New Year at Governors' Camp

Richard and Vivienne Denyer

20 Feb 2014

Spending New Year in the Masai Mara

Day 1:

After a short flight spent gazing over the beautiful Kenyan landscape, we arrived at the Musiara Airstrip close to Governors' Camp.

We were met by our friend and guide Julius Kisasi, a senior guide from Little Governors Camp. Julius was our guide on our first safari to the Masai Mara and was very much responsible for our wish to return for a third time. After checking into our luxury tent we had a delicious lunch and then prepared ourselves for the excitement!

Our first evening drive around the Musiara Marsh we were treated to our first meeting with four male lions, known as the Musketeers. Firstly we spotted three males resting under a dead tree, displaying their black manes as they rolled about, yawned or just looked up to see who was about. These majestic males were in beautiful condition, and here we met scar face with his strikingly damaged eye, shrouded by a thick black mane. Hunter, the fourth male of the group, was close by, mating with one of the marsh pride females. As we drove around the area close to camp, we came across another lone lioness, then closer to camp the main pride consisting of approx ten lions. Here we recognised the lioness Bibi, who we saw first in 2007. She looks powerful, and was clearly the leader of this part of the pride.  There was an abundance of topi, Thomson's gazelle (one mother with her new born foal), and impala around - no wonder these lions looked so healthy.

Day 2:

After our early morning wake-up, with fresh coffee and biscuits, we headed off for our morning drive. The sun was starting to rise, and as we drove out onto the open plains, we were facing a glorious sunrise. We had rain overnight, which seems to enhance the light, and of course reduce dust. Again we met Hunter and his mate, walking across the plain. We then watched two male topi fighting for dominance by lunging at each other and crashing horns together on the ground. Neither appeared hurt and they soon wandered off. Hyenas drinking, a herd of huge eland, a pair of tawny eagles all before we stopped for our bush breakfast.

We continued our game drive, and came across three playful cheetahs. One mock attacked us, jumping up right in front of us.

As we drove on, we noticed a lioness walking towards the Mara River. We chose to follow her from a distance, as she walking with a purpose.  We drove on ahead, where we saw a herd of zebra on the opposite side of the river, looking with intent to cross.

We decided to sit and wait. After a few minutes, the lioness appeared, clearly stalking, and she concealed herself in the scrub, but still observing the zebra. After several more minutes, and mock attempts to cross, finally one zebra took the plunge!

No sooner had the leading zebra vanished from our view, then everything went crazy! A zebra suddenly appeared running directly across us, closely followed by the lioness.

The next 10 seconds was what you only expect to see on a National Geographic documentary. Before our eyes, the lioness leapt onto the back of the zebra, and then, with the zebra still running, she used her amazing power and skill to kill her prey (quickly).

We waited while the lioness then walked back to where we first spotted her. After a short distance, three cubs and two more lioness came running towards her from where they had been patiently waiting. This is always a magical moment as they greet each other. They all then headed off to the kill for lunch.

In the afternoon, a heavy rain storm passed over.  We again spotted the lions, while a banded mongoose called the alarm as a martial eagle watched from an overhead perch.

Day 3:

The next morning, again a beautiful sunrise, and cool morning air with low mist shrouding the antelope on the plains. We slowly drove across the plains seeing elephant, crowned crane, secretary bird and of course more lions.

In the afternoon we set off again and only a few metres from camp we passed by a patch of long grass - nothing seen here! We stopped while Julius scanned the area for anything for us to see. Then, suddenly Scarface peered up out of the grass - only a few metres from us - he had been sleeping in the grass, totally out of sight. He got up, shook his mane and strolled away. Just shows how difficult it is to spot animals, we were almost parked next to this magnificent lion, and yet didn't see him.  We drove on, later we sat for a while watching a hyena den, with the cubs playing and feeding. The storms came again, giving us some spectacular cloud formations.

Day 4:

This morning we headed out into the Musiara Marsh area in search of the local pride of lions. We were not to be disappointed, we saw Scarface with 2 females, walking into a thicket. Just a quick opportunity to see them before the laid down out of sight. As we drove on we sighted a lone cheetah walking across the open plain. With Thomson's gazelle all around, it was quite a comical scene; as while the cheetah was walking, a jackal was nipping at its tail and the cheetah appeared to be ignoring the gazelle. Whilst driving we saw many different birds, elephants, and then a huge black rhino. We waited in silence as the magnificent rhino walked towards us, apparently not aware of our presence. We backed away as it got close and watched it walk into the distance.

