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Safari June 2015

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Safari June 2015

Post  Safariman on Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:30 pm

Sorry for the delay in making any posts on my recent trip to Kenya but as I mentioned on the "Lets Talk" thread I returned home to some very sad news which has kept me extremely busy and I am now only just getting down to the job of going through all my photos (1500) and I have yet to start editing the 500 video clips so the videos will come later.
As usual I stayed at Offbeat Safaris' Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy and was looked after and totally spoiled by my Masai guides and friends David and Kapeen.
This year for a change the long rains which occur in April and May had been exceptional and continued well into June resulting in waist-high grass everywhere for the first time since 2012. This was great news for the browsers and grazers but not so good news for the predators. All three of the lion prides in the conservancy had taken to climbing trees, something I had rarely seen before. The long grass was still very wet and the rains had produced a plague of flies and ticks and the only way the lions could get away from them was to climb up into the trees. Having been used to looking for lions at ground level it seemed strange to having to look upwards if you wanted to spot them.
The very wet conditions had also had a very detrimental effect on the unfortunate lion cubs. At my last visit in January the Acacia Pride had produced 23 tiny cubs, on my return there were less than 12 left. Some had died through a parasitic virus that caused them to loose condition with dire results, the conservancy vets were unable to do anything for them. The remaining cubs were not in the best of health, not helped by the damp conditions but appeared to be holding their own. By contrast the Offbeat Pride had added at least another 9 possibly 11 cubs to the original 3 who had beeb born during my last visit. They appeared to be very healthy possibly because the pride had moved them to an area of shorter grass where conditions were slightly better. It is very difficult for a tiny cub to follow an adult when the grass towers above it and it cannot see where it is going. It is also difficult for the adults to find prey which is another reason for them to climb trees.
It was not only the wildlife that had problems with the wet conditions as vehicles were constantly getting stuck and having to be pulled out!! This culminated in one of the delivery lorries from Nairobi which supplied the Offbeat Camp getting stuck and breaking down which meant we abandoned our game drive to help get vital supplies (crates of Tusker beer and cases of wine) to camp!!
Apart from catching up with the lion prides the other welcome highlight was spending time with two cheetah families. It is getting more and more difficult to find cheetahs even in the Mara as they are loosing out big time to the other predators, lions and hyenas. We were lucky enough to catch up with Malaika and her 4 cubs again who decided to join us on the roof of our vehicle and also another female Amani. She is normally to be found in the man reserve but she had come into the conservancy and given birth to 5 cubs. She had moved the 3 week old cubs quite close to camp unfortunately in an area full of hyenas and then moved them again this time to an area with jackals, with devastating results and all five cubs were sadly lost. The Mara Cheetah Project were keeping a close eye on them but there was nothing they could do .It was very sad to see a very disconsolate and bewildered Amani searching day after day for her cubs who were no longer around. But that is nature and you just have to accept it.
I will add more stories and details about these incidents in later post but for now here are a few photos to give a flavour of the safari.



Waist high grass everywhere



Two young males from the River Pride just hanging out up a tree pretending to be leopards!!



Malaika, paying us a visit



Playtime for Malaika and her cubs



A pair of yellow-billed oxpeckers carefully pulling out the hairs from the giraffe's mane, presumably to line their nest!!



A disconsolate Amani silhouetted against the dawn sky still hoping to find her cubs!!



One of the Offbeat Pride cubs with very distinct markings.



Enjoying sundowners with David and Kapeen as the sun sets on another perfect Mara Day!!

SM
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Thu Jul 09, 2015 1:44 pm

Thanks for sharing your stories and photos Safariman, as ever lovely to hear what is going on in the Mara, although it is upsetting to hear about the lion cubs. It's odd to think of lions in trees and the leopards must object strongly! Good to know you rescued the Tusker and wine, I remember the lorry being stuck on a riding safari and we had to send a vehicle for supplies and abandon the lorry - it's important to have Sundowners drunken It's sad to hear about Amani and cheetahs in general, nature really can be harsh.

Let's hope October will bring sunshine and lots of wonderful wildlife.

