the Mara River) section of the Masai Mara reserve and whilst Andy is fixing the car time I finally have time to update on what we have been doing in the last few days.
Most of the last fews days have been spent in the eastern section of the Narok side, in an area known as Olkeju Rongai. Here we have been concentrating our efforts in establishing what is going on with the dynamics of the Olkeju Rongai females as well as trying to ascertain more info and ID shots of a group of 11 lions, who are believed to be either part of the Olkiombo pride (if so a pride have shifted south of their usual territory and who a couple of years back split into two groups) or possibly members of the Maji Ya Fisi pride. The consensus as to who these lions are appears to be split among guides here in the Mara.
So far we have found 5 females from the Olkeju Rongai Pride, two of which have 2 small (roughly 7/8 weeks old) cubs each and one other who looks to be pregnant (seen once). It is not every day you get to photograph such small cubs so we have therefore spent as much time as we can with them while also covering this eastern section. The other two females (without cubs) we have seen twice, but had limited time with them with with limited visibillity. We are assuming they are from the Olkeju Rongai pride given where were we found them. One set of cubs belongs to a female called Napejo, who is unmistakeable with an old large scar across her right side of her face. Both sets of cubs are adorable, very playful and coming out to provide some nice photographic opportunties. The first morning we found Napejo and her cubs they were with a kill, a wildebeest calf that looked to have been killed during the previous night. Napejo moved the kill into the shade and attempted to cover the kill, to keep the smell from attracting hyena and other predators and also in an effort to keep fresh from the sun’s rays. Whilst Napejo fed the cubs clambered across the carcass and over the mother, whilst they are too young to be feeding on meat they nibbled at the carcass, getting to know the texture, smell and taste of what will in a few months time become their main food source. They played with the wildebeest calves tail and had a mischievous time indeed. One particular cub is a gutsy little fella with bags of character, even growling at mum and lashing out with his paws while she fed, a cub that certainly thinks he is older than he is really is! He frequently wanders away from mum, a little concerning given that this type of behaviour will get him into trouble one day if he is not careful. However, the sightings of these cubs have not been without a large degree of discipline from the mother, making them behave where she can, although with the one male cub it seems a fruitless task as he sometimes refuses to listen and be told!! Yesterday the same group of cubs were close to Ceaser, one of the Notch boy’s coalition. The same male cub cautiously approached Ceaser, with a mix of intrigue and nervousness. His size completely dwarfed to the huge size of this mighty male. Ceaser was tolerant as the cub approached but was clearly not in the mood to entertain the cub’s curiosity and immediately rose and walked off. One day, all being well this tiny little boy will become a force in his own right, always hard to comprehend when you see how tiny and fragile they are at this age!
The other cubs belonging to another female from the same pride are just as naughty, ignoring their mothers demands to stay close, again wandering around and discovering their new world. It has been lovely spending a few mornings and afternoons with them, sometimes staying in the long grass, but on occasions venturing out between nursing on their mother to have a mooch around their new kingdom.
As mentioned above we have found Ceaser, the first time a few mornings ago he was at the far eastern end of the Rongai river, in an area known as ‘Hamerkop’, barely lifting his head, just once or twice and giving us enough to confirm it was him (his ear clip visible and adding to the fact he now only has one testicle!) the next morning, we found him again, around 20 hours since we left him the day prior. He has moved further west and taking a reading from the GPS from the day before he had travelled a staggering 6.78 miles (as the crow flies). As well as Ceaser we have also found ‘Ron’, another male from the same coalition. This male bears an uncanny resemblence to his father, Notch (who it is believed has now sadly passed on and who many believe was killed in a fight with other males around 8-10 weeks ago) Like his brothers and nephews he is a still a mighty and fine looking male, a far cry from when we used to see them on the Marsh when they were only 18 months old. Ron and Ceaser were both found together last night (on the third occasion that we found Ceaser) He was resting under an acacia before moving a short distance across the lugga and taking interest to a nearby buffalo, and then soon joined by Ceaser. We returned again the morning of the 16th to try and find them again, hoping they may have been joined by the other two from the same coalition (Grimace and Notch 2/Notch Jnr) However, they had moved on and we were unsuccessful in finding any of the males. No doubt moving off in the evening and patrolling their territory and getting away from the cheeky cubs! We suspect they have moved a little further south, the area they were looking toward and given we checked all along the Rongai river to find them with no luck.
Twice we have also found a group of 8 cubs (around 10-12 months old) and 2 adult females (it is believed there are 3 adult females to this group) The first sighting they were laid out in the shade under dense bushes, but this morning (16th) they were more visible, we identified that the 8 cubs comprised of at least 5 males. The two females were trying to hunt but unsuccessful on two attempts trying to hunt Hartebeest. After giving up they moved back to the cubs and sought shade in a lugga, on their return to the cubs there was a big bundle of lion!, as the cubs excitedly greeted the adult females. What is interesting is that this morning they were literally 2-3 km from the Rongai females. One of which (Napejo) was seen briefly this am in the same area we left them last night, but no sign of the cubs.
In addition to the above two days ago we also found three young male lions, located between Mara intrepids and Fig tree camp, around 2.5 years old. One had a slight injury to his eye and a fresh wound on his back, we believe they were the former cubs of the Rekero pride (sired by the the Notch coalition) part of a group of four males (or it may be 5, at this moment my memory escapes me!) including an older one called ‘Kijana’ who seemed absent from the group. Given the slight injuries to the one lion and the absence of the 4th we suspect they have started mating and had been fighting over mating rights, we are fairly sure the one missing was Kijana, the older one who would have likely been the victor over mating! Kijana is a male who actually originated from the Paradise pride (again offspring from the Notch coalition)
We have also been looking for the females from the Olkiombo pride (the breakaway group usually found north of the Talek River) and so far have found 2 females, East of Rhino Ridge, who we believe are Olkiombo females.
As well as lions we have had two brief cheetah sightings, one of which we did not spend any time with as there were a hoard of cars and we were reluctant to join this minivan circus. The other’s were two sub adults with their mother but so far in the croton that we could only just about make out their age but could not their identity their sex. Again we stayed with them a short time. They were inactive, with little game around and so we left them to rest peacefully.
Tomorrow we will likley venture a little more west and probably toward the marsh area to catch up with the Marsh pride, but who knows what the night time sounds will bring and where this takes us!