By Adam Bannister
By now I'm sure almost all of you are well aware of my love of lions. I even named my son, Leo, after this obsession. I mean how can one not be when living in the heart of lion country? To date, I have been blown away by how good the lion viewing has been here at House in the Wild. Unique behavioural moments, intimate sightings, big action and fascinating and unpredictable dynamics.
The last few days, in particular, have been remarkable. I was incredibly lucky to have found a lioness with three tiny cubs. I believe they were in the region of about 10 days old at the time. Sitting patiently for ages, allowing the mom to relax and build trust. Finally revealing these sweet innocent bundles of fluff, for just long enough to capture a handful of precious photos. Moments that will live with me forever. Two days later, I managed to find them again, in a different location, and this time with the mom in the middle of moving them to another den.
Let's hope that the mother can keep them safe from the hyenas and the unpredictable male lions that have wrecked havoc on the other cubs born into this area recently.
However, what has made it even better is that for the vast majority of these fantastic lion sightings I have had, I have been the only car. Sometimes there may be another car in the area, but most of the time it's just me, my favourite cats, and my camera.
Towards the end of the last blog post (Into the Wild #16), we had spoken about the climatic rollercoaster that was effecting this area, and Kenya as a whole. With a big smile on my face I can happily say that over the last two weeks the rains have arrived. The grass is verdant green, the watering holes are getting full and the animals are happy.
The White Storks have also arrived on their annual migration. At this time of the year they are moving northwards - destination Europe- just in time for the Northern Hemisphere Summer. For the last few months they have enjoyed the heat, and the good feeding, in the southern portions of Africa. I was happy to be able to capture this image of a White Stork (at the back), and a much smaller Abdim's Stork (in the front)
The Northern Mara Conservancies offer some of the best Hyena viewing in the Mara. Large clans, with a strong disposition towards hunting big game, makes for highly entertaining viewing.
Whilst the 'Great Migration' is currently hundreds of kilometres south of us in the southern portions of the Serengeti, we are fortunate enough to have a relatively large resident population of both Zebra and Wildebeest alike. Tens of thousands of these animals spend their time in the Northern Conservancies throughout the year, adding so much splendour and diversity to the open plains. Zebras are without a doubt one of my favourite subject matters to photograph, especially when they are galloping, fighting and playing. Slowing the shutter down allows one to get creative when capturing images of these gorgeous animals.
I am told that Kisaru's male cub (now fully independent), has officially been named Olomunyak. Naming of individual cats can be a slightly contentious issue, but the reality is that we encounter many of these iconic cats each day, and whether we want it to not, they imprint upon us. With some of these animals we build a connection, and its difficult to not assign some kind of name to something we search for each day - and to a creature who provides us all with such joy. Olomunyak has shown incredible tenacity since being wounded on his back left leg. He has shown all the qualities of becoming a legend in this area, and we are delighted he seems to spend much of his time on the plains around House in the Wild. I watched in awe as this beautiful creature fed on a baby Eland the other day. His sister has been far more scarce, with only a handful of sightings this year. Luckily, she was seen just a few days ago by one of our guests successfully hunting and chasing down an impala foal.
Leo was invited by members of the Lemek Conservancy to come and visit their home. At just 9 months old Leo can't yet walk (or drive) and so Diana and I accompanied him to the Manyatta. It was so special and one of the most intense and memorable experiences of his short life so far. They danced and sang for him, welcoming him into the community. They playfully showed him how to make fire with Elephant dung, introduced him to all the kids of the village and gifted him with lots of beads and small wooden carvings. I made a speech on his behalf and told the Maasai community how grateful we were of them. How kind and open they have been, and how special it is to be able to raise our son in the midst of their land. I also thanked them for their incredible insight and vision in the conservation and preservation of this land and its wildlife. They are true custodians to one of the most special places on earth.
It's quite remarkable to think back on how far this area has come. Not long ago it was farmland; today it is a thriving wild ecosystem and home to many of the most remarkable species in the Mara. A place where there is space for people, wildlife and livestock.
A place where your soul is revitalised, where you are afforded the space and time to relax and unwind - a place of hope and inspiration.