60 DAYS IN MASAI MARA
Last year Vlado Bizik and I spent two months in Kenyan nature reserve Masai Mara. Vlado was directing a documentary movie about this area and I was trying to finish my almost seven year long project about the biotope Serengeti, which includes also the above mentioned Masai Mara.
We called this project „Laga 09“. Laga is a Masai expression for seasonal river and we both knew that at the time, when Kenya is tormented by huge draught, we have to look for life by the streams.
At the time of the departure I had already known, that if I do not make notes every day, I will forget all stories before I even arrive back to Europe. That is, how the diary came to existence and I was honestly writing notes all 60 days in Masai Mara.
The previews from my diary should appear in some of the printed media in the future. Part of those comments will be published in book „Africa in us“, which I have been currently working on together with Lenka Klicperová.
So for now only a small preview…
DAY NINTH – SUNDAY 23.8. 2009
In the morning Amos and I are discussing our new strategy. It has no sense to drive across the plains, that’s why we will concentrate on the big cats and for now only on our bank of Talek river. I have to name the lion prides, so I do not have chaos in it. First is the pride from the river Talek and has six members. I will name the second one Hammerkopf according to the place of their most frequent appearance. That is homonymic „laga“(seasonal river) and local pride has eight members. Three of them are cubs. The third is the ten member pride from the Sand river composed of two males and eight females. Last pride, which I have seen so far only once in the surrounding of Musiara swamps, will most probably be the famous pride called Bila Shaka.
It is much more difficult with the cheetahs. They do not have stable territories. I have known about one female do far, which appears on our side of the river. She accompanies one quite grown cub. I named them the Grants, because when I met them for the first time, they had just hunted down a Grant gazelle. Second female I have noticed has two a bit younger cubs. I call them as the cheetahs from the Stones. First time I saw them near a hollow with big rocks. We had also glimpsed one lonely male near „laga“ Hammerkopf. Amos is warning me about three cheetah brothers, but they obviously occur on the other bank of river Talek.
Note: As time went on, we found at lest three other cheetahs families I had no idea about at the time of this report
There are approximately three leopards here. One occurs close to Hammerkopf (it seems that cats really like this place). I will call him Kisinger for better overview, according to a hill above „laga“, where he has his own territory. The second is from river Talek and has been already well known. We were watching him already during Photo Safari in 2007. The third leopard moves near, only a small while from across the river in the area of Interpid campsite. We finally found out that it is a female with not even two months old cubs, so I am hoping in good photographic opportunities.
After a short consultation with Amos, we are heading towards Hammerkopf. We are lucky and after quite a short time we reveal local lion pride. It is cold morning, the animals are active, but it has still been quite dark. So I managed to make only few pictures before the whole pride together with the male disappears in the bush. Then we are driving across the plains until noon and we are trying to find the cheetahs from the Stones. We suppose, that the small gazelle from yesterday, cannot last for long to a mother with two almost adult cubs. It means they could be hunting again. Instead of them we are meeting the Grants cheetahs around noon. They are attentively watching the surrounding and obviously they would like to hunt. It does not even take five minutes and the mother starts running towards the adult Thomson gazelle with a baby. She separates them by her assault. One of her cubs suddenly takes over chasing of the calf. The young cheetah is already more experienced and so it does not take long time and the gazelle is hunted down. I keep photographing one picture after another despite the fact that our car stands a bit more far that I would have imagined. Nonetheless I am satisfied. When the cheetahs start feeding, we are also leaving for lunch.
After the midday break in the shade of a tree we are driving to look for the leopards. We are not lucky with the leopard from the river Talek, but almost right after we cross the shallow water, we come across his neighbor by the airstrip of Interpid campsite (airstrip is more a spectacular name for a shoddy part of ground, where small planes full of tourists are landing). He is hidden in the bush and waits for the oncoming impalas. I have camera ready and I am not even breathing. To make a picture of leopard while hunting is a dream of every photographer. Unfortunately for me and fortunately for the impalas, the leading male of the impala herd notices the feline for the last moment and warns his harem by threatening moo about the possible danger. Impalas start running away and the frustrated leopard heads to the bush directly across the airstrip. He does not pay attention even to the landing plane. So the crew has an amazing experience immediately after their arrival. I wish I saw the pilot’s facial expression, when he was landing right in front of an angry leopard walking on the airstrip. The plane missed the animal only of few meters….