Anyone who has spent time driving around Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve can tell you this is a vast expanse of land, and the location of your camp can either be a blessing or something that can leave you gnashing your teeth at the end of the day, as you need to calculate the distance you are away from it as the sun begins to set so that your driver doesn’t end up in trouble with the rangers if you’re not off the savannah at the official time.
On one particular morning we had set out just before dawn as usual and decided to drive further away from camp than we had so far, in search of territories of big cats we hadn’t come across before, and then gradually make our way back again.
It ended up being the most fruitful day of our two weeks for sightings: hyenas; two gorgeous leopards; a pair of black-backed jackals; grey-crowned crane with their young; elephants; a mother cheetah with her two cubs; a family of dwarf mongoose; and a good number of buffalo, zebra, and antelope besides.
Contrary to our plan of arriving at our faraway destination and having splendid sightings on our return journey, all of the above encounters we came across on the way there. So when we finally arrived at our intended marker, we were about to turn around and call it a day when we noticed some vehicles not far off to our right; a sure indication something of interest had been seen.
The temptation was too much to resist, so even though we really ought to have begun making tracks we drove up to the other vehicles to check out what they were looking at, which turned out to be the largest pride of lions we’d seen so far, just beginning to stir!
By now they were fairly well spread out: three mother lionesses and 12 of their cubs were moving away from a long stretch of thicket meandering into the long grass, making it very difficult to capture frames particularly of the cubs. But then the pride male – yet to have left the thicket – rose up, stretched, and casually walked the same path toward his family. We were situated directly between them, which offered me a wonderful line of sight as the magnificent male nonchalantly padded his way directly toward us.
I managed to capture a handful of images as he strode through what to me was this field of dreams before prudence won over and we set off at a fair pace back to camp, with me smiling contently running images through my mind of all the wonderful things we’d seen and experienced that day!
The East African or Masai lion (Panthera leo nubica) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.