Into the Wild #6

By Adam Bannister

Each day we are greeted by an array of sightings, sounds and smells. Out at daybreak, the sky lighting up to the east above Kileleoni hill 2000 feet above. Driving around looking for animals, the brisk air hits you in the faces – chilling your nose, but warming your soul. For me it’s the most natural drug. It’s an addiction, and even after 16 years I am still excited at the prospect of what may lie around the next corner. Incredibly, every single time I venture out into the Mara, I experience something new. My goal is, and always will be, to bring you the most beautiful – yet accessible – imagery taken over the last few days. This blog series is an honest account of what is achievable if you were to teleport yourself from behind your computer, and into one of our land cruisers, bumping along a windy track through the golden Mara grasslands…endless vistas, fresh air, bountiful life, and the most spectacular light.

Zebras make wonderful subjects. The contrasting white and black, the graceful equine features and their tenacity. I always think of them as drama queens…running, squealing, biting, kicking, grooming, stomping, flicking…they are always up to something. And they always look so good doing it! Fortunately, the plains here at House in the Wild are still covered with these playful creatures and I’m continually seeking them out as characters in this never-ending story.

One such hidden, and rather unexpected gem, was the discovery two weeks ago of a jackal den-site. Five puppies stashed away inside an old, and disused, warthog burrow. With each visit, they have grown in confidence towards the car. With each day they grew bolder and more playful. The result was a collection of memorable, and rather adorable, young pups.

I must admit that during my years in the Mara I haven’t concentrated too much on Ostriches. I always thought them a little awkward and strange. However, due to the resident population of them being so high, I am now afforded the opportunity to spend more time with them here, and I find them quite comical. They walk with attitude; they strut and prance. If you catch them in good light, and with an attractive background, they can in fact be a highlight. Sit with them, watch them, enjoy them. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

I haven’t been so lucky over these last 2 weeks with regards to cheetah viewing. That all changed one morning when I went out and within the first hour stumbled across a gorgeous male gorging himself on the fresh remains of a male Thomson’s Gazelle. At this stage I am still not sure as to the identity of this cheetah but hope that he will stick around.

This week I witnessed some truly fascinating behaviour. Something I had never seen before. I came across a female Grant's Gazelle lying beside the road, coiled up into what looked like a ball. It was clear that she was in some discomfort, so I immediately reversed the car to give her some space. My gut reaction was that she was in labour, but when I trained my binoculars for a closer look, it was clear that what she was delivering was not a baby, but rather a large chunk of meat. She must have had some kind of complication and had miscarried. What we were now watching was her body's way of getting rid of it. What really caught me off guard was when she quickly started to eat it all. I couldn’t believe that I was watching a strict vegetarian eating a big piece of meat and you could see how she struggled as her mouth and teeth are just not adapted to chewing meat. Clearly, this was her way of reclaiming some of the precious nutrients. We sat fascinated for about 15 minutes before she swallowed the whole lot and walked away to join the rest of the herd.

I know since the last post Into the Wild #5, which told the story of the lioness raising her cubs under the watchful eye of a group of males who were not the cubs fathers, a lot of you have been asking for updates. Sadly, the love story was short-lived. Whilst it looked like two of the males may have been happy to raise youngsters not sired by them, the other two coalition members were not. They finally killed the last of the cubs, leaving the lioness with no option but to begin, once again, the mating ritual. For six days this lioness mated with the four males from Mara North. Let’s hope that this time she gives birth in a more stable environment.

Further north, and only a stone’s throw from our lodge, the remaining four Sankai Males continue to do well. On one night it did appear as if they moved south, towards Lemek, and their old territory. They engaged in an almighty vocal stand-off with the Mara North Males, before erring on the side of caution, turning around and heading back to their new and safer pastures. The following night they managed to kill yet another hippo- it seems that sub-adult hippos are a favourite on the menu for this strong coalition. We are fortunate to be able to do night drives, meaning that on occasion we catch up with what these magnificent males are up to once the sun has set.

Children of all ages thrive out on safari, and House in the Wild, knows exactly how to leave kids, and their parents, with the most incredible memories and life-changing moments. Whether it is climbing trees, playing sports, fishing, running around the grasslands, spending time hanging out with their Maasai guides or even learning how to bead with the Maasai mammas – we have something to keep children entertained, and laughing.

This week we had some rather unusual visitors pass through our part of the Mara ecosystem. A small group of ladies, and a few men, were attempting to walk across the entire Maasai Mara in support of Maasai women and their newborns. They were accompanied by a support crew of nearly 20 camels – fully laden with all the food and supplies needed to undertake the onerous journey. We went out to say hello under the dappled shade of some trees. I am delighted to say they completed the 130km walk, and in the process raised over 30, 000 USD for the cause. Should you wish to find out more about this camel-trek adventure be sure to click here.