Kenya Custom Trip 2013, Part III – Maasai Mara

A Cheetah watches the storm pouring over the plains of the Maasai Mara

The week we spent in the Maasai Mara was just perfect. It was enough time to see absolutely everything we could want – the Big 5, raptors, vultures and more.

Our lodge was very comfortable and in a great location – just minutes away from the park gate and set along the Talek River. It also had great food, and more importantly, cold beers after a long day out!

Each day was split in two: a morning drive between 6:30 to 10, and an afternoon drive between 3:30 and 7. This gave us some time to catch up on sleep or do a little birdwatching in the camp during the hottest hours of the day. At this time, everything interesting would be under a tree or bush, sleeping as well. This worked especially well. Each drive we came across at least two species of big cat. There were plenty of other photographic opportunities. Vultures at a fresh carcass, sunrises and sunsets. A Lioness with young cubs, a Cheetah on a fresh kill, and a Leopard trying to hunt (twice) but failing. A Martial Eagle in the early morning light and a mother Serval cat teaching her youngster how to hunt mice in the long grass.

Lioness yawn at sunrise
A Serval Cat is always a good one to see. We got an adult with one young!
Gabar Goshawk
Lappet-faced Vulture carrying nesting material

Cheetahs of the Maasai Mara

The highlight of the trip for all of us, however, had to be our encounter with a group of Cheetahs one evening. We came across Malaika, as she is known throughout the Maasai Mara. She and her two grown cubs as we were heading back to our camp. With just a few cars around them, we decided to stop and see what would happen. She is famous for using cars as vantage points to look for prey.

The looked like they were resting after a long day and a big meal, so we were about to leave. But then the cubs started playing around. You can only appreciate how fast these cats are when they run around your car at top speed, inches away from your astonished face! After a few minutes of this, things got out of control. A cub took a liking to one of the covers of our spare wheel and yanked it off. Before it could do any damage, I was tasked with retrieving said cover. It was punctured in many places, but salvageable. More damage was done to our wheel mount (made of steel, showing this guy’s single-minded determination), which snapped! Iker and I managed to keep calm throughout this spectacle and we both took some fantastic photos.

Yes, we saw them pretty close – Cheetah Portrait

The Holy Grail

Still, we all felt there was something missing. We had some nagging doubts in the back of our heads that we hadn’t seen the one thing that would complete this trip – the Holy Grail. It was only on our last drive, in the last 30 minutes before we were due to leave the Mara that we found what we were searching for: not one, but two Rhinos!

Adult Black Rhino and calf

An adult Black Rhino and a young calf were spotted deep in a riverside thicket and hard to see. They obliged us by coming out for a couple of minutes, we managed to take some photos, then they disappeared again. It was brief, but it was enough and a great ending to round off a very successful trip!

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