The African bush is not for the faint hearted. It is full of beautiful creatures, but each day is a matter of life and death for every animal – a stark contrast with the local zoo.
We’ve all been to the zoo where the big attraction is the lions’ den. Zoos take pride in their lion exhibit. But, after being on the Maasai Mara preserve for a few days, I can tell you that the lion in the zoo is nothing like the lion in the wild. Both sleep a lot, upwards of 20 hours a day, but it is the the waking hours that are so different. Watching the lioness stalk its prey, watching the lion king himself stare down an opposing king, and watching a lioness play with and eat its kill (that poor gazelle and cute zebra). I can see why zookeepers feed a lion a meal BEFORE the lion actually gets hungry. No need having little Johnny looking like a gazelle to a hungry lion. So much blood and entrails, ripping of skin and crunching of bones.
Our next encounter had us within a few feet of a pride of lions, close enough to pet one of them. It is amazing that we can drive right up to a lion pride and look each lion in the eye – that is, if they are awake. We are still safe inside our safari vehicle, or at least that is Dominic, our Kenyan guide, tells us. I am sure he wouldn’t put us in harms way as his cumulative tip comes at the very end., so it is in his best interest to keep us alive and well. Anyway it is quite unnerving to be almost within arms reach of a lioness. And no, we did not pet the kitty. All throughout our lifetime we were told how dangerous lions can be and to give the a healthy respect. Yet, here in the Maasai Mara one can almost be lulled into a false sense of security. In the vehicle, the lion perceives us as one large animal, outside the vehicle we may look as appetizing as the next zebra.
In stark contrast to the lions is the Black Rhinoceros, a very rare breed of Rhino. Dominic wouldn’t drive the safari vehicle closer than 50 yards keeping the nose of the vehicle pointing away from the Rhino, providing us the ability for a quick getaway. Dominic wasn’t taking any chances with our health or his, or his tip. The lion? It’s been up close and personal!
On almost every game drive, we’ve had encounters with lion. We’ve seen a kill, a failed kill, the devouring of a kill, and had many portrait shoots of awake and sleeping lions. Here are a few photos from our encounters. Note that a couple might be difficult to look at – but, as we say in the bush, “it’s nature – a part of the full cycle of life”.
Remember, it’s all about the light.