Big Cat Safari in the Mara with the acclaimed Daryl and Sharna Balfour;

This camp in the Mara is set up in the bush, 5 minute shower and during dinner and evening around the fire, we all enjoy the sounds of the Mara!

March 2012 and i couldn’t wait for this…

On this safari we were near to the ‘Big Cat Safari’ Camp so we was excited to see if we encountered any of the famous cats from the brilliant series.

…And we sure did! We saw Olive, Ugly Betty (the lioness with one eye) and Notch with a big family and really small cubs, was an awesome feeling as the Mara is vast, even our camp was so beautifully disguised that you didn’t see it until upon it!

Each day we went out early hours of the morning just before light be back by noon and out again after lunch and back before dark.

We were naughty one evening; don’t think Phil had a choice haha as we pleaded with him to stay as we all wanted to witness this mean lightning storm in the distance. Due to there being not one bit of light pollution in the Mara it was incredible! The colours and the different forks was so cool to watch, the lightning had a pink glow. We were all mesmerised and didn’t want to go back to camp!…it turned into a great challenge between us who’d get the best shot hahaha! I have attached one of my photos, I think I did the best considering my camera is a D70s and the iso only goes as high as 1600, hee hee, although I remember showing Phil and he was quite impressed so I was well happy with that!

The colours and being on the Mara is such an incredible feeling, I felt at home! I also feel very at home by water too. It felt like we were in the middle of the mara, middle of wildlife and birdlife central. Even when at camp we were still in the wild, surrounded by the Mara’s beauty and what it holds. Seeing the animals and birdlife in their natural habitat is such a delight!

Being by the fire at night listening to the guides stories and jokes with the sounds around, in 360 stereo, with an incredible milkyway start sky hanging above us all, it is quite special and hard to say goodbye to. You cant really tell that I have the bug!

Now where do I start lol…on this safari it was incredible to what we encountered, every day so different yet the whole 7 days was never a dull moment! It helps having the best guides; Phil West tracked a female leopard with 2 really young cubs. Witnessing her having a hard time getting back to them was heart stopping!…not only was she fighting across a raging river, a hippo came from nowhere which went for her!…luckily with her agility she escaped. Daryl and Sharna are top photographers so they always got us in great positions for great pics! Piere, so friendly, patient and informative, when we was in his jeep we saw so much as well, even the smallest he would spot!…

Wildlife sightings is never guaranteed when you are in the wild/wilderness but when you have professionals like these its pretty much guaranteed that you will get some great photographs and priceless knowledge. We had great time with the camp crew too, all their handwork and great food. Their entertainment, wow that was priceless! You cant beat African song and instruments (live), sounded awesome, gave us goosebumps and was so fun, we were all up dancing it up with them. Not only that, they are all so lovely and welcoming, you feel at home with them all.

We saw our first kill during this trip. It was crazy as it happened as never experienced this before with all the alarm calls. So we were all taking in the view and watching a family of elephants that had just come across a river as the waterline was a give away!

The babies were completely wet so they would have been fully submerged! There was also a huge group of olive baboons, of all ages, great to watch as such characters and mischievous and sometimes one lashing out at the other or looking after babies.

So whilst taking pics and chatting suddenly the baboons starting making this horrendous sound, then the elephants, next minute you see flash of something whizz past then followed by lions!

The chase was on! We found the poor zebra and the huge pride of lionesses and adolescent male and females, they were all squabbling and making lil noises.

I know it is natural but I couldn’t watch as I think this was suppose to have been a chance for the younger ones to kill as in the end the mature adult lioness suffocated the zebra. We heard the last breathe and I couldn’t help myself but cry! Thats just me.

Saying that though after a while seeing the lions eat and clean each other it took me by surprise how I couldn’t stop watching them and how they acting with each other, it was quite an experience (once I knew the zebra was not suffering anymore).

I did take a couple of pics which I have included above. The mature adult female fascinated me as she kept looking at me, right into my eyes, such a beautiful face, she waited patiently for the young to eat before she joined in. The young lions we really hungry! Kept swiping each other away telling each other whats what. The adults kept watch whole time.

When we returned the next day its amazing how you wouldn’t have even known that there was a kill there! The circle of life, nothing wasted, all eaten by many different species.

I managed to get a wide range of reference to draw from!

I have drawn quite a few already, one being ‘Vigilance over the Mara’, ‘Elegance in the Mara’, ‘The Mara at Dusk’, ‘Dusky plains of the Mara’, ‘…with Haste!’ (Topi), ‘Lion on the Prowl’ and a couple of young zebras, to name a few…

Going back to the African skies, the moon, stars and the colours it changes, whether it be stormy clouds or at dusk, always a spectacular sight in Africa. Thats why I couldn’t wait to draw the sunset pics like the dusky plains and the mara at dusk! It was hard choosing which colour sky with the mara at dusk as the amount of colours it changed that evening was incredible! I got some great moon shots that night too!

The lioness in the mara at dusk was the same female that was watching me during the kill! Shame the light was really poor as the adolescents were down drinking the water.

So we saw an array of wildlife and birdlife; so many highlights but a couple was seeing the black shouldered kite, martial eagle, Olive, Notch with his new pride, Ugly betty, a close call where a cheetah suddenly hid herself in the long grasses, then a lurking hyena come past trying to find her but luckily he past her by as we all watching anxiously, definitely another nail biting time.

There was baby hyenas and baby jackal, so cute, cape buffalos with the ox peckers, the amount of different antelope we saw and their young was awesome; Eland, Thompson gazelle, Impalas and lots of Topi.

A cheetah jumping on Pip’s jeep! That was awesome…the amount of zebra, elephants and lions was great to see!

We got to see an awesome chase, a cheetah was after a little thompson gazelle but got away. Incredible speed, amazing to watch in action!

The amount of different species of birds we saw was from small canaries to the secretary bird standing on top of a acacia tree, bee eaters, shrike, bustards, yellow throated long claw, red breasted long claw, Sharpe’s long claw, guinea fowl, spurfowl, finches, starlings, ibis, larks, crane, stalks, southern ground hornbill, franklins, swallows, rollers, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, herons, grey go away bird, plovers, egyptian geese, lapwings, stilts, to the large birds of prey, fish eagles, martial, bateleur, black shouldered kite, grey falcon, Montagu harrier, Tawny eagles, voltures, crested eagle, steppe eagle!

We also saw lots of lizards, mongooses, giraffe, hyenas and hippos, amazing shots of hippos, the water looks awesome too!

The last thing I will say was when we were stationary in the jeep and I thought I had spotted something far in the distance, gradually they come into focus as they came closer, it was two lionesses walking through the grasses, was awesome to have been there just at that right time! You never know whats in the grasses, bushes or watching you before you get to see them!

Hope you enjoy the pics and the read, it was an incredible Safari.