Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Kenya Day 9 - Porini Mara and Lion

The skies were bright pink as we set out for our last morning drive at Porini Mara:


This made everything around us pinkish including these lions that we saw just at first light:
Pink Lions

They were just sitting so we continued on and came upon a fresh hyena kill.

But, they didn't have it to themselves and were on high alert as some jackals approached:
Here come the Jackals

The jackals out numbered the two hyenas so they were very bold:
The Battle Over Breakfast

Hyena Fighting Off Jackals

Not wanting to share, one hyena picked up the carcass and trotted off thinking that would be enough to get rid of the jackals:
Must find privacy

As soon as the jackals figured out there was nothing left behind to eat...:
Yup, something died here

They went right back to harassing the hyena:
Don't get too close

This one actually got a bone:
Got a Piece

So, the hyenas decided to move again to see if they would be followed:
Run Away!

And of course they were:
Those Jackals are persistent

At this point, the jackals harassed the hyenas so much they stopped fighting the inevitable:
Just a quick bite...got it!

Caught Eating

One leg for me:
One Leg for You

And, another one for you:
And One For Me

But, nothing for this vulture that flew in:
The rest for the Vulture

A bit later we had another Bat-eared Fox encounter.  As usual, they started running from us right away but one did stop to look back:
Bat-eared Foxes Playing Hard to Photo

Only One Stopped Running

We ended the morning drive at 8:30AM since we were having breakfast at the camp before our transfer to Porini Lion.

We did have one last great sighting.  I love the chocolate brown strips on the little zebras:
Mother and Foal

A Very Young Zebra

When we first arrived at Porini Mara, Tim and Andrea has seen some sort of mammal (not a monkey) in the trees by our tent.  When I asked Jimmy the Manager about it he said it was likely a Tree Hyrax.  Since that first day, all of us had been scoping out the trees whenever possible.  But, we had all struck out.  But, Porini Mara had one last present for us. I had wandered over to the other side of the camp scanning the trees and there staring right at me was this Southern Tree Hyrax:
Southern Tree Hyrax

After taking a picture or two I went to get the others and we all ended up seeing it.  That checks another mammal off the list. Nice!

Fittingly, the last sighting at Porini Mara was of our friendly neighborhood burglar the Vervet Monkey:
Cheeky Vervet Monkey

We had an amazing time at Porini Mara.  The camp itself is in a beautiful setting but it's the staff and wildlife encounters that we had there that really made things special.  The food was great and they once again catered it to all our needs.  Heck they even provided Karen with bananas as often as possible.

Despite the great setting in the trees, there wasn't much bird life around the camp which was surprising, but the wildlife outside the camp certainly made up for that.  Tim and I also appreciated that the vehicle we had was the roomiest so far.  I am not going so far as to say it was spacious but we were able to fit our long legs in OK.  It really helped that there were only 4 of us among the 6 seats so that we could move around and had places to stow our bags instead of having them at our feet.  They certainly don't make safari vehicles for tall people.

At 10AM we left on our ground transfer to Porini Mara.  The camps were supposed to be less than 2 hours apart and we were hoping that this would be as much a game drive as it was a transfer.

The "action" heated up relatively early in the drive:
Thomson's Gazelle Mating

Oops, we've been caught peeping:
Checking Out the Peeping Toms

But, then it calmed back down.  I don't have any other pictures for the bulk of the drive but we did see an Olive Baboon family and the usual assortment of ungulates.  After leaving the conservancy, we passed through some sparsely populated areas so we saw Masai people herding cattle and goats although none were wearing traditional clothing like our guides did every day.

We did see an example of how today's modern society had corrupted this part of the world.  We were driving along a very open area with nothing of note in sight anywhere. We noticed someone walking ahead of us diagonally approaching the road.  But, instead of him stopping as we approached, he continued to walk slowly across the road right in front of us.  Our driver had to tap on the brakes to prevent us from running him over.  It was at that point the person sensed something, turned, saw us and kind of stepped back unexpectedly.  We had obviously startled him.  He smiled at us and waved and that's when we saw that he had earbuds in and was playing on his cell phone.  That's why he didn't see us.

Porini Lion is located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy.  The scenery here was different than the other camps which was nice.  In fact, there is a large hill you go down to get into the conservancy and the view from the top is great:
The view towards Porini Lion

There were also quite a few Topi around and they liked standing on top of old termite mounds:
King of the tiny hill

The camp itself wasn't in as picturesque location as Porini Mara but it had its own charms.  We were put in another family tent:
Our Family Tent

The camp had signs out naming all the tents and after seeing a sign labeled "Mess Tent" it reminded me of one of my favorite old TV shows from the 70's:
Mess Tent

Inside the Mess tent

Radar's Tent (Media Tent):
Radar's Tent (Communications)

The Swamp (Lounge):
The Swamp

Inside the swamp there was no still, but there was a fridge around back that had the cold drinks:
Where's the still?

