Wild Experiences in the Masai Mara (Part 1)

As my flight made touchdown to Masai Mara, 3 days prior to my 25th birthday, vast and dry savannah lands stretched out in wait for us. Despite having grown up in Malawi, Masai Mara had been a location that just didn’t pan out in terms of a safari. Hence after having gone to Tanzania last year, I’d kept my eye on this well-known safari spot, and this dream of mine was finally coming true.

Touchdown Mara!

Savannah 2

Missing these blue skies and savannah plainlands

We were warmly greeted by Johnny – the manager of Malaika Bush Camp where we would be staying – and his crew, who took us to the camp. The group of us spent a total of six days in Masai Mara, and honestly I have far too many experiences to get through. Hence here’s my attempt to give you my top ten (split into two parts). 🙂

#1 – Beautiful elephants.

I love elephants. So much. Every time we saw them, I was honestly in such awe of their magnificence.

Elephant Tusks

Look at those tusks!

Back in Malawi earlier this year, I’d made a trip to Liwonde National Park and stayed at the beautiful Kuthengo Camp, in which I’d been equally eager to see elephants. I encountered the same feeling of surrealism in front of these majestic elephants.

It was also an adorable sight to see baby elephants too!

Baby elephants

Love.

It was endearing to see these babies toddle behind their Mothers, who in turn would be the ones watching our vehicles warily.

Mother + Baby elephant (BW)

Protective Mothers

There’d been a lot of experimentation with monopods and remote triggers with the professional photographers, and therefore it had been interesting to learn about wildlife photography on another level.

Speaking of which…

#2 – Learning about Wildlife Photography

Given that Masai Mara had become a sort of dream destination of mine, added with the curiosity of wildlife photography, I’d always been determined to learn about the same on my visit to Masai Mara.

Anecdote:

About two months ago, I attended an exhibition conducted by Paws Trails Explorers. It was there I had the pleasure of meeting Nisha Purushothaman, a well-known Indian Wildlife photographer based in Dubai and co-founder of Paws Trails Explorers. Imagine my delight (and surprise!) when I found out that she was conducting a wildlife photography workshop in the Masai Mara with Hermis Haridas (another popular wildlife photographer, and the second co-founder of the company) at the end of November. Although my plans had been to take a trek in Nepal (one which I am still eager to do), it had been my dream to go to Masai Mara – with photographers! Fortunately for me, there was one spot available – talk about pure luck. 🙂

I can warmly conclude that this trip I am writing about was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I can’t wait to travel with the Paws Trails team again! Indonesia – here I come!

In the short span of the 6 days that I was at Masai Mara with the group, I learnt an incredible amount about wildlife photography, and the concept of how photographers can use it as a conservation tool (a topic close to my heart). With this trip, a part of me felt like I was starting over, and I was eager to be learning from the best. Nisha and Hermis are dear friends of mine, and hence I know that this may sound biased – but honestly I couldn’t have asked for better mentors to learn about wildlife photography than the both of them.

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The entire group

#3 – Cheetahs, cheetahs, and more cheetahs!

I wouldn’t be kidding if I said that we saw cheetahs every day of our stay in the Mara. Barring the last day, we always stumbled upon these agile animals, and it was a pleasure to keep bumping into them. Especially the cubs!

Cheetah Cub Jump-4

Jump!

During the stay, we were introduced to the various coalitions or groups of cheetahs. Of the various sightings we were fortunate enough to witness, we had the pleasure of seeing a Mother, Imani, with her three cubs, attempting for a kill in the early morning of the second day of our trip. Unfortunately for her family, this attempt wasn’t as successful as she’d have preferred – although she tried her luck twice. 🙂

Cheetah Walk

Imani, ready to hunt.

Later during the day and much to our delight, we were also introduced to the ‘five brothers’; five male cheetahs who – despite rooting from different prides – choose to hunt together. During a moment of triumph (for the cheetahs) we were able to observe a kill, and the reason for why they grouped together.

5 Cheetahs

The Five Brothers

In this particular scenario four of them distracted a Mother Eland whilst the remaining one went for the baby. It may be hard to see, but this is the ecosystem of nature and the circle of life.

Cheetah Kill-3

Cheetah kill – eyes gleaming with success

Aside from this particular day, on the other opportunities we got to see cheetahs in their element, it had truly been worthwhile. Till date, I actually haven’t had the opportunity of seeing them out in the wild, and I thought they were absolutely beautiful.

Cheetah golden light

That golden light though.

#4 – Adorable Lion Cubs

First day!

Eyes peeled, camera gear set, and waiting. Within 15 minutes out into the savannah mid-afternoon, we spotted two lion cubs and their Mother – curiously watching us as our vehicle broke to a halt.

Lion cubs

Playful

Fortunately, the Mother didn’t seem too concerned that we were putting our full attention to her cubs, and continued to laze under the shade. In the meanwhile, the cubs just played with each other during the next two hours and it was a brilliant start to our journey.

Lion Cub + Mother

Tender moments

Lion cubs-3

The Mother had been more annoyed at the cubs fooling around with her tail

In all my years of being on safaris, I’ve never seen lion cubs, or any cubs for that matter. This had to be a highlight on my trip for sure!

Lion Cubs GIF-8

#5 – Disrupting Animal Territory

With every positive flip of the coin, there is the negative aspect as well. Truth be told, every day of this trip definitely had something special to see – there were few dull moments. Also, I should point out that anything we see out in the wild is pure luck.

However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; when we head out into animal territory, it’s their territory: Respect it, don’t overstep your boundaries and understand that this is their home. Unfortunately, this was one aspect I found disheartening in the Masai Mara – the 15-20 cars surrounding the animals and then following them. I’m not saying we didn’t do it – however there is the debate of whether or not we’re intruding in animal territory and thus disrupting the natural patterns in the wild.

Lion and jeeps

What does this image say to you? For me, it showcases that there’s more to the story behind the photograph than we assume.

I kept this in because this was one of the experiences that I did face in Masai Mara and I thought it’s important for those planning to visit to be aware of this. Don’t misunderstand to assume that this concern always occurs in every national park, however it is a problem that our group encountered in Masai Mara.

Jeep and cheetahs

Did we disrupt these five male cheetahs attempt at a kill?

***

I’ll end on this note, and leave you readers thinking about the same. In the meanwhile…

Stay tuned for part 2 of my blog!

Hopefully it won’t take as long as this, and I’ll be sure to include some more details about visiting Masai Mara 🙂

If you’d like to check out more photos of mine, head on over to Instagram @thisgirlfrommalawi. Be sure to also check out @pawstrails for more highlights of the trip!