Wild Experiences in the Masai Mara – Part 2

Since my visit to Tanzania in early 2017, Masai Mara had been a dream of mine to go to, and there is no doubt in my mind, that despite what I’d said in the first part of this series, I will go back. Check out the continuation of my worthwhile experiences below.

#6 – Witnessing Three Female Leopards

Leopards are always considered to be a lucky sight on any safari expedition. On two alternate days, we were incredibly fortunate to be able to see three female leopards, all of them beautiful in their own way.

Kaboso, our first female leopard sighting, had been elusive – which is not uncommon for these nocturnal animals. In fact, they are known to be the most shy of the big cats. We’d also discovered when we got back at camp that she’s pregnant, and quite likely to deliver her babies in March, who I hope will survive out in the wild.

leopard - kosobo
Beauty.

Added to this, on our last day before leaving the Mara, we had the opportunity to be able to meet two female leopards on separate occasions; Laurean, and her daughter Luluka.

At dawn, our jeep steamrolled off to the spot where it was said that Laurean was last seen.  On this beautiful morning, we waited for about two hours to see her, wherein to pass time the group of us shared our stories and highlights from the trip. Our guide Johnny, had been incredible throughout our stay, but his skillset shone as he positioned the jeep aptly for the sight where he was certain that Laurean would jump.

We had ten seconds. Ten seconds of heart-racing emotions, as the camera shutters went off like AK47s, our eyes glued to the camera, and our breaths held at the gorgeous vision of Laurean jumping up a tree. What a sight it was!

leopard tree-2

She then proceeded to take a further jump, and relish in her kill – her mid-morning brunch so to speak. 🙂

leopard kill
This was how we knew that she’d turn up here…

After she finished her meal, she made her way back down and soon the jeeps were following her closely, before she rushed off into the bushes. This was another moment – as I mentioned in my last post – where I wondered about the conservation concerns behind having so many vehicles following around one animal.

Leopard-4
A moment where she was walking straight past our jeep, and looked directly at the camera

Later that day after breakfast, we continued wandering around the reserve, and Johnny overheard that Luluka had been spotted. Talk about a convenient day and time to be able to view leopards!

luluka
Meet Luluka!

She followed pursuit as her Mother did and went climbing up the tree to take her nap, whilst we watched in fascination at her agility.

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Posing.
luluka-4

Resting

I’ll never forget this day. Leopards are such graceful creatures, don’t you agree?

In fact, after we’d left, we heard that Luluka came back down shortly after and went chasing after an ostrich! Who would’ve thought? Anything can truly out happen in the wild.

#7 – Lions in their Element

It’s always a sight to see lions out in the wild. In my head, there’s no wonder as to why the male lions are known to be the King of the Jungle.

Male Lion
King of the jungle

This male lion had just finished feasting with his female companions. He was also surrounded by hyenas and jackals, who were in turn waiting for the lions to finish their meal. It was interesting to see that despite the number of hyenas surrounding the three lions, they couldn’t go near them – with one lion keeping close watch over this wildebeest.

lion kill
Guarding her kill.
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Not the most pleasant sight…

There’s something about the below photo that just tugs at my heart. If I remember right, this is a cub and Mother just being playful with each other in this endearing manner.

lions

Another interesting sighting for us was a sudden pitstop. Our guide had noticed that a lioness was searching for some food to feed her cubs, and eyeing a warthog family in the process. Within moments, she’d caught up to the baby warthog and killed it – and it was a battle for food between the cubs.

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Kicking up dust!

We felt sorry for the baby warthog though!

#8 – The Smaller Species

There were some incredible encounters with the larger and more well-known animals, but what about the smaller species out there that are less well-known?

Jackal out hunting amongst the hyenas
Beautiful Lilac-Breasted Roller taking flight
I’ve always assumed hyenas to be underrated animals, although they aren’t so. A baby hyena and family member in the midst of Mara.
Spot the two animals in one shot! You’ve got the Monitor Lizard on the left, and the Kingfisher Malachite on the right.

#9 – The Shy Serval Cat

Known to be one of the small cats, I’d heard plenty about these animals – but only on witnessing them did I realise how gorgeous these feline animals are. I’d also learnt that these animals are very shy, and only on three occasions did we get close to seeing the serval cat, out of which in one she was at ease around us.

Serval
Look at those eyes!
serval-2
Watchful.

Fun fact, notice the beautiful ears that the serval has? Apparently, out of any of the cat species, they have the largest ears!

#10 – Dramatic Landscapes

No trip of mine would be complete without some photography of landscapes. Originally having been drawn to photography for the beauty of scenery, there was no doubt that even during this visit I managed to get in some of the gorgeous savannah panoramas. 🙂

From breathaking sunrises…

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Sunrise and golden light with the giraffes.
sunset day 1
Early morning colours…

To peaceful sunsets…

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Elephant silhouettes and sunsets.
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Sunset across the plains

To savannah sights…

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Blue skies and short grass – typical savannah view.

This trip was an exhausting one for me to be honest, in the early mornings for the game drives, and the late nights spent with great company over dinner and campfires. However the experience of being out in the wild is incomparable, and I love it. There’s no comparison of the breathtaking feel of seeing animals in their natural territory, versus a zoo for example.

Considering heading here? Here’s some more information for you.

More about Masai Mara

Located in Southwestern Kenya by the Tanzanian border, Masai Mara National Reserve is a much smaller park, particularly in comparison to Serengeti National Park. There are pros and cons to this of course, which I’ll get into in another article. 🙂 You’ll find beautiful hills and savannah plains, and if you’re lucky, unique sightings of a varied number of species.

Without trying to sound too negative about Masai Mara, I just want to reiterate the fact that if you are heading out here, you should be prepared for the number of vehicles that surround the animals when you’re out for a sighting. It’s unfortunate, and it doesn’t always happen, but it is the reality too.

There’s a wide variety of places to be able to stay at, from budget friendly lodges to luxury accommodations. I had a family member stay at Governer’s Camp a couple of years ago, and they fell in love with the place. My group stayed at Malaika Bush Camp, located inside the National Reserve, and the experience here was wonderful. The staff  are Masai locals, who were hospitable, with one-of-a-kind guides, and the food was great too. 🙂 Given that I had gone for the experience of learning about wildlife photography, and the knowledge that the Masai guides had at Malaika Bush Camp of the National Reserve, I’d love to go back here.

group photo

Things to do at Masai Mara

  • Game drives
  • Hot air balloon safaris – encounter an aerial view of the National Reserve and it’s animals. An experience that that I couldn’t afford to do on this visit, although I hope to one day.
  • Witness the Wildebeest migration – depending on which season you end up going on, the migration period is supposed to be a well-worthy adventure in Masai Mara.
  • Head out to the Masai villages – I’ve done this in Tanzania, and it was a very humbling experience to learn about their culture and practices.

When to visit

This all depends on what your purpose of visit is. The team I’d gone with suggest that the best time to visit is during the dry season between early June to late December, in which the wildebeest migration also occurs (between July and October). The rains often occur between March to May, in which it may be harder for animal sightings, although photographers can encounter some beautiful shots of animals out in the rain.

How to get here

Depending on your budget, you can opt to fly out of Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, to the Masai Mara, or take the approximate 6-hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara. If you’re in Tanzania, say in Ngorongoro or Serengeti, you can drive to get to the Masai Mara, although you will have to get to a proper border crossing in order to clear immigration.

Instagram links

For more photographs from my travels to Masai Mara and elsewhere, follow me on Instagram @thisgirlfrommalawi.