By Adam Bannister
On the last day of 2022 I finally saw my first ever Aardvark. This peculiar looking animal has eluded me for years, taking on a mythical role with the same reverence as a unicorn. Over the years I have seen plenty of Aardvarks on hidden motion-triggered cameras, but somehow a sighting with my own eyes seems to have escaped me. That was until I got a phone call from a Naretoi Ranger to let me know that he had just seen a sub-adult Aardvark digging up an ant’s nest about 2km from House in the Wild; in the middle of the day. I could barely believe my ears and asked him to take a picture with his cellphone. I was sure he had been mistaken. Aardvarks are nocturnal, secretive and dam near impossible to see in the Maasai Mara ecosystem – let alone at 1pm! My phone beeped, and I opened the message. It seemed to take ages for the image to download. And then suddenly – there it was - the evidence – sure enough it was a young Aardvark. I grabbed my camera bag, ran to the car and sped off towards where the ranger had told me to come.
5 minutes later the Ranger greeted me with a massive smile. He gestured to me to follow him in silence as we walked down in the direction of the river. After a short walk the bushes made way for a carpet of lush green grass. I was stunned. The Aardvark was directly in front of me, about 15 meters away and walking calmly across the short grass. He sniffed the ground and started to dig. I was in utter disbelief. Only after having watched him for about 15 minutes did I put down my camera bag to unzip it and take out a camera. It was the gentlest and most moving of sightings. We probably spent about 45 minutes with this remarkable animal. It grew in confidence, and I was able to lie down on the grass very close to where he fed. In all my years in the bush these are some of the most unexpected, and special, photographs I have ever taken.
2023 got off to an absolute flier with 4 different leopards seen on the first day of the year. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a huge male. He is clearly unaccustomed to being viewed and so is shy and skittish. It's always very exciting to view, and photograph, a truly wild leopard and one whose nature still tells it to be cautious. Interestingly, this same male was seen two more times within the next week – so we hope that he may have set up territory in the area and that sightings could become more frequent of this gorgeous cat.
The Sankai Male lions have been mating with a single female just outside the House in the Wild. We believe that she has lost her cubs two weeks prior (potentially killed by hyenas), and so is now starting the laborious task of starting again. We wish her well as it would be very special to have more lion cubs so close to our lodge.
Kisaru continues to enthrall us. She mated a few weeks ago with the ‘Two Brothers’, but has since rejoined with her two sub-adult cubs. These cubs are looking great and providing our guests with daily entertainment. Kisaru is incredibly relaxed and at home amongst people, and she is often seen relaxing within a few hundred yards of cattle bomas and manyattas. The locals have huge respect for her, and it is truly the most astounding story of human-wildlife coexistence to be coming out of the Mara. A refreshing twist on the human-wildlife conflict that continues to dominate much of the news from reserves across Africa.
Image thanks to Charlie Lynam
Most guests at House in the Wild take an afternoon to visit the nearby Rhino Sanctuary. Here you can get out of the car, stretch your legs, and walk with the two Southern White Rhinos. The local rangers will keep you safe, answer all your questions and drive home the importance of keeping these charismatic species alive.
The baby-boom continues. It’s not just the Wildebeest that have recently started to give birth, but there is a sudden abundance of young Giraffe and zebra in the area.
We decided to try to get a few morning photographs of both Warburgia and Marula Cottages. Both these rooms have been ‘re-done’ recently and so it’s necessary to capture a few images that show the changes, and the look and feel of the camp. It really is such a warm and homely place, and the busy Christmas and New Year’s period has seen many families and guests arrive- have an absolute blast – and leave with the most wonderful memories. Our goal is to set the stage for fun and laughter; and I have no doubt we did just that …again… and again…and again.
We met some incredible guests and made many wonderful friends over the December holidays and it is always such a pleasure to welcome people to share this magical part of the Mara. We are grateful to all who visited; every guest contributes to the protection of the Northern Mara Conservancies, through conservation fees, and it is so inspiring to see the wildlife thriving in the area. A huge thanks to the incredible Ronnie and Sally Wood and their beautiful twins for visiting and then for the incredibly kind gesture of sharing a post of their safari on their social media with a mention to @houseinthewild. It was a huge honour to have them stay in the Wild Villas and for me to be able to guide them.
As the sun sets on another magical day here in the Maasai Mara we invite you to come and join us. To see for yourself the active steps we are taking to conserve this landscape and to allow a space, and a place, for wildlife and people – to thrive. It is our intention to be a beacon of hope, and to set an example of how modern-day conservation is possible. With each week the wildlife sightings are getting better, and the photographic potential continues to skyrocket. It is refreshing, it is fun, and it’s the kind of positive place the world needs right now.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2023.