By Adam Bannister
Gradually we are starting to learn more and more about these secretive, and ever-so-beautiful big cats. A highlight for me this last fortnight was watching a male marching through a thick forest fragment. He was calling repeatedly, salivating, and seemingly focused- and furious. Nearby, I could hear not just one other leopard calling, but a second one also rasping in the other direction. Three leopards within a few hundred meters!
With each sighting we can start to piece together the puzzle of who is who and where best to search in order to increase your chances of finding the most prized of cats.
We also managed to secure another delightful “Cat-trick”, a self-proclaimed term that we use internally when talking about how we managed to see lion, cheetah, and leopard all within the same game-drive. This is no mean feat, and when it happens the smiles on guests faces are even wider than they already would have been before.
Kisaru’s cubs appear to have gone independent. The young male and the female have been seen both together, and apart, over the last two weeks. The young male, in particular, seems to have inherited his mother’s incredible hunting abilities, and it’s not unusual for him to be found successfully chasing down Thomson’s Gazelles in the exact same clearings that his mom raised him in.
We are hearing reports that Kisaru has, for the time being, shifted her movements a long way south; at times even going down into the Greater Reserve – perhaps forcing these youngsters to flourish on their own.
We all wait with excitement for confirmation that Kisaru is indeed pregnant.
There is never a dull moment when it comes to the lion dynamics in the northern extremities of the Maasai Mara. The Sankai males continue to call Enonkishu home. Its amazing to have such a coalition of strong, and good-looking males, so close to House in the Wild. Most nights, their guttural roars pierce the otherwise sound of silence.
Further afield in Lemek and Ol Chorro, the lion situation remains far more unstable. Morning game drives are often punctuated by sublime action as the four males from the south continue to stake a claim on this land, and its lionesses. To date no cubs have been able to survive the onslaught. We hold thumbs that stability in the pride will soon return.
The annual Abdim’s Stork intra- Africa migration is one of the highlights on the birding calendar. It’s always a delight to see a flock of a few hundred, perhaps even a thousand birds spiraling overhead. This year, however, it has been an absolute showstopper. Perhaps it is the dry weather, the shortage of rain, or even the explosion of caterpillars a few weeks ago, that has caused these mega flocks to all congregate in the area. We feel honoured, to have been chosen as their stop-over point. For the last 10 days or so we have watched as literally tens of thousands of these black and white birds have arrived. Kili Dam, the central point of Naretoi, has played host to the bulk of the birds. There has been nothing more exciting, and rewarding, then to just drive up to this waterbody each afternoon and just sit and watch – it is mesmerizing. Big birds as far as the eyes can see. When they take to the skies, to find their night-time roosts, the sounds are just incredible.
Enonkishu continues to lead the way when it comes to livestock management. A devastating drought in 2009 forced the local Maasai pastoralists to have to rethink the way they worked their land and managed their cattle. The team at House in the Wild have worked, together with the neighbouring Maasai, to assist in developing a grazing plan that not only allows for healthier cattle, but actually promotes land restoration and enhances the coexistence with the native wildlife. The landscape is divided into grazing blocks, around which cattle are driven on a rotational basis. They spend 10 days in one block before moving on to the next. At night the cattle are kept in cattle-pens made of metal bars. These bomas are easily moved from one area to the next and have significantly reduced the number of attacks on livestock by lions, as well as the retaliatory killing of lions by the Maasai.
The Enonkishu land manager identifies where the grass has been most badly degraded. It is here that they erect these mobile-bomas for a period of four days. The animals leave their manure to fertilise the area, making the soil richer in nutrients and allowing fresh lush grass to grow. The team collectively ensures that overgrazing, and also over-resting is not allowed. I look forward to repeating these shots of the mobile Boma sites over the course of the year to see just how the landscape recovers and flourishes. Now we just wait for rain…
At House in the Wild we are proud of our Wild Shamba. It’s a beautiful relaxing place of natural productivity, clean air, and an abundance of fresh-sprouting fruit, herbs, and vegetables. Its also the site where we host our ‘Wild Woman’ initiative, and where our tree nursery takes root.
We were delighted to welcome back UK gardener and potager, Charlotte Parton. This is the second time, over the last year, that Charlotte has come to spend time in the garden, teach the Shamba team and give input as to how to make this space even more productive, efficient, sustainable, and beautiful. She spent a lot of her time together with our head shamba-keeper Ernest, teaching him new techniques and mentoring him. We are super excited about the subtle changes and look forward to fresher, healthier, richer, farm-to-table produce on the plates for our guests at House in the Wild.
This week I also hosted a small photography workshop – riding alongside some photographers, helping them to hone their trade, to see things in a new light and to take that little extra step in getting fresh, unique, and unusual perspectives on the Mara wildlife. These days are always fun for everyone as we get to nerd-out on camera speak. Terms of ISO, shutter-speeds and apertures are all thrown around with enthusiasm. I was delighted as our guests left with a portfolio of their own of gorgeous memories.
Looking forward to what’s in store over the next two weeks. How will the animals react to the ever-drying conditions? Will the rains break, and the landscape turn a verdant green? Will the lions in Lemek start to relax and settle? Will Kisaru’s recently independent cubs finally get named? Exciting times, and time will tell…