Friday, February 22, 2019

Kenya Day 6 - Porini Mara

The morning schedule at Porini Mara was a bit different than at Porini Amboseli.  Here we had an option to go out for an early game drive, come back for breakfast and then head out for another short game drive.  Or, we could stay out all morning and have a "bush breakfast".  Well, of course we opted for the latter since a 9AM breakfast in camp would interrupt prime wildlife viewing time.

So, we headed out at 6:15AM with the whole morning ahead of us.  We had a nice sunrise to enjoy which hopefully was a good omen of things to come:


As we were driving, we came upon a couple hyenas that were finishing up an overnight kill:
Hyena with Breakfast

This was the first of a few strange moments on the trip where we saw live versions of the dead animals watching the predators eat their kind.  I found this interesting since we have not seen that in our previous experiences with predators and prey elsewhere.

Another Wildebeest watches

This next picture reminds me of a song.  "I want my baby back, baby back.  Chili's baby back ribs....with BBQ sauce".  Yeah, pretty tasteless I know.  Not unlike most food at Chili's actually.

I want my baby back, baby back...

When we saw the hyenas we were heading off to find the Lions again.  After a bit of wandering we did find them but they were on the move so we didn't get a chance to see great behavior like the night before.

Lion at Dawn


Once the Lions disappeared into thick bushes we continued driving to see what was around.  The guides noticed some signs that indicated a kill was nearby.  They were right.

Wildebeest Kill

Wildebeest Kill

There were four lions on this wildebeest kill and the sounds and/or smells had attracted lots of animals looking for scraps.

Black-backed Jackals:
Black-backed Jackal

Jackals Also Waiting

Secretary Bird (what a cool bird!)
Secretary Bird

Marabou Stork (NOT the coolest bird around, that's for sure)
Marabou Stork Looking for Leftovers

Spotted Hyenas:
Hyena Waiting For Its Turn


Some zebras nearby would look up from time to time to be sure the lions were still busy but over all they didn't seem too worried.


George thought that once the lions finished eating they might move off and allow the other predators to fight over what was left.  So, we waited awhile but as soon as one lion would move off the kill another would come back over.  Eventually, we agreed to leave and come back a bit later.

As we were driving along, my "always on" Arizona reptile radar got a hit.  I yelled "stop" and low and behold a deadly Black Mamba was slithering over some rocks nearby.  It was great to see this snake but it would be the only snake we saw the whole trip unfortunately.
Black Mamba

We got really close to a mother and baby zebra.  How cute is that little one?  I love that their dark stripes are a chocolate brown at this young age.

Zebra and Foal

Zebra and Foal

At around 9AM George and Tipa found a nice spot to lay out our bush breakfast. It was on the banks of a river with some cool trees around.

Blooming Tree

Our first bush breakfast was very good and consisted of bacon, sausage, hard boiled eggs, beans and toast.  They also had fruit and some juices but none of us tend to eat cut fruit when we travel so George and Tipa got all the fruit each day.  But, Karen did mention that she loved bananas so if they could bring some that would be great.

After breakfast we drove past this man made watering hole that had a little bit of everything:

Everyone's at the watering hole

Looks like this Impala needs to find a "no fly zone" like the lions did yesterday:

Darn flies

Of course, I couldn't resist another baby zebra:
Another Zebra and Foal

Little Zebra

As was the case for most of our drives, we really had sightings one after the other.  Next up was a pair of mating lions.  The male had a bit of a limp but that didn't keep him from following this female around everywhere she went:
Mating Pair

Male Lion

There was a bunch of scent marking but otherwise they just kept up the march to some unknown location for what we assumed would be a not very romantic rendezvous.

The Courtship

We weren't the only ones watching the lions.  A large herd of wildebeest gathered and faced the lions as they were walking.  Their message was clear...don't mess with us. We have the numbers.

Wildebeest watching the Lions

We let the lions continue on past us but the wildebeest kept up the staring and confrontational grunts.  The lions are walking to the far right of this picture and the wildebeest watched them every step of the way:
Still watching...

The excitement wasn't over for us however since we next stumbled onto some cheetahs. More cheetahs!   It was a mother with 3 sub adult cubs.  They were doing what cheetahs do best....lounging in the shade.
Cheetahs Finding Shade

Cheetahs Resting

They would look up once in a while which allowed for some more interesting photos.



Another one "eyeing" our vehicle:
Cheetah Closeup

I just love cheetahs!  I mean, look at that face!  Gorgeous!

With that last encounter, an amazing morning game drive was concluded.  Once again, I can't believe the wealth of quality encounters we had.  At the time, it was hard to believe that the trip could get any better.  But, it does...

Unlike at Porini Amboseli, there wasn't much bird life around the camp mid-day.  I still did my mini walkabouts but I have few pictures to show for the efforts.

