The Mara, part 13 2016
Paul and I ate just enough at lunch to be polite because we were still so full from our late breakfast. We enjoyed catching up with the Germans we had met at Sosian, but we were sorry to say goodbye to the South Carolinians and their private guide, Ben. We found out one of the men from S.C. is also a Safari talk member and Paul even recognized his Safari talk name because he had read blogs or comments by him. It is a small world indeed!
On our afternoon game drive, David and Kapen decide to cross the river again and look for the Offbeat Pride. This is the pride that left Frank and Jesse behind. Our first sighting is a Bateler sitting on a messy twig nest placed in the branches of a fig tree. The raptor sits tight on her nest and sends us a disapproving look for disturbing her important task of incubating the eggs.
This afternoon seems to be good for seeing Secretary birds and our first sighting of the long-legged bird is finding one perching precariously in the top of a tree. A few minutes later we see another of the gangly birds shadowing a grazing zebra. Obviously the secretary bird hopes that the striped equine will cause a rodent, snake or insect to move giving the raptor an easy meal. By the way the secretary bird will stomp its prey to death when it does find a meal! Cattle egrets employ this strategy of following grazers all the time, but I don’t know if it is normal behavior for secretary birds or not. We find another of the plumed birds striding through the grass by itself and this is the way we have seen the unique birds hunting in the past.
As we continue searching for the lion pride we pass by a small group of zebra who are standing around and swishing their tails, trying to keep the pesky flies at bay. A cute foal is part of the group so we take time to watch the baby zebra as mom stays close by its side. Driving on we come upon a jackal taking an afternoon siesta and it is so unconcerned about our presence that it hardly bothers to look at us. A half an hour after seeing the zebra and foal we find a herd of topi with three babies in their midst. The little cuties appear to be about the same age. The trio look at us curiously with their soft golden eyes as we snap photos of the youngsters. The baby topi are a solid camel color, no sign of the bruised purple shoulders and hips, or the mustard colored legs that are the costume of the adults. I really wonder what the purpose of that odd coloring on the adults is for.
The afternoon is fading and it seems that David and Kapen have checked all the bushes and clumps of trees around this area with no sign of the Offbeat pride. Since the lions have refused to show themselves, David and Kapen decide that we will go back to the river and look for the leopard and her cub that have been hanging around that area. David drives along the fringe of the river while Kapen, (and Paul and I), peer up into any tree that looks like a leopard might enjoy lounging in it. Another vehicle with a driver and one tourist are also looking for the leopard pair and David stops to chat with the guide for a bit.
David and Kapen make the decision to cross back over the river and scout along that side while driving back to camp. After crossing the river we stay next to the tree-lined bank hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive cats. The other leopard hunters are visible to us across the river and suddenly the driver flashes his trucks’ headlights at us. We all know what that means, they have found the leopards, and David drives as quickly as he can back to the river crossing and then towards the helpful guides truck. David says we must hurry because the leopards might move now that they have been discovered. When we arrive to where the other vehicle is sitting, there on a curved, thick tree limb are the leopardess and her good-sized cub. The light is poor but the sight of these two cats sprawled on the fat, mottled, branch is wonderful. The leopards do just as David said they would and shortly after we have arrived they stand up, walk off of the branch, and disappear into the canopy of leaves.
We assume we would not see the duo again but by gosh the mother and cub appear in the open not far from where our Cruiser is parked. David and the other vehicle follow the two leopards slowly keeping a good distance between them and us. The cub is feeling playful and we laugh out loud when he pounces on his mother when she is standing still. The two leopards eventually lie down in a low spot where only their heads are visible but after a brief rest they are on the move again.
Two more tourist vehicles have arrived which is making it a bit harder to follow the cats. The leopardess and her cub have disappeared into the timber so Paul and I decide that we have seen enough of the leopards, (we have been with the pair for twenty minutes), and besides that the light is fading fast. Turning back towards the river crossing, we drive around some trees and there is the female leopard standing in a copse of trees crouched down in hunting mode. Soon the leopardess breaks into a trot but we can’t see what she is after. Suddenly a dikdik bursts out of the timber and jumps into the safety of a thorn-bush. The leopardess, who never really gave chase, stops, turns around and walks back in the direction she came from. The cub is not with her so the little fellow must have climbed into a tree. We drive back across the river and as we head for camp we see that the leopardess is lying in the grass with three vehicles parked nearby watching and snapping photos of the gorgeous feline.