The fire pit area which wasn't used much during our stay due to afternoon rain:
Fire Pit

Here is the view from our tent.  With all the luscious grass around we were visited nightly by hippos and buffalo. More on that later:
The View

Our room:
Our Porini Lion Room

One thing that was great about all the camps is that they had plenty of room for storage and to hang clothes:
Porini Lion Tent

By popular demand I included a toilet shot again. You're welcome:


And finally, here is the common area connecting our tents:
Family Tent Common Area

OK, that's enough non-wildlife photos.  My hands are starting to twitch at the lack of critters so here are some shots I took mid-day as I wandered around the camp.

Yellow-breasted Apalis:
Yellow-breasted Apalis

Dwarf Mongoose:
Dwarf Mongoose

Holub's Golden Weaver:
Holub's Golden Weaver

At about 4PM we met at the lounge to go out on our afternoon game drive. That's when we met our guide and driver for our stay; Julius and Nelson. Just like all the other Porini guides, they were good.  So, with introductions done, we headed out.

Young zebra close up:
Foal Closeup

Two Black-backed Jackals splitting a gazelle:
Splitting a Thomson's Gazelle

Happy Jackal

We think this was Mom looking on...
Mother Looking On

Right off the bat we noticed that this conservancy had a huge population of zebras.  It was so cool to see so many of them:
Olare Motorogi Conservancy

We came upon a couple of lions that appeared to be a mating pair.  So, we decided to hang out a bit to see what would happen.  I think we only waited a few minutes before the female rolled over and signaled she was ready:

Playing not so hard to get

Yup, he's interested

The male took her up on the invitation but I realized I had the wrong camera body/lens combination because they were too close for photos at my minimum of 200mm.  Before I had a chance to dig my other camera out, they were done.  I was a bit disappointed at having no pictures.  But then Julius mentioned that lions tend to mate every 15 minutes so we could wait for them to do it again.  Well, I was a bit doubtful that they would cooperate.  But, about 15 minutes later this happened...

The female got up and stretched signalling she was ready again:
The Seduction

Invitation accepted:
Mating Lions

Mating Lions

This was not a soft love bite from the looks of it:

Mating Lions

Within seconds, she had enough and did the old growl and roll out of the way technique.  I mean, we've all used that before right?...Anyone?:
Mating Lions

A Growl or Two

Mating Lions

Roll over when done


It was so nice to have such cooperative lions.

Next we were driven to a pool filled with hippos.  But, unlike the relatively clean pool we saw at Porini Mara, this was a cesspool.  But, the hippos didn't seem to mind.

Look at this tiny little baby hippo!!
Look at that tiny hippo!

This hippo one was not so tiny:
Hippo Stare

Mass Pink Eye (must be the water):

The hippos were so crowded together that there were tussling for space the whole time.  They grunted and groaned and I could swear they sounded just like Jabba the Hutt.

Next up came an animal that I hoped to see at Porini Lion.  It was a Leopard.............

No, really it's a Leopard this time!!

Leopard Stare

See, I am not that big of a tease after all.

But, let me back up a second here.  Because I am a huge planner, I do lots of pre-trip research.  So, I knew that Porini Lion has probably the most famous Leopard in Kenya.  Fig is her name and she is not that shy around people.  Most people that go to Porini Lion for a few nights end up seeing her.  So, while it was not guaranteed, I knew we had a good chance to see her.  Plus, I also knew that she had a cub.  So, when our guides talked about what we wanted to see as we started that first game drive I mentioned Fig.

Earlier in the drive we had seen a dead baby Impala by some bushes.  Our guides mentioned that Fig killed the Impala and probably left to go get her cub and was going to come back to it.  There was a film crew in a vehicle and they were staking it out waiting for Fig to return.  So, our guides would listen for the signal on the radio and come back if she was spotted.  This gave us time to wander around and see the mating Lions, Hippos, etc.

Well, the call came that Fig was spotted so we hustled back over to the area.  As we got close, Julius said "There she is". In the distance, Fig was walking through the grass and behind her was the cub. 

It was an awesome sight and it's burned into my memory.  Our first ever leopard!

So, Nelson drove the vehicle to an area well ahead of them and waited.  It just so happened that there was a fallen tree between us and Fig.  When I saw this I was hoping that she might jump on the tree for a moment so I could get a picture.  Well, not only did she jump up on the tree but so did the cub.

And amazingly they decided to hang out for a bit and pose for us.  Get ready for lots of Leopard!

Following Mama

Sharpening Claws

Probably my favorite shot from the whole trip:
Fig and Cub Posing

Fig the Leopard with Cub

Even big cats need a play toy:
All cubs love tails...

Especially moving ones