Lai Very Happy
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  whitestarling on Sat Jul 11, 2015 5:53 pm

Great photos and story

WS

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Safariman on Mon Aug 03, 2015 2:56 pm

Apologies for the delay in adding further posts of my recent story but I have been rather busy on other matters. Hopefully now I will have time to post some more stories and photos as well as some videos which I have now managed at long last to edit.
As everybody is probably well aware of the furore caused by the obscene killing of Cecil, this post also illustrates the problems faced by lions even without the interference of man!!
The story goes back to Nov.2013 and the female lion we encountered with 3 eight week old cubs. She had been pushed out of the Acacia Pride when she got pregnant at the wrong time and became known as the Outcast Female. She was endeavouring to bring up the cubs on her own with no help from the pride. On my next visit in Feb. 2014 they were all still together having undergone a temporary separation when the Acacia and Offbeat Prides had an altercation in the area where the Outcast Female was trying to set up her territory. She moved the cubs to an area close to Leopard Gorge and the cubs seemed to thrive. I saw them for the third time on my visit in Jan. this year and the 3 cubs, 2 boys and a girl were now really sub-adults and nearly as big as mum.
On this trip in June, David my guide told me that the mum had mated again and was pregnant and the sub-adult cubs were now on their own and fending for themselves. We came across the young female in Leopard Gorge but sadly she had been badly wounded and was having great difficulty moving around. The injuries were to her hind quarters and had probably been inflicted either by lions from the nearby Acacia Pride or more likely hyenas which tend to dominate the Gorge area. We contacted the Conservancy Rangers who in turn contacted the vet who attend her and cleaned up her wounds and was hopeful that she would recover. The rangers provided her with a goat for food as she was unable to hunt for herself. It was 3 days later when we saw her again, this time surround by hyenas and in a very bad way. As we drove up the hyenas dispersed but it was obvious that the young lion was not going to survive for much longer. However it was a case of letting nature take its course as there was nothing further to be done.I always tell myself to try and remain objective that these things happen in the wild but it is particularly difficult in a case like this when you have followed them from very young cubs to almost adulthood and you have become emotionally involved with the family.
Soon after leaving her when were driving along FigTree Ridge we spotted her 2 brothers who were looking well and relaxing on an uprooted fig tree joining the ranks of the tree climbing lions of the Mara North Conservancy!! The hope is that they will be able to hunt for themselves and survive but it could be difficult for them as often it is the female who is the best hunter!!
The photos show the family from when I first saw them up to my latest visit, I hope you don't find the photos of the injured female too upsetting but it is what happens in real life!!



The first time I saw them, Nov. 2013



The 3 cubs relaxing above Leopard Gorge, Feb. 2014



2 of the sub-adults plus mum at the far end, Jan. 2015



First sighting if the injured female showing the wounds to her hind quarters, unfortunately due to the heavy rains and long grass there was a plague of flies which covered everything.



The sad sight of the very poorly female



Our last sighting of her!!



Her 2 brothers relaxing on an uprooted fig tree

SM
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  littlewid on Mon Aug 03, 2015 10:42 pm

Oh my goodness SM, that a mixed bag isnt it. Lions acting like cheetahs, lovely oxpeckers, massive grass, loads of flies, good news about Malaika but very sad news for Amani, that must have been so hard to see her looking for her cubs. Its also not good to hear that the cheetahs are having it tough in the Mara, they are always going to have it hard against the other predators but it sounds as though its getting a bit desperate which is such a shame.
I love the photo of the little cub with his distinctive markings, he looks like hes trying to be a leopard in disguise.

I thought hard about looking at the poor female lioness, that was kind of a mistake on my part, I think im going to sleep with that on my mind. It looks awful, she has lost her tail and it all looks so painful and does look like a hyena attack. I know there is a no involvment in nature but in my mind as the rangers had gone beyond that policy to clean her up and give her food, I wonder if it might have been acceptable to put her to sleep instead of leaving her to a painful death and a fly ridden one at that. Maybe I am wrong and too sentimental but you either do it all or nothing but thats just my opinion. It was hard for me to see but must have been harder for you as you actually saw her.

The good thing is............you rescued the beer cheers

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:46 am

Oh dear poor lioness what an awful injury but as you say Safariman it is reality. Thanks for the commentary, and lovely photos.

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Elephants

Post  Safariman on Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:43 pm

Thanks for the comments everybody.

With lots of rain and an explosion of new grass the elephants were enjoying themselves. When there is plenty of food they tend to gather into quite large groups and I saw several herds of well over 30 individuals. While busy eating the fresh grass they ignore the trees which gives them a chance to recover a little before the next onslaught. Also with plenty of water around and lots of puddles they had ample opportunity for indulging in mud baths which is always fun to watch. Something I had never seen elephants do before was to get a trunkful of new damp fresh green grass and wipe it over their face before eating it. I suppose it acted as a wet flannel to cool themselves down.
These are some photos and a short video (no music) of their antics.

