Python Eating a Gazelle

Caron Steele

17 Dec 2014

unusual Rock python encounter

Rekero Camp, Mara River

Our first port of call was Rekero, a charming rustic camp near the Mara river. A great location for viewing the migration and river crossings, however we decided to take a balloon safari instead which took up the best part of a day. The balloon Safari turned out to be a real treat and lovely to do at the beginning of our trip as it gave us a fantastic overview of the lay of the land and it was amazing to see fish eagles at eyelevel in flight. We wish we had stayed another night at Rekero because of the great location!

We got some great viewings of the Marsh Pride Lions and even lots of rain in the afternoons did not interrupt some spectacular sights. We were lucky enough to see an adult female in the pride capture a young warthog and bring it back to her cubs to teach them how to perform a kill. A bit emotionally stressful watching the dazed baby warthog but fascinating watching the mother teach her young how to deliver the killing bite to the neck.

Richards Camp

We left Rekero amidst beautiful blue skies and headed for Richards Camp and the abundance of game on the way was amazing. Even this late in the migration there appeared to be thousands upon thousands of wildebeest on the plains and a greater concentration of  wildlife in one place than I’ve ever seen before.

Richards Camp was gorgeous. Although a tented camp, still very luxurious and extremely well run. Our guide Lenkume was enthusiastic and happy to take us anywhere and everywhere. We stayed at Richards Camp for 3 nights and packed masses in. We had breakfast and lunch out in the Mara on several days and the catering was superb, clothed tables hot cooked breakfasts, the whole works in really beautiful locations so we could watch the wildlife whilst we ate.

I got my fist great shot of the beautiful lilac breasted roller and Lenkume found us some nesting secretary birds and took me to see the Crown Cranes that I was keen to photograph so I was delighted. We saw a small but dramatic river crossing having just arrived too late to see the larger one. But the reason for our delay was a good one.

As we were driving down to the River we spotted something that looked like 2 shiny round tyres in the distance. I didn’t think too much of it but Lenkume appeared quite excited and we went to investigate. 

It was a large rock python just over 5m long swallowing an adult Thomson’s Gazelle. 

It was incredible. The size and power of the snake was most impressive, I was very pleased that it had the gazelle half way down and so appeared uninterested in us. We watched the snake for about 25 minutes as it slowly swallowed the gazelle gently unwrapping its coils as peristaltic waves moved up and down its body as it drew the gazelle in. In the sunlight next to the water the Python’s skin looked like spun gold.

I was stunned by just how beautiful it was, if not a little terrifying! A kill of this size would probably keep the python going for 8 months to a year – so with so few feeding occasions and the fact that they are shy creatures it was a small miracle that we got to see this event. Once it had completely swallowed the gazelle it uncoiled itself and slid sinuously into the water where it rolled and swayed in an effort to move the gazelle further down its body. It wasn’t until that moment that we appreciated just how long it was.

I think that moments like this made me realise just how lucky we were to be staying in smaller private camps were you had more freedom and flexibility to seize the moment. The whole point of going on safari is not only to get to see the wildlife but having the opportunity to spend time with it when something special occurs and hopefully learning to understand it a little bit more. Good guides are essential for this and it’s even better when at the end of a long exciting day you can come back to a luxurious camp with good food and hot water!

Sirikoi

After Richards Camp we moved on to Sirikoi. Up yet another notch as far as luxury camps go. Truly beautiful – I even had a bath and a hairdryer! The main deck area where food was served overlooked a small watering hole so game viewing from the table was spectacular. After the mass of wildlife in the Mara, Lewa was much dryer and quieter but there were still some noteable sightings and the Rhino were fabulous. If you want to see Rhino and the rare endangered Grevey Zebra then Sirikoi is a must on your list.

Ol Malo

Finally we headed off to Ol Malo. Less glamorous than the last 2 camps but gorgeous and very well appointed with huge rooms and unsurpassed views, it had a real spirit of ‘Out of Africa’ about it. There was a whole range of things to do that were very well managed. The bush walks, horse riding and camel treks were really interesting and guide us a whole new perspective on game viewing. I am so glad we visited Ol Malo, Colin and Rocky the hosts were so knowledgeable and interesting , they made our stay quite magical. Visiting the Samburu people was not something I had been keen to do but it did not feel at all touristy and was very interesting. I am so glad I was persuaded to make the trip. I would definitely return to Ol Malo.

For the last leg of our trip we visited Lake Naivasha to see the flamingos. Although they were only there in small numbers as the water levels were unseasonably high they were still a beautiful sight and worth the visit but I would suggest leaving yourself a bit of flexibility if you want to spot a particular sight like the flamingos so that you can chase them wherever you may be. Ol Malo and some other lodges offer tailor-made day trips by small plane or helicopter to enable you to do just that. Expensive but if you’ve travelled that far and the sighting is on your ‘bucket list’ it’s the only way to go.

Thank you Natural World Safaris for another amazing holiday. We felt we had an ideal combination of lodges.

My top safari tips

  • Stay at each camp for at least 3 nights if possible – Natural World Safaris will never send you to a bad one and it is nice to have the time to make the most of each camp
  • Take a back -up camera if you are keen on photography and a portable hard drive to back up your photos (I took over 10,000!)
  • Travel light- the laundry services are fine for every day safari gear.
  • Remember to grab some video as it’s great to capture the sounds as well as the sights in Africa.
  • Going just off peak can be a real bonus as the wildlife is still good but the parks and reserves are quieter and prices lower.
  • Be prepared to try something different.
  • Finally be prepared to spend the first 3 weeks of your return editing photos!!

I had the time of my life and made some great new friends and I have some amazing memories that I will carry with me forever.

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