The afternoon game drive started at 4PM and at 4:13PM we were watching this apparently tuckered out hyrax:
Lounging Rock Hyrax

We also got a great look at some warthogs and this is when I learned the they have to kneel to eat.  Who knew?!  That was just one more little behavior that made the warthog an unexpected delightful surprise on this trip.
Warthog Checking Us Out

Grazing Warthog

We also found a little wildebeest having a snack:
Breakfast Time

Mother and Baby Wildebeest

We got our first really good look at vultures.  Vultures have a bad rap but these weren't that bad looking.

African White-backed Vulture and Rupell's Griffon Vulture:

Then we had our most cooperative Dik Dik so far.  By "cooperative" I mean that it only bolted away after 5 seconds instead of 2:
Dik Dik

Andrea was really happy with her photos and said "Want me to send you my Dik Dik pic?"  To which I responded that probably wasn't a good idea since those things tend to wind up on the Internet.  Then Tim says "The thing that was nice about the Dik Dik pic is that it was fully erect".

Yup, that's the kind of banter that went on daily.  Good times!

Looks like the baby wildebeest wasn't the only baby getting a snack. My nipple hurts just looking at this picture...
Vervet Monkey with nursing baby

Hmmm...I get the feeling we are being watched again:

Dueling Thomson's Gazelle:
Dueling Thomson's Gazelle

The Duel

The hit...

"Hey, what are you looking at?"
Break time to stare at the humans

The afternoon drive ended the way it started...with Rock Hyrax:
Rock Hyrax with Baby

The afternoon drive was a bit calm compared to the morning but we still had an after dinner night drive planned that ended up blowing us away.

The night drive started at 9PM and a short time later we spotted one of the 10+ Scrub Hares we would see during the drive (Yes, Karen saw "most" of them):
Scrub Hare

We also got a chance to add Waterbuck to our life list:

We also encountered a common night creature and one that quickly became another favorite.  The Spring Hare otherwise known as the African Kangaroo.  We loved watching these guys hop around.

We ended up seeing at least 6 on this drive:
Spring Hare (African Kangaroo)

The highlight of the evening started innocently enough.  Tim pointed out that a bunch of wildebeest were running off to our right.  George thought that the headlights must have startled them but he took a look anyway and said excitedly "Hyena!"..."And, they are hunting!".

Well, Tipa didn't need any prodding because he gunned the engine and took off after the Hyenas.

Somehow, he was able to stay behind the main chase but it was really hard to follow with the naked eye.  I just remember that we were going incredibly fast trying to keep up with the 4 or 5 things running ahead of us.  I do remember Andrea yelling "Get it! Get it! Get it!" figuring that some moral support might help the hyenas.

At one point, they did manage to get too far ahead of us to see.  But, then suddenly the baby wildebeest being chased must have doubled back because they all reappeared in our headlights.  That maneuver would cost the Wildebeest everything:
Successful Hyena Hunt

Hyena Kill

The hyenas wasted no time disposing of the wildebeest right in front of us.


Hyena needs a bath

It was at this moment that I learned a few things.

I learned that while hyena pups are certainly cute, the adults are skilled hunters and vicious eaters.

I learned that while I didn't mind watching the ensuing feast, I didn't feel the need to take many photos.  It just wasn't a memory I needed to look again.

I learned that Karen didn't mind listening to the feast but she didn't feel the need to look over much at all.

I learned that Tim and Andrea (being the experienced Africa travelers they are) knew this was a once in a lifetime encounter and they watched every bit of it.  Tim even shot some video.

As the feast continued, out of the darkness we could hear constant high pitched yelping/barking/whining getting closer and closer.

It was a juvenile hyena and it was VERY vocal.  It ran right up to the carcass and grabbed it without any hesitation.  I thought for sure the adults would do something, but they didn't.  They let the juvenile run off with it and it didn't stop whining the whole time.

Escaping with the Spoils

That pretty much put an end to the encounter so it gave us a chance to talk about what we saw.

George explained that the animals running were a couple hyenas chasing the baby wildebeest.  The mother wildebeest was running along too trying to protect the baby by distracting the hyena.  In addition, a Black-backed Jackal was also in the chase but we didn't see it until once the kill was made.

George also mentioned that it is typical hyena behavior to let the juveniles take food like that.  I find that quite interesting and it is much different than the top down eating hierarchy we have seen in North American canines like wolves.

In any case, the encounter was truly amazing. It was thrilling and vicious at the same time and likely a once in a lifetime event to see in person.

Once we arrived back at camp, I had the impulse to search a tree by the parking lot looking for eye shine.  Good thing I did because there was a Greater Galago (Bushbaby) up in this tree and after a bit it came out into the open.  What a cool little animal. We ended up seeing a second one too.

Greater Galago (Bushbaby)

Talk about an embarrassment of riches on our game drives today. I am beginning to think this could be the best first safari ever.  But, there was more good stuff to come...

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