 

A herd of elephant enjoying the abundance of fresh grass





Synchronised mud spraying!!



Enjoying the mud



More mud spraying



Plenty of long grass everywhere



One of the many tiny calves that we saw



An elephant bull wipes his face with some fresh grass before eating it.



A mobile grass conveyor belt!!



Oops... I missed my mouth again!!



One of the few big old tusker bulls still wandering the Mara



A small her of elephant bulls wade their way through the long grass close to Musiara Marsh.




SM
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:13 am

I love that clip Safariman, the ele was having a great time with that muddy puddle, so pleased you weren't down wind of it What a Face some lovely photos and a great commentary. I like the idea of the wet flannel Very Happy The Musiara marsh is brilliant for masses of eles so I can't wait to visit.

Thanks for sharing Safariman.

Lai elephant
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  littlewid on Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:40 pm

Those are truly lovely shots SM and I adore the one of the calf with the grass on his head....such a cute picture. I too have never heard and obviously never seen elephants wiping grass round their face before, it must be to keep them cool as you say......or they've been brought up right to have clean faces !!
What was nice was to see such lush grass, I have never seen elephants in the wild before and on documentaries they usually portray the dry season and the tough time they are having, so to see such wonderful green grass for them that leaves the trees time to recover was really very nice.
The video clip was perfect without sound, all you needed was to hear the elephants having a good time but I\ must admit......I reckon he wished the mud hole was larger......he looked quite desperate to lie down in it.
A really lovely set of photo's there SM, really enjoyed seeing them and watching the video cheers

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  whitestarling on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:07 pm

Great shots and storyline as usual SM thanks. Looks as though they are fairing better for food, and water than they are at Djuma in the Kruger, the waterhole there has dried up, they have had to fill a tempory one from the lodge so at least they some water, and of course there is lttle food with it being so dry

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A cheetah called Amani

Post  Safariman on Thu Aug 20, 2015 3:53 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone. All the elephants seemed to enjoy the abundance of fresh food and water.

However this post again tells of the problems all the wildlife have just trying to exist.
I have already mentioned the cheetah Amani in a previous post but this one contains more detail.
Amani is normal resident in the main Masai Mara National Reserve. However for some reason, possibly because it was too wet in the reserve,she moved into the Conservancy to give birth to her litter of 5 cubs. When we came across the cubs they were about 3 weeks old and well hidden in fairly thick bush although quite close to a well used vehicle track. They were in fact quite near to the Offbeat Camp and we regularly passed their den going to and from camp. However the area is also populated with a high density of hyena, in fact it is the area where I was able to photograph and video the rare sighting of hyenas mating on  a previous visit.
The Conservancy rangers arranged for an exclusion zone to be placed around the area to prevent any of the local Masai herders from grazing their cattle too close and the Mara Cheetah Project sent a vehicle to keep a regular watch on the family. Amani then decided to move the cubs approximately a km away but into a more open area and fatally into the middle of a pair of black-backed jackal's territory. We only saw Amani with the cubs once in their new hiding place and then nothing!! It soon became obvious that the cubs had probably been killed but we were unsure whether the culprits were jackal or hyena. We kept seeing Amani wandering around the area and calling in the hope that the cubs would suddenly reappear. Then one morning when we were watching her quite close to the last sighting of the cubs, a pair of jackals approached and sauntered very confidently right up to the bush were the cubs had been hidden and seeing Amani on a nearby termite simply chased her off. Amani did not put up any resistance and wandered away head down and very disconsolate. We decided then that it must have been the jackals that had killed the cubs. It is the law of the wild that all predators will try and kill any opposition particularly cubs. Over the next couple of days Amani remained in the area still hopelessly looking; she didn't appear to have eaten at all. My last sighting of her was as a rather forlorn and pathetic figure on my way to the airstrip for my flight back to Nairobi.
The bush can appear a cruel and heartless place but it is the strongest and the fittest that survive and we have to accept that.

It also puts into perspective what a great job Malaika has done in raising 4 cubs almost to maturity!!

Some photos and a short video.



Amani and the 3 week old cubs





















My last sighting of Amani on my way to the Mara North airstrip





SM
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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Sun Aug 23, 2015 5:26 pm

Thanks Safariman, it certainly does highlight the problems cheetahs have rearing young, a harsh reality for them.

