By Adam Bannister
Looking back over the last 2 weeks I have been blessed with some of the most incredible photographic opportunities. Big afternoon storms, dramatic cloudy skies, golden grasslands, and brilliant animal interactions – it has been fantastic. I cannot over emphasise how scenically beautiful this part of the Mara is, and how very special it is not having to share sightings with many cars. Each time I go out on drive I create images in my mind. I imagine scenes playing out – I visualise and set my intensions. Even after nearly five years in the Mara I still believe there are countless images left to be taken – and many more memories to be made.
We are in the midst of an impala baby boom – lots of little delicate foals running around. I was fortunate enough to watch one being born. We sat quietly for 50 minutes as its' mother cleaned it and then slowly encouraged it to stand up. It was the most beautiful scene and so touching to watch as the new-born gained enough strength to eventually rise to its legs and make its way into the nursery.
As magnificent as giraffes are I have often found them one of the more difficult animals to photograph. The last few days have yielded some exquisite moments, and some rather unusual giraffe behaviour. The little extra distance away from the Oloololo Escarpment means that here we are able to capture iconic sunsets. There is nothing more appealing than lining an animal up as the sun dips below the horizon. Recently, I also watched enthralled as a giraffe tried to suck on the horns, and the desiccated hide of a deceased wildebeest. With such great giraffe numbers in this area I think you can expect many more powerful giraffe images to be showcased as the weeks roll on.
I have never lived, nor worked in an area that has such great cheetah viewing. Kisaru, the legendary mother, is currently doing so well raising her two cubs. She is so beautiful, and even as a lion enthusiast I must admit to having fallen in love with this gorgeous little trio.
In addition to having spent hours siting with these animals over the last few days – usually as the only car in the vicinity, I have also had a most remarkable sighting that encouraged me about the future of the Mara. Many of you may know that cheetahs often favour human-impacted areas. The reason being that these areas often house a lower density of lions – the arch enemy of the cheetah. The other day I watched in amazement as Kisaru moved her two cubs across the main county road. At the exact same time a series of motorbikes happened to cross their path. The bikers stopped and watched, some of the passengers taking out their cellphones to take a quick picture. They waved and smiled at me as they slowly pulled away to carry on with their journey. It was a special moment and one that epitomises what we at House in the Wild are trying to achieve. In many ways we are the final line of defence for this part of the northern Mara. We are a buffer, and it is crucial that we continually acknowledge and address that both man and wildlife are vying for the same land on which to live. I am humbled by the local community here and how they viewed these cheetahs with respect – and judging by how relaxed Kisaru and her cubs were I could tell that this was not an isolated incident.
Last week it was hard not to notice that one of the dams near to House in the Wild was an absolute hive of bird activity. Each morning at nearly exactly 7:30am dozens of grey-crowned cranes, and hundreds of Egyptian and spur-winged geese, would come in to land. I have never seen anything like it and having spoken to a handful of ornithologists on the matter, they believe this is likely one of the largest such gatherings in Kenya. We are assuming that this is some kind of pre-mating gathering, a place for them to all connect, catch up, decide who to pair up with, before heading their own ways. I wonder how much longer they will stay for?
Lions continue to come close to the camp each night. We have had a number of pairs mating within a few hundred yards of House in the Wild, and I have spent some great time learning about the different individuals.
I also had the opportunity to head down into my old stomping ground of the Mara Triangle for a few days – so that was a real treat as it allowed for some special migratory wildebeest herd moments, and also to catch up on some familiar faces – both people and lion.
The drive from House in the Wild to the Mara Triangle is only about an hour and a half, and you are viewing wildlife the entire way there. So, this makes it possible to explore this area on a full day safari. Normally the famous Mara River crossings happen in the hotter parts of the day, so this gives you ample time to get down into that area, and then retreat away from it when the crowds of cars start to become too much.