Both Andy and I are slowly getting better and it appears as if the symptoms we have suffered could have been attributed to Swine Flu, although we cannot be sure. Neither of us have been ill for the entire year and then BAM! it had to be when we went away didn’t it!
For the last two nights we have been able to get back to bush camping which has been a tonic in itself. The plains at night have been fairly quiet, except for the giggle and whoops from the Hyenas and the occasional roar from what remains of the Serena Pride (Disney Lions)
Yesterday we took a trundle further south toward the Tanzanian border and soon came across a pair of ‘Honeymooning Lions. Not even the scorching midday sun stopped ‘proceedings’ and you could practically set your watch by the regular 30 minute mating frequency. Neither Andy or I recognised this male, he looked to be only around 6 years old and the female a little younger at around 5.
We sat with them for a little under 4 hours and then felt it was appropriate to give them some privacy as the evening cooled. Not too far from the lions we ambled along a lugga to the look out for any additional lions. We soon came across 2 other cars, of which the occupants were contorting their bodies at angles that were pretty impressive. We enquired as to why they were practically doing yoga in the vehicle and soon found out the reason why......a Leopard, somewhere in the bush!
Those of you familar with this blog will know that Leopards in the Mara Triangle are extremely shy, much more so than across the Narok area of the river. So any Leopard in the Triangle is worth staking out. However, sadly these vehicles decided patience was not an option and raced around the lugga to try and get a look. Andy and I stayed put, and although we could not see the leopard we felt that moving the vehicle every two minutes was not going to be conducive to encouraging the Leopard to be calm, so we pulled right back and watched the circus as the other vehicles sped about. If the Leopard was not happy he had space our side to make an exit and thats what we hoped for. The Leopard then darted up the tree and gave us a nice view just for a few moments. The incessant chatter from the other vehicle did not abate, the Leopard was non to impressed and sure as ‘eggs are eggs’ the Leopard decided it wanted some peace and rather conveniently jumped down the tree our side and as expected out over the lugga on our side. We barely got a chance to shoot any images but its always so awesome to see a Leopard. We decided not to follow it, he was a big male, very shy and clearly did not want to be bothered so we left him be.
Just as we thought seeing a Leopard was impressive this morning gave us something that was just plain crazy! Leaving as we do at first light we travelled slowly along by Mgoro lugga when Andy all of a sudden spots a Hippo running to the water. This is nothing unusual in itself and at first light its common to see them getting back to their comfort ground of the water. However, there was something about this Hippo running that was rather more frantic than normal and then we saw why....it was being chased by a Hyena! The Hippo was none to impressed as the cheeky Hyena was hot on its heels. Then they both stopped on the road and what ensued was probably one of the strangest things we have probably seen so far. The Hyena seemed to have desires that were not entirely innocent as it began circling the Hippo and a stand off took place. This went on for many minutes and fortunately I managed to video some of the scene (attached). A few minutes later another 3 Hyenas turned up and made attempts to again surround the Hippo, could they really be trying to hunt a Hippo?... the way in which they were encircling the creature seemed very much as if they were trying to wear it down and although not captured on the video at one point one of the Hyenas tried to latch on to the Hippos tail. The Hippo soon managed to escape, but just as he belted to the water suddenly Andy shouts ‘Leopard’....The Hippo jumping back into the water had obviously spooked a female Leopard and she darted in a flash along the river bank and back into the Croton thicket as quick as she had appeared. Sadly no photos or video of this but this morning is now imprinted on our brains as one of the best (and in a strange way most comical) sightings of this trip!!
Back to now....The good news is we have FINALLY found our 4 Mgoro pride females together with some of the 13 month old cubs. The bad news is that only 4 cubs now remain (of the original 9) and have now moments ago just had confirmation through a reliable contact that not just one cub was killed a few weeks back but sadly 5 in total. We are really saddened to hear this news (although deep down I think we were both expecting to hear this given we have tried so hard to find them). At least some are still surviving, but we are deeply concerned for the one remaining young male cub left. ‘Killer Bogey’ and ‘Little Bogey’ are in the group we are sitting with now and what’s really interesting is one of the distinct marks below their noses (and why they have their names!) is also evident on one of the cubs, this confirms our original thoughts that the marks on the females are a hereditary trait. This little one has now been rather unimaginatively named ‘Baby Bogey’ and will later be recognised in life by the fact that the birth mark is on the opposite side of the nose to the other ‘bogeys’. Andy and I just hope that the 4 strong male coalition does not return and that Notch & sons do!
It pains us to say we have only a very short of time left in the bush so its going to be time soon to say goodbye again to the Mara. We decided against going on a ‘lion hunt’ for Notch the other side of the river, one day we are going to have to break ties with our favourite lion and this is a way in which to make that a little easier, even though deep down we are both terribly sad not to have seen him.
Thats it for today and we hope you enjoy the video of the gutsy Hyena, sorry for the poor quality but internet speeds in the bush are a tad limited!
Happy New Year to all