Not far from camp who should we encounter but Frank and Jesse walking along the track. One of the cubs lowers his head to the ground and emits a heartbreaking mournful call. The other young cub sits down next to the road and looks right at us. It is just too sad to think they will spend another night on their own.
The gloom of dusk has settled over the Mara and as we are turning off the rocky track onto the main road to the camp, Kapen points to our right where two lionesses and a cub are lying. They are looking in the direction that Frank and Jesse were walking so hopefully the two lionesses intend to go find them soon. What a relief to think Frank and Jesse will likely be united with some of their family tonight. Hey, we scored another cat trick today!
At dinner we have the usual good food and lively conversation. Kyle is a natural-born, story-teller and he keeps us all entertained. The bad news is that again it begins to rain while we are dining so our hopes of a night drive seem to be in jeopardy again. Happily the rain is short-lived tonight, and although it has made the roads slick, Kyle says the night drives are on. The German couple is going on a night drive too.
After dinner, which is topped off by chocolate filled crepes (sumptuous), we are ready to depart on our long anticipated night game drive! As David fights to keep the Cruiser moving forward on the rain slickened track, Kapen sweeps a red spotlight back and forth lighting up the blackness on both sides of the truck. The red light is much less intrusive than the typical white light for the animals.
It is pitch black out here because clouds are obscuring any moon or starlight. The first thing Paul and I note on this adventure isn’t something we see but something we hear. There is a cacophony of various frogs and toads that are in full chorus on this wet, dark night! We drive by one water filled hole where the singing frogs are emitting a sound like that of the ringing of brass bells. The sound is so sharp and clear it is hard to believe that an amphibian is producing it. I have never heard anything like it before.
Kapen finds a springhare for us which can be added to our first time we’ve seen this animal. Springhare hop around on their hind legs like kangaroos, in fact they are sometimes called Africa’s kangaroo according to David. We see several of these interesting creatures which aren’t really a member of the rabbit family but are rodents.
We are driving near the river crossing when a pair of eyes light up in the beam of the spot light. David drives closer to the brushy area and Kapen searches until he finds the owner of the glowing eyes. The animal is identified by our guides as a large spotted genet and is another new mammal for Paul and me. At least we don’t remember seeing one before.
David takes the Cruiser out of the valley and on top of the hill where the blackness of the night soon has me completely disoriented. Kapen who is talking to David most of the time often forgets to sweep his spot light back and forth, instead he keeps it pointed forward where the trucks headlights are already lighting up the road. We drive for what seems like miles and occasionally we see a few gazelle or impalas but not much else. A white-tailed mongoose crosses the road in front of us and we spend a little time watching the bushy-tailed critter before it disappears into the gloom. Yes, another first for us.
We continue driving in what seems to be a mostly empty landscape when the guide that is with the German couple calls on the radio. David and Kapen talk to him briefly and then laughingly tell us that he has told them that they saw an aardvark. This nocturnal animal is something Paul and I had really hoped to find on a night drive and we ask if we can try to find it. David continues to laugh and says that their friend said it went into a hole but it was possible it might come back out. David tells us he thinks the guide might be teasing them but decides to go back, (we already drove by this area), and see if there really is an aardvark around.
Once we return to the area where the aardvark was seen by the other people, Kapen does a better job of sweeping the spotlight around but we come up empty. I can’t believe that an aardwolf and now an aardvark have been seen by clients of this camp and we missed both of them! Rats. David and Kapen are still not positive their friend isn’t playing a joke on them but we find out the next morning that indeed, they really did see an aardvark. Unbelievable!
We return to camp having seen three new animals which is great but I still was a bit disappointed with the experience. I didn’t feel that Kapen really worked very hard at trying to find animals with his spotlight but perhaps he was off of tired, or perhaps the guides knew that wildlife would be sparse on this wet night. I know I was exhausted tonight after three game drives so why wouldn’t our guides be too? Nancy