Big Cat Morning in the Masai Mara
When you spend a month in the Masai Mara you will end up with loads and loads of footage. Klaus & I made sure that we were up and going from dark till dark every single day, filming everything from getting out of bed to eating dinner. But what it’s all really about is what happens during the day. This was one of those magical days we remember as the big cat morning.
One video we always had in mind to create was a day in the life of a Safari Wildlife Photographer. While in the Masai Mara we got so caught up on making sure we got all the scenes for the film, that we often forgot about our “other” plans. On this particular morning it was raining and we though well let’s just play around with a nice getting out of bed sequence that we could use for the day in the life video.
After the morning routine of getting ready it was time to get set in the vehicle and head out into the bush before the sun comes out. You always want to be on location with a lion or leopard or cheetah before the sun is up. To get the best shot you need time to place yourself in the best position and constantly observe to foresee what the animals are going to likely do next.
John, our guide, had obviously heard from a little bird that there were a couple of Cheetahs hanging around about a 40min drive from where we were camped. A direction and purpose was set…. off we go.
Cheetah Brothers had an unsuccessful hunt
After an incredible cinematic sunrise of the wet green plaines of the Mara we arrived at the Cheetah Boys just about to hunt for their breakfast. Naturally one must try not get in the way of the hunting path so as not to disturb the hunter or the hunted. We kept our distance. Klaus never really needed the hunt picture itself, but within the moments of buildup or the searching, there are classic moments of African pride.
The Cheetahs quickly picked up the pace, dashing this way and that. But they were not fully committed just yet. Cheetahs are day-hunting cats, they rely on speed and agility rather than the element of surprise in the dark. But these boys were still waking and warming up. After a few unsuccessful attempts they lay down again and John got the message that a famous lion was not far away. We opted to leave the cheetahs, for now.
Notch 2 - A lonely lion
On our way to find the lion, we managed to drive into a mud ditch. Luckily Sammy, a friend of Johns, was close by to help us out. It was actually Sammy that informed John about the Cheetahs, and in turn we told them about our mission to find a famous Lion named Notch 2.
Notch 2 was just on the other side of the river sleeping out in the open. Tired and battle-scarred he looked up for a bit and went back to sleep. He was not phased by us. Klaus explained that he had photographed Notch 2’s father & uncles called the Notch Brothers on previous trips. The Notch family was one of the famous Mara Lion families. Notch 2 has now become a mature lion already and his heyday of being the head of a pride is over. He is now a loner who looks out for himself.
As the sun popped out and the heat came up, Notch 2 decided to take a walk to find a cooler shadier spot. We followed him for a bit. But soon enough the clouds cover came over, a cool breeze and he lay down again. We took this opportunity to give him some space and have a little breakfast.
And a Leopard too
We sat and watched and followed Notch for a while after breakfast. A call came through that a Leopard was spotted between here and where we were earlier with the cheetahs. Notch was a little grumpy and we didn’t want to “bother” him any more. We gave him his space and left for yet another location not far away.
It took John only a few minutes to locate a beautiful Leopard. She was scratching the bark on a tall tree before finding a lookout perch. Klaus kept saying how amazing is this, we have seen 3 big cats all before 10am in the morning. Some days you drive for hours and see nothing, today we got it all.
This would make a great “Day in the life of a Wildlife Photographer” video, but we both laughed that it wouldn’t be entirely truthful. Action like this was rare-magic.
Our leopard lady was sitting quite relaxed. We got some great video clips, some-of which are used in the film “Safari of my Life“, but there was not really a photo opportunity here for Klaus. John & Klaus agreed that this day started off as a cheetah day and so it shall be the place to be. We left again to re-visit the cheetah brothers. More than ever this was a most unusual day for us, moving around like this rather than sitting and waiting for hours on end.
By the time we got back to the Cheetahs they had already had their practice runs complete and were eating the spoils of a successful breakfast hunt. They cleaned off a small Thomson-Gazelle down to the last bone and proceeded to clean each-other, a wonderful display of affection.
All in all this was one interesting morning on Safari in the Masai Mara. I will forever remember the joy and awe Klaus was in to have all this action before the day even really got going. I can tell you for sure that by 3 O’clock that afternoon we both needed a good siesta.
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