We slept quite well in our comfortable bedroom. We were totally secure since John, the Maasai watchman, spent all night patrolling armed with a spear, a machete, bow, and arrows. The only problem was an infestation of myriads of what appeared to be harmless insects. These were fortunately kept away by the large mosquito nets covering the bed.
We woke early and had coffee, tea, and hot chocolate with cookies in the living room. Shortly afterwards Salaash and Loli arrived with the Land Cruiser and by 7 AM we were off on our safari.
Salaash explained to us that he wanted to take us to a place frequented by lions and this early hour is the best for "game" watching.
As we drove along the expanse of grassland savanna to the place where lions might be seen we saw:
To see an enlargement please click on the picture.
The savanna grassland,
hyenas feeding on last night’s kill,
and baby bat-eared foxes in their den.
Finally we saw a lioness…
The first lioness walked across the river and was joined by another lioness.
The first ignored the second, walked some more, and rested in the grass.
After the excitement of seeing these two female lions, Salaash urged us on, promising even more surprises.
On we drove, soon encountering 2 Thompson’s gazelles,
and then we came upon a magnificent pair of lions.
We watched for a while and, as we were getting ready to leave, they mated.
On we drove until we came upon a male ostrich,
a beautiful crowned crane,
and then a pair of mating hyenas (while another male was hopefully waiting his turn).
We then saw a hartebeest,
and after some more driving we stopped under an isolated large tree for breakfast.
Breakfast had been prepared early in the morning at Topi House, packed in hampers, and was now to be served. But first Salaash and Loli had to set up folding chairs. Picnics here in Kenya are done in style.
After breakfast Salaash said that he has a surprise for us. So, into the car we went for another game drive.
A beautiful wattled plover,
a male baboon,
a grey heron by the river,
and finally Salaash’s surprise: a leopard hiding in the thick bush.
Leopards are one of the most common carnivores but also most elusive animals in Kenya.
While driving back to Topi House we came upon a group of female ostriches.
We then unexpectedly came across a cheetah family: a mother (foreground right) and her 2 adolescent sons.
Although we were tired we watched for quite a while. The boys caught a baby gazelle that they all devoured…
The encounter with the cheetah family was one of the highlights our visit to the Maasai Mara Reserve. At first, the two adolescents were sitting next to each other observing their nervous mother pacing back and forth. Nothing much seemed to be happening. But then a herd of gazelles appeared at some distance. A baby Thompson’s gazelle was hiding in the grass; its mother had deliberately left it there to be “safe” but the cheetah mother found it. The gazelle mother kept bleating and calling the baby back but did not dare to approach the cheetahs. Suddenly the two “boys” perked up and started chasing the baby gazelle. They poked it with their paws and brought it down while we were watching with morbid fascination. After bringing the gazelle down, they did nothing. The gazelle got up and started running away. The boys chased it again and after catching up, brought it down once more. This was repeated several times. It was clear that they were not hunting but playing with the baby just like two very large kittens. Then the mother cheetah intervened and with one quick stroke killed the baby gazelle. She then brought it to her “boys” and all three of them had a family meal. The chase and kill happened so quickly and we were so mesmerized that had no chance to photograph it.
We returned to Topi House where we had a late al fresco luncheon and then a rest. In the evening we had arranged with Salaash to go for a walk in the bush instead of a drive.
Salaash and Lori arrived, armed with spears and machetes, and led us on the walk. We walked for over one hour until it was dark. While we did not see many animals we did see lots of details: flowers, insects, seeds, etc. It was fun and it was good to exercise and stretch our bodies after so many hours in the car.
Once again, we enjoyed drinks by the pit fire near the porch, then had dinner, and then returned to the fire to discuss our experiences.