Above: Female elephant in Talek River, Maasai Mara – Copyright Rupi Mangat
Published: 15 December 2018
It’s sunrise but there’s still a full moon in the sky. The dawn light is magical while the sprawl of the Mara is enchanting. In the soft light, the gazelles gambol and the warthogs graze on knees bent, their necks too short to reach the ground.
New-born foals suckle at their mothers’ breast while the tiny warthog babies vanish into the grass nervous of people. It’s the season of plenty for the herbivores with so much grass around. Well-fed and healthy, they give birth soon after the rains turning the vast grasslands into a nursery.
A large black bird on the treetop has us so focussed on it that we could have missed the pair camouflaged in the sun-kissed grass. The bird’s a Casqued hornbill sending out loud calls. The casque on the bill is like an elephant’s skull – both with hollow pockets to allow sound to amplify and also to make the skull and bill lighter for the wearer.
What we could have missed are the two black-manned lions lying flat on the grass not far from the Talek River. They are in deep slumber. I wonder if it’s the famous Morijo males full of youth and vigour who had the audacity to beat up Boxernose, a 14-year-old male who could have strayed into the Morijo males’ territory. It’s survival for the fittest in the jungle and invading territories is not taken lightly.
Standing by the banks of River Talek we’re told there’s a fresh wave of migrating gnus into the Mara something that hasn’t been seen before. The wildebeest migration is normally between June and October when the wildebeest arrive in their million-plus from the Serengeti with their foals in toe to feed on the Mara grasses. And we’re now in November.
A big fat male hippo has decided that he needs time alone from the pod in the water that’s grunting and gaping with bared jaws so frightening. Even though the river horse is a herbivore, it can easily kill a person who gets in its way. The lone male climbs the steep riverbank and grazes away oblivious to all gaping at its mighty barrel-shaped figure.
And then we see them again – the Fast Five. In the heat of the day, this brotherhood of strangers – the largest coalition of male cheetah ever recorded in the Mara – is panting and keeping out of the noon sun. Having strolled into the Maasai Mara National Reserve from the neighbouring Naboisho conservancy in 2016, the boys are in the prime of their lives and looking for females to mate with.
The search is on for the black rhino for the Mara boasts an indigenous population that has not been interfered with.
Today there is an estimated population of 30 black rhino in the Mara. In 1971 there were 120 but by 1984, only 18 survivors.
The rest had been poached to supply the illegal trade in rhino horn to the Far East where the belief persists that rhino horn can cure so many illnesses.
Crossing a deep ridge with a little water, a trio of elephants are busy drinking and eating – just what elephants do all day long to keep their massive frame fuelled. In the safety of the park they are the lucky one.
Unfortunately, a new report by Save The Elephants shows increased amounts of illegal ivory are entering China from Myanmar from a border town called Mong La. The elephant ivory is used for trinkets including name seals which are used for stamping signatures on documents.
It’s a worthless death for the world’s largest mammal.
Any Time is Mara Time
If you want to see big game and the cats, Maasai Mara is unbeatable. There is accommodation for everyone – from budget campers to exclusive luxury lodges. From Nairobi it’s a six hour drive to Sekanani Gate which is the closest gate to Narok.
Or fly from Wilson Airport in Nairobi which is between 35 and 50 minutes.
For rates into Mara log on: https://www.maasaimara.com/entries/park-fees-2