MASAI MARA AUGUST 2006
To write about wild cats, to visit them regularly in the zoo and to work for/with these cats is all wonderful, but seeing them in the wild is THE BEST! Having been in the Masai Mara before, in 2004, I thought I’d already seen a lot, but during this trip with a small group of lovely people accompanied by a camera specialist of BBC Big Cat Diary, I’ve seen everything I’d hoped for. Just read and enjoy my travel report.
After a kill cheetahs always have to eat quickly before a lion or hyena get the smell and come to steal this “easy meal”. Cheetahs are the best hunters, but they aren’t built to fight stronger predators like lions or hyenas. They aren’t as strong and agressive and besides, they cannot risk being hurt. If a cheetah can’t hunt, it will die!! A lot of female cheetahs we saw were pregnant. So sad to realise that most of the cheetah cubs don’t make it. Lots of them are being killed by other predators. Because of this a lot of cheetahs suffer from great stress and they even lose their fur because of this. Kike, one of the leading cheetah characters of Big Cat Diary, is a beloved cat. She’s always using cars to look out for prey and this close and personal confrontation with a wild animal, made her very popular. I’d hoped to see her too, but we couldn’t find her and we heard the disturbing news that Kike wasn’t well. Same problem as described before. The local people are now discussing the possibilities to help her. Normally they don’t want to interfere with the animals in the wild, but Kike is such a famous cat and she attracts lots of tourism. Besides, the situation of the cheetah in general is threatening, so reasons enough to give Kike a helping hand. Another celebrity is Big Cat Week star Bella, a 9-year old female leopard. How famous she is, we noticed while waiting for her near her favourite tree. With us there were about 50 other vehicles filled with tourists, waiting to get a glimpse. Some of the tourists really got hysterical and this was very annoying. Once Bella showed herself the noise made her retreat in her hiding place again. I couldn’t help fooling with some of the American tourists in the same “over the top” way they are known for. I said “look, 6 cubs!!” which made the Americans even more hysterical and they immediately drove as close as they could get to get a glimpse of “the cubs” and we were of course having a good time. The “wild eye” reward was handed to me for fooling tourists in the best way. Finally, Bella came out of her hiding place and went to sit down a bit more in the open. Too far for great shots and it almost immediately started to rain, but it was great to have already seen Bella, but we hoped for more.
The following day we went back to the same place and heard Bella was on the move. We waited a while (and watched a cheetah kill in between…) and we were then lucky to see her walking through her territory, passing our car. Still cannot believe how lucky we were, being there at the right time, with only two other vehicles to witness this.
In the afternoon we decided to push our luck a bit more and returned to see Bella in her favourite tree. Once again we were lucky to get a good sight of her. She went to sit on an oak in her tree, being very relaxed, yawning a bit and being a perfect model for our stills and footage. For me it was absolutely one of the highlights of this trip! The yearly migration of the thousands of wildebeest and zebras attract lots of tourists. During this trip we witnissed many dramatic crossings which was absolutely breathtaking. We also saw two crocodiles killing an adult wildebeest and a calf. A crocodile kill is so much more dramatic than one of the cats. You can really hear the poor victim struggle for his life and you can really hear him being drowned. This wasn’t easy of course, but then again, this is wildlife! Are we in the position to have more wishes after having seen this all?? We didn’t think so, but then something unbelievable happened again. I saw something moving in the grass. Ears maybe?? Or a tail?? Anyhow, it was a serval. Unbelievable!! Being the cat lover I am, I of course hope to see this small, elegant cat, but I didn’t get my hopes too high as you hardly see them in the wild. But we were lucky again. He was strolling through the long grass, very much at ease, looking for some breakfast. A nature walk with a Masai warrior and “the man with a gun” was exciting and a nice experience. All animals were running away seeing the red Masai dress and it is said that even lions are afraid of the red colour. It was exciting to walk on the same ground and to hear all explanations and stories from the Masai specialist. To end a perfect holiday with, we paid a visit to a Masai village and to the carnivore restaurant. We returned home tired but with loads of new photos, footage, impressions and experiences….but above all memories to a perfect stay with new friends!!! With only thing in mind now: a way to return to paradise as soon as I can!!!! Babette de Jonge
Text en photo’s Copyright: Babette de Jonge
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