People often ask me why I continue to go back to Africa and on safari...or more specifically, why I keep going back to the Maasai Mara.
It's an easy answer -- every day is different. Every day brings different animals and different behaviors.
Some days can be slow as far as wildlife sightings or photographic moments, some days can be super exciting, some hand wringing with worry (ie. for the safety of a baby animal).
Some days are full of lazy animals...and everything in between.
In November, 2022 in the Maasai Mara, I was staying with Tembo by Jackson while on safari with The Odyssia Collection (both companies I highly recommend) and our first afternoon, we found a lion pride in the middle of the grasslands. (about 4:00 pm)
As is typical for lions (well, most cats), they were lounging around and relaxing.
Several were up on termite mounds and even though the grass wasn't that tall, the lions still hide very well and every once in awhile, we'd see another one lift its head.
The pride (or at least the members that were here) consisted of several adult females, and a bunch of sub-adults. (sub-adults are cubs that aren't babies but aren't adults yet...think teenagers)
The sky was beautiful and we decided to just wait with them and see what may transpire. (The below image is available for sale in my store)
The lions were just content to laze around with one occasionally getting up and walking to another one and changing positions.
This is where patience pays off.
About 1.5 hours after we arrived on scene (5:40 pm), one of the sub-adults was getting "bored" and decided to try his luck at chasing some saddle-billed storks.
The shenanigans seemed to stir the pride a little bit and it was time to move out.
We guessed it was time to hunt. It was a large pride with many mouths to feed.
It was almost 6:30pm and we needed to get back to camp when we saw a hippo walking straight towards the pride of lions....
Hippos are strange looking creatures with impossibly short legs to carry their huge bodies. They are also touted as one of the most dangerous animal in Africa.
They aren't overly aggressive...the problem is they leave the safety of water (usually at night) to graze on grasses. They come back to the water in the early mornings and sometimes later depending on how far they had to go to find nutritious grass.
This is where conflict can occur...when they are returning to their river or water hole and they run into humans that are going to fetch water. Hippos are very territorial and very vulnerable when out of water and that's usually when an attack on a human can occur.
Although I know the lions have to eat, I do not relish watching another animal die. The struggle for life is brutal. Both sides are fighting to survive and as natural as it is, it hurts my heart and soul every time I witness a successful hunt.
I wasn't overly concerned this time because the pride had a lot of youngsters and in my experience a few big males were necessary to pull down an adult hippo.
But, with nature you never know. The males could be there hidden or the pride could get lucky.
We watched eagerly as the hippo walked closer and closer to the lions.
A few of the lions practiced their stalking technique. Things were getting real.
One of the youngsters broke and rushed the hippo and ran by him - I have no idea what the strategy was with that one - most likely just over-excited.
Another one makes an attempt and the hippo becomes fully aware he's in danger. He turns and starts to run.
Running ... both a life saving tactic and an invitation for the lions to CHASE. It's an instinctual thing for lions to chase running animals. I've seen it many times. If an animal stops running, the lion can get confused (or perhaps she's just re-strategizing). But when an animal runs - the lions will chase.
More of the lions picked up the chase and the hippo turned to face them.
The lions circle. He's surrounded.
Then, it's off to the races. The hippo runs and gets through the circle of lions (the lions don't want to be on the receiving end of the hippos mouth and huge teeth).
He tries to outrun the lions.
One gets some claws on his back and falls off.
The hippo gets into a small ravine and finds safety for a few seconds and then bolts with the lions quick on his heels.
It was getting quite dark and they were getting far away so we decided to start the engines and follow.
We were in the midst of following when the hippo made it to his water hole and made a huge splash as he found his way to safety.
The lions knew they were outmaneuvered. A few stopped to drink water and then they moved on.
The hippo lives for another day and the lions would have to try elsewhere to get fed.
After that adrenaline filled evening, we returned to the camp for hot showers and a delicious meal. The food at Tembo by Jackson is phenomenal...but that is a story for another post!
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