The afternoon game drive again headed out over the plains, we came across the male lion Hunter – one of the Musketeers, sleeping on a rocky area, hyenas searching for anything to scavenge, and buffalo cooling themselves in a mud bath.  On our drive back to camp, as the sun was starting to set, we saw three lioness on a mound. We approached them, and as we sat close by, one of the lioness got up and started to stalk towards an impala approx. 100m away. The second lioness followed her, and we watched while they stalked through the grass, trying to surprise the impala. They were spotted, and although an explosive chase took place, the impala was gone. No dinner this time!  As we headed back to camp, we drove along the tree line, and there in the half light, we came across the beautiful sight of a female leopard. She walked towards us, and climbed a tree in front of us. It was now almost dark, so we headed back to camp.

Day 5:

The morning sunrise again, and this morning we headed off towards where we had seen the 3 lioness, as Julius said that they had cubs hidden away somewhere. We were lucky, we could see them on a mound in the distance, there was now 4 of them together. 

En route to see them, sure enough we came across three little lion cubs in the long grass

It was amazing to see how these young cubs know what to do whilst their mother is away hunting. The cubs were curious of us initially, then just walked away towards the longer grass and bushes. We watched the lioness walk from one mound to another, before resting as the daytime temperature rose. Elephants, giraffe, more lions drinking.

We stopped on our return to camp beside a tree, where another pride of lions was sleeping in the shade - it was Bibi and her pride. Above her was a tawny eagle, and two lilac breasted rollers, one of which was trying to eat a huge grasshopper.

After another delicious lunch, we headed out, with the aim to try and spot either leopard or serval cat. So we drove along the trees close to the mara river. Plenty of beautiful colourful bird sightings, bateleur eagle, a male bushbuck, and a playful elephant calf rolling around in the mud. We carried on looking, and then as the sun had almost set, we spotted a young male leopard sat in the grass only approx. 20m away from us. We stopped and waited to see if he was going to hunt. He yawned, stretched and then sat up - he was in immaculate condition, a beautiful looking cat. He was being annoyed by some guineafowl, who were alarm calling. We left him alone as the light faded away - another great sighting!


Day 6:

We headed out towards the talek river area, further away from camp. We came across saw a kori bustard, a herd of eland and topi with many young animals amongst them. Then we watch a beautiful juvenile marshal eagle trying to catch a mongoose.  As we crossed over one of the smaller rivers, we were searching the banks, when we caught a very quick glimpse of a huge male leopard, running into the bushes. We couldn't find him again. Further on, we found more lions - two large males, and close to them three lioness and three cubs, feeding on the remains of a gazelle.

This afternoon we concentrated on the Musiara Marsh area close to camp. Thanks to the recent rains, the marsh area was well saturated, and the water holes were full of water. We saw hippos, martial eagle, heron, fish eagle and a pair of ground hornbills who were taking food up into a tree where we assume they had a chick. With the blue sky and lush green grass, the landscape here was so picturesque. As the time moved on, we started to search the grass for a serval cat. 

The sun was starting to set, and we had the last few minutes of beautiful evening light, when sure enough Julius spotted a serval a long way off in the distance. 

We couldn't even spot it with binoculars!  We headed off, still trying to see this serval. After approx. 5min, Julius stopped the vehicle, still we couldn't see anything, then Julius pointed, and there was this beautiful cat walking through the grass, approx. 20m away. At times we could only see it’s ears - how on earth he managed to spot it from so far away is unbelievable.  We stayed with the serval for a short while. It is such a majestic dainty cat, with such a cute face - a real treat to see.

Day 7:

Our final morning.  Once again, just outside the camp, we came across the male lions. Scarface was walking along the track, and Moran walking with a lioness. We next saw two hyenas dragging away a kill - a warthog that they had presumably scavenged. Numerous white backed vultures were gathering, waiting for the chance for some scraps. A jackal was also trying his luck at stealing a bite.

We saw more colourful birds, dik dik, giraffe, impala, and buffalo rolling around in a muddy waterhole. We parked the vehicle close to a colony of weaver birds, where we watched how they intricately wove their nests. We headed back to camp, with another lion sighting, buffalo, giraffe and birds. After lunch, we left camp for the airstrip.

In our opinion the Masai Mara is a most incredible place, an abundance of wildlife, with fantastic opportunities to see the predators ‘at work’. We have now visited this area on 3 occasions, and have never been disappointed. We will definitely be back! 

 Thanks again to Will and all at NWS.

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Comments

Kate

15/4/2014 3:20 PM

Amazing photos!

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