Lovely pics and clip.

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  littlewid on Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:24 pm

Thats just so incredibly sad SM and one of the sides to going on a safari that I would not like to encounter.  Poor Amani, its a bit incomprehensible to imagine how it must have been for her to carry 5 cubs, give birth to them, see them grow into little cheetahs and then to have them disappear and never find them again, it just rips at your heart. I know they say survival of the fittest but these little cubs wouldn't have stood a chance, they were too young. Nature can be so wonderous but also so very gut wrenchingly awful.

Your pictures really strike a chord knowing the story and Amani is beautiful and seeing those special cubs in the video was quite a tear jerker. Theres always a what if and I wonder how they would have fared if she hadn't moved them that last and fatal time......we will never know.

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Safari Diary Video

Post  Safariman on Tue Sep 08, 2015 2:52 pm

This is a video diary (approx. 7 mins.) showing the day by day highlights of my trip. Some of the clips you have probably seen on some of the earlier videos of this trip but it gives an idea of what you might see on a day by day basis for anyone who is fortunate to go on safari to Kenya and the Mara North Conservancy.
There is never a guarantee of what you will see, so some days will be better than others but there is is always something and I am never bored.
Apologies for the music as I have used it before but it is getting difficult to find music of the right type and length to suit my videos so I go back to old favourites!!




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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Wed Sep 09, 2015 8:13 am

http://i73.servimg.c  and  Thanks  for sharing Safariman, a lovely video clip of your time at Offbeat Mara, with so many different animals (and I spotted the Mouse birds)  Laughing  it's amazing just how much you can see in 9 days and it never disappoints as you say, some days you see a lot and some days you don't but the whole thing of being there is just magical.

Thanks and can't believe it isn't long until we'll be there  

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  whitestarling on Wed Sep 09, 2015 10:54 am

Brilliant whistle stop tour SM, and a good bit of editing if I may say so. There was so many really good close ups, and distance shots it all went together really well. I will share that with the chatters on WildEarth TV. Never heard of mouse birds will have to google that.
Thanks for sharing you Safari SM

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Safariman on Wed Sep 09, 2015 2:26 pm

Thanks for the comments Lai and WS.
Pleased to see you picked out the Speckled Mousebirds Lai, although they are fairly common it is difficult to get any decent photos of them as they are constantly on the move and rarely still. Luckily in this instance it was just after the rainstorm which is briefly shown in the video and it delayed our departure for the afternoon game drive. We soon came across the African Fish Eagle which was busily trying to dry off its plumage and  then the Mousebirds who were doing the same and therefore stationary for a short while enabling me to get some photos.



Speckled Mousebird


WS I am slowly beginning to get the hang of video editing which has been a case of trial and error. The difficult part is knowing how long to give each clip and trying to get a balance of different shots and then trying to add some appropriate music. This video was fairly straight forward as the clips are in chronological order.
I have been experimenting with a shortened form of the video with the clips not necessarily in order but only allowing a maximum of 5 seconds per clip and it seems to work quite well. However I won't be uploading it to Youtube (and WAA) as the music I added was from Out of Africa which is heavily copyrighted!!!

You're right Lai it is only 5 weeks today that I leave for Nairobi and it can't come soon enough!!

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Laikipia on Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:52 pm

You know I love birds Safariman so am always trying to take photos of them and spend ages just watching them. I've got some Mousebirds photos somewhere!

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  littlewid on Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:05 pm

. that was an amazing video SM albeit sad to see Amani calling for her cubs and the poor lioness who had been attacked so badly but it was also so wonderful to see and even though you apologised for the music, again it really fitted the video.........and Tiga agreed as usual as he had his nose on the screen all the way through lol! it really did give such a brilliant flavour of what a safari is all about and just evokes a massive smile........fingers crossed next year I will be posting a video
Thoroughly enjoyed that and I will be going to bed with a smile Very Happy

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  Safariman on Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:53 pm

Thanks LW, pleased that you and Tiga enjoyed it!!

Hopefully as you say next year we could be watching a video of your safari.

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Re: Safari June 2015

Post  gregrowlerson on Sun Sep 20, 2015 2:03 am

Some great shares and stories Safariman. I always enjoy elephant and cheetah photos, but being a leopard fan I'm a little scared to see that lions are learning to climb trees! affraid

A shame what happened to that lioness though, although as has been said, that's sometimes the harsh reality.
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