We were seeing all of the usual suspects, and I began to feel bad that I could be so nonchalant about a galloping herd of impalas alongside me. We were almost yawning, “yeah, impalas – and just beyond them, topi.” Ho hum. We’d mumble, “uh huh, uh huh,” whenever the guides would tell us that, say, an impala is common prey for lions, so they tend to stay close together to appear larger.
Turning past a cluster of trees, we found three lions lying in tall grass – two regal males with enormous sunbeams of fur cupping their faces, and a lean, muscular female vamping in the grass – and I announced, “let the GAMES begin!”
Eddie told us that the males were two of the “Muskateers” – two brothers in the main Mara pride. There are two more brothers, and these four are “king.” (On a hot air balloon ride later in the week, I saw the other two Muskateer brothers wandering across a plain. From above, it was fascinating to see all of the other species running and hiding from them as they nonchalantly strolled along). Other males, even sons of these four, will get run out of the Mara. Eventually, the younger males will gang up and run THESE guys off, but in the meantime, these are the DUDES.
Eddie said that this particular female had recently weaned three cubs and was now in heat, and that the older of these two males was her partner, the other just tagging along and hoping to get lucky (but he wouldn’t). The couple had probably mated 200 times that day (mercy), and were now sleeping it off. He explained that cats have a barbed penis – and that’s why cats scream when they mate (domestic, too), and the reason for the barb is that it releases the egg. Good to know.
This is the kind of info those three guys would just rattle off about EVERY species we encountered. It was astonishing, the amount of knowledge they shared – mating habits, eating, lifestyle/span, baby rearing/feeding/weaning, predators, etc etc etc. Mind boggling – and even taking notes, I couldn’t catch a fraction of it.
Our guides (Dominic and Duncan) were actually Maasai warriors, and they, along with Eddie, had trained to be KPSGA Driver Guides (Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association). They had each attained the silver level, though I cannot imagine how they could possibly have been any more knowledgeable to reach the elusive gold.
We went out on safari twice each day: early in the morning and again in the early evening. Every trip was like playing Whack-a-Mole – just waiting to see what animal would pop its head up out of the brush. We never witnessed a kill (which made me very happy), though we did come upon two that had just happened.
One day we encountered a very active hyena den – and while the adults aren’t that pretty, the young ‘uns are actually quite adorable!
This happy little den appeared to house a couple of families, and we got to watch the kids frolic and romp – and we even heard the classic hyena “laugh.” Eddie told us that hyenas are an extremely matriarchal species, and that if two female cubs are born to a litter, the older will often kill the younger before they’re even weaned! YIKES! But we thoroughly enjoyed the young hyenas, who walked right up to our cars to sniff the tires (which they will happily and hungrily eat when they get older).