Participants : 2 ( Private Safari )
Duration : 7 Days
Areas Covered : Mara North Conservancy & Masai Mara National Reserve
Lions : 40+
Leopards : 0
Cheetahs : 12
Guide : Francis Koome
Mara North Conservancy is well known for Big Cats . . . Why ? you might ask. An important reason that helps is the fact that the Maasai cattle grazing is permitted. Cattle keep the grass short compared to the National Reserve which attracts herbivores that prefer this shorter grass. Needless to say that if herbivores move North to the conservancy all the predators are going to follow. In fact there is a large number of permanent plains game in Mara North including a considerable amount of wildebeest that do not follow the migration. As far as Big Cats goes we have been successful with Lions despite the fact that there has been a lot of chaos over the past year with the resident Cheli Pride splitting and males from the Angama Pride and Marsh Pride taking over the divided prides killing cubs and even previous dominant males. It has been hard but after the last week I can say that things have settled with plenty of newborn cubs around which is a good sign.
Elephant Pepper Camp was our base for this safari and in fact has been for the past 7 years. During this time I can say that Leopards have been spotted every single time . . . Unfortunately there is always a first and this was it . . . NO Leopards ! Francis, my usual guide, put in a huge effort to find one of these elusive cats but after day 3 it was made clear to us that this was not going to be an easy task. Not seeing the spotted cats was not going affect this safari at all. 12 different Cheetahs with repeated sightings definitely made up for the lack of Leopards. Maasai Mara once again has produced amazing photographic opportunities.
On Day 1 the highlights were without a doubt our first encounter with Amani and her 3 grown cubs. A huge Elephant bull was a great sighting too.
Day 1 - Two of Amani's cubs
Day 1 - An Elephant Bull walking straight us
Day 2 started off with a really nice sunrise. This was our first full day and did not disappoint . . . Amani and her 3 cubs again, a fantastic photo opportunity with a pair of Saddle-Billed Storks, a juvenile Short-Tailed Eagle with a warthog's leg stolen from a kill and to end the day members of the Off-Beat pride. I would say it was one GREAT day !
Day 2 - A magical sunrise on the plains of Mara North
Day 2 - Juvenile Short-Tailed Eagle feeding o a warthog leg
Day 2 - Two cubs from the Off-Beat Pride
Day 3 turned out to be the slowest day in terms of highly rated sightings. When this happens is when you start looking at opportunities in the common species like a troop of Baboons we bumped into in a nice setting and with excellent light. Plenty of general game like Buffalo, Giraffe, Thomson's Gazelles, Zebras, Topis and an impressive number of Hyenas for which Mara North is known for. The pace picked up during the afternoon drive when we encountered 4 siblings of the Cheli Pride. 2 males and 2 females. We stayed with them until sunset and as the sun disappeared behind the escarpment one of the not so experienced males attempted a hunt on passing zebras which got away easy thanks to poor strategy displayed by these cats.
Day 3 - A perfect pose of a Baboon
Day 3 - A Lioness yawns before starting her afternoon activity
Our 4th day was a full one at the Masai Mara National Reserve during which we got to see the famous 5 Musketeers as the coalition of 5 male Cheetahs are known in the area and capable of bringing down adult wildebeest which in normal circumstances is out of reach for an adult Cheetah. The downside to this sighting is that we found them in terrible harsh light so the resulting images are not that great. The day started off with a great landscape session in Leopard Gorge. Down at the Reserve we had a great photo opportunity with a mating couple from the Double Crossing pride. Also got to see the first thousands of Wildebeest that had already made it over into Masai Mara from Norther Serengeti . . . To finish the day yet another dramatic sunset.
Day 4 - Landscape session in Leopard Gorge
Day 4 - Silhouette of a Baboon in Leopard Gorge
Day 4 - A male Lion from the Double Crossing pride in the National Reserve
Day 4 - Unforgettable sunset moment in Mara North
Day 5 was definitely Big Cat day with a wonderful sighting of the Off-Beat pride that had killed a buffalo. We spent the better part of our morning drive with this pride since they were giving us numerous opportunities to capture real keepers . . . Also had nice moment with 2 male Cheetahs and later in the day we found 2 lionesses with cubs. It was nice to see the the Mara North prides are doing good. The day ended with one more epic sunset using one of the man made shelters that the rangers use during the day. Hopefully it will be taken down soon . . .
Day 5 - A male Lion at a kill
Day 5 - A Lion on the lookout
Day 5 - One of 2 brothers found in Mara North
Day 5 - The Ranger's Shelter . . . Sunset landscape session
Day 6 was our last full day in Mara North and another great day with Lions and Cheetahs. Lenkumbe, a male lion from the Agama Pride has taken over part of the Cheli Pride. Also had a great sighting in good light of Kisaru, a female Cheetah that is visibly pregnant . . . These cats are doing great at the moment in Mara North.
Day 6 - Banded Mongoose on a dead tree
Day 6 - A male Lion named Lenkumbe
Day 6 - Kisaru
On our final game drive on Day 7 we could not be treated to a better wildlife moment . . . Gorgeous Lion cubs posing for the cameras. The morning however started with an unusual sunrise opportunity shooting with a telephoto lens over the Pui Pui woodlands.
Day 7 - Pui Pui Sunrise
Day 7 - A pair of cute Lion cubs
Day 7 - The mother of the 2 cubs
It has been a great 7 days in what I consider one of the most productive areas photographically speaking in the Mara region.
All Images by Mario Moreno