I am not a wildlife photographer, but my few times seeing wild animals in their habitat has been both emotional and illuminating. So, as the world at large, and my country, in particular, are still struggling with the pandemic, I figured that hanging out with animals may be a somewhat safe, soothing activity and a way to forget momentarily the various crises the world is engulfed in.
And this happens to be the time of the year for the Great Migration in Kenya, the world’s largest migration of wildlife where 2 million animals (primarily wildebeests but also zebras) travel from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. So, this looked like the perfect opportunity for my first trip abroad in a long time.
Though the Great Migration was supposed to be the highlight of this journey, the various felines we encountered undoubtedly made an impression on me. Somehow, seeing them playing, eating, and mating made them feel like humans, the species I am most comfortable photographing. So, I decided to share my images of the Kenya cats first; the hordes of wildebeests, though impressive, will have to wait for a later post.
The lions were everywhere. Maybe the appeal of an easy wildebeest’s catch made them more likely to hang out, but prides of lions were prowling in the open almost every morning. One morning, we caught up with a group of lionesses and their youngsters finishing their delicious meal of what looked to be a tasty antelope.
Another exciting moment was when we came across pairs of lions mating. I found it interesting to learn that in the wild, the female is the one who takes the initiative when she is receptive to mating (i.e., she does not have a headache). After advertising her readiness, she heads out on her own, and the male quickly follows her, sometimes playfully pulling on her tail. She then lies down, and after gripping her neck, the male performs his duties rather quickly, in less than 30 seconds. In the end, the male roars loudly, and the lioness reacts as well, but I am told that she mostly experiences pain. If you miss the whole thing because it went too quickly, no worries, it is repeated 10-15 minutes later, again and again, up to 50 times in a day, probably for seven days!!!
All in all, the most touching leonine moment was coming across an older lion, his face and skin clearly showing the signs of age. This magnificent animal walked alone for some time and met another old lion. After spending time warmly greeting one another, the two walked together like two old reunited brothers. Their posture clearly reflected their status as kings of the jungle, though possibly with emeritus status.
The always elegant cheetahs were a treat to see as well. First, we discovered a small group, including a few youngsters finishing a “bloody” meal. But the highlight was the mother who took her oh-so-charming little ones on a long walk, probably to their new home. These cubs were as fluffy as I had seen before and well-behaved. Mom also displayed her extreme gracefulness and speed while jumping across a small river in a chase for her next meal.
During this journey, the last feline species I saw was the serval cat, a female with her kitten. The serval cat is also a graceful animal with tremendous jumping skills. This kitten was undoubtedly ready to play and seemingly determined to get mom involved in his games.
And last but not least, an imposing leopard made a few appearances, entirely ignoring us, quite appropriately.
I am grateful to these beautiful felines for providing me with a distraction, albeit a brief one, from our crazy world. Hope it did the same to you. I will be back soon with a post on the non-feline habitants of the Maasai Mara.
Lucky you! Great time to be away spending time in this environment. Lovely images.
Yes, it was a nice change of pace. We all need a little distraction at this point. 💙
If you enjoyed this I suggest you look up Wild Earth on YouTube. Twice a day live safaris from several locations in South Africa. They also have a Mara expedition planned for 2022. The broadcasts they did from the Mara in 2020 were amazing. You will learn about cats!
I will certainly have a look. Thanks for the info.
Wonderful experience, well presented again!
Thank-you, and Cheers. 🙂
Thank you, Peter. Hope you are well.
Chère France – photos incroyables! Merci!
Merci Carol. Comment vas-tu? We should get together and catch-up!
Hello Elise, this is more your thing than mine. Glad you like the photos. Hope you are well.
Can’t wait for the wildebeest and zebra post. Particularly loved the serval – quite rare to see especially with a kitten. I had the honour of raising one from 6 days old – she returned to the wild at a year old, and went on to have kittens. Delighted you are photographing wildlife – hope the bug bites and you will come and visit us
Jetje, the serval kitten was the most playful thing I have seen in a long time. What an experience it must have been to have one at home momentarily! And I am glad to hear that she did well back in the wild. The wildebeest post will be disappointing as I did not get to see a river crossing, oh well, mother nature does not always cooperate. As for photographing wildlife, I enjoy it but to do it well requires skills and patience I do not have. But I would still love to visit one day. 💕
Thank you, Francesca. Glad you like the photos.
I was so delighted by your wonderful photographs of wild cats! I loved the adorable kitts and cubs. Then the touching moment with the two elderly Kings uniting, or perhaps reuniting – they could have been brothers. Goes to show the intelligence of lions; they know the value of community. Thanks France!
Greetings Mary Beth. The two older lions were my favorites. They were “regal” in so many ways. And yes, lions value community and lionesses help one another raising the little ones. May we all learn from them. Warm regards!
Wow, France!… Chanceuse! De belles photos, comme d’habitude.
Merci Catalin, Pas vraiment ce que je photographie habituellement, mais tout est different ces temps-ci! Chanceuse, oui et je l’apprécie. 💙