When we went on our eleven-day safari a couple of years ago. It was great to be able to spend so much time up-close and personal with all of the various animals. One thing that quickly became apparent was that animals of all kinds showed affection to one another. Knowing that their lives were in constant threat due to different predators, the environment, and other circumstances, it is clear that the various animals relied on each other, and families were extremely close, especially the lions.
It wasn’t just the mother’s affection for their offspring, but it was also the playful affection among the siblings and even that of their mates. It was a common theme amongst all of the different species of animals that saw throughout our time in the African grasslands. We have looked back at photographs from our safari many different times and the photographs showing the loving interactions amongst the animals are certainly some of our favorite memories. We were very fortunate to catch some truly adorable moments.
We had some amazing animal encounters during our time in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It started on the first night when we arrived in the reserve when we saw our first cheetahs. We had already seen the big five in Africa, the elephants, water buffaloes, lions, leopards, and rhinos, but seeing the cheetahs was amazing and was the last of the big cats that we were hoping to see. Obviously our animal encounters didn’t end there as we drove throughout the reserve observing many different animals. We also went to the Mara River, but since we were a couple of days ahead of the great migration, we did not see the wildebeests charging across the river. We did, however, see the crocodiles that were patiently waiting for the migration to arrive.
Once again, we saw many different lions as we drove through the park. At one point we came across a pride of lions who were eating their prey. This was third time where we saw animals that were eating as we had previously seen a leopard in a tree with a gazelle as well as a hyena and vultures fighting over the remains of an antelope. In addition to the pride of lions we also came across a large male lion that was sitting on a small hill, which we nicknamed the “King of the Hill”. He was definitely quite majestic as he sat gazing at the grasslands around him. Our close encounter with the cheetah that leapt on the hood of our Land Cruiser was certainly a highlight of our entire safari.
It was also our first time seeing topis, a type of antelope, as well as an eland, which is the world’s largest antelope. Another interesting thing that we saw as we drove through the park was large areas of ground that had been purposely burnt in order to refresh the growth of the area and to kill the bugs. The dark ground was quite a contrast to the rest of the grasslands that we saw throughout the reserve. In addition to the crocodiles at the Mara River, we also saw many hippos lounging there as well, but we understand that they would end up moving when the great migration arrived. The hippos and crocodiles basically ignored one another as they are both very dangerous animals.
In addition to the typical safari experiences that we had during our time in the Maasai Mara National Reserve we also had an amazing balloon ride and on the morning that we left to head to Lake Naivasha we visited a traditional Maasai village. By the time we reached the Maasai Mara, we had already been on safari for seven days, so we were quite settled into our safari routine of early mornings and full days driving around to see the animals. Since our camp was located in the reserve, animal encounters could occur within the grounds of the lodge, so you had to use caution when walking after dark.
The Maasai warriors, armed with bows and arrows, were there to protect the few visitors that were at the camp, although a large water buffalo camped himself outside of our tent and they had difficulty getting him to move. Also, just after we went to our tent, a leopard wandered right through the restaurant, much to the surprise of the only couple still in the restaurant at the time. To make our evening complete, the Maasai warriors also entertained us by singing traditional tribal songs and dancing amongst our dinner tables. All in all, our time in Maasai Mara was truly fascinating and enjoyable.
One of the things that most people look forward to when going on safari in Eastern Africa is seeing all of the big cats like lions, leopards, and cheetahs. We certainly weren’t disappointed with our encounters as we had several that were all amazing and different in many ways. Whether watching the lion cubs at play, seeing a leopard climbing up a tree, or having a cheetah jump on the hood of our Land Cruiser, seeing these animals up close was something truly special. We saw lions at almost every park that we visited, but the leopards and cheetahs were more rare to see. We know that we were very fortunate to see the amazing variety of cats, including the caracal cat, which not everyone gets to see.
Cats have very expressive faces and keen eyesight and they definitely kept their eyes on us as we watched them from our vehicle. Regardless of the species of cat, one thing that they all had in common was how they ignored people and their vehicles with the exception of the encounter of the cheetah who definitely was not afraid of our presence. We visited the parks during the lion’s mating season and one of the more unique things that we saw during our safari was actually a lion and lioness mating. We also saw a leopard eating a gazelle as well as a pride of lions eating the remains of some sort of antelope. When on safari, you are in their environment and the animals are going to go about their lives regardless of the visitors that may come along to watch them.
It is hard to decide which of the big cats was our favorite to see during our time, but there is no denying how impressive it is to see a large male lion within arms reach of the vehicle. We had many different encounters with male lions including one that was lying right on the edge of the road. We moved very slowly without sudden movements and spoke in low hushes as instructed by our guide so as not to provoke the lion. We were literally so close to him that we could almost feel his breath as he panted in the warm sun and kept a wary eye on us as we snapped photographs. For the first twenty minutes we were the only vehicle and as other vehicles arrived having been notified by our guide, the lion took offense, growled at us and for a moment there was a sense of fear that he might retaliate against us, but then wandered off into the tall grass before the others had the chance to see his power and beauty.
There certainly isn’t any single animal that could be the considered the most important to see during a safari, but certainly seeing the big cats is a highlight. We took so many photographs during our trip that it is difficult to narrow down our favorites. Seeing how affectionate and playful they were was something truly spectacular. They definitely displayed a variety of emotion and caring for one another whether brushing against each other, wrestling with one another, or the lionesses cleaning the young cubs by licking them with their tongues. Although photographs can’t truly provide the same experience as being there, hopefully these images will give you a sense of what it is like to see these magnificent cats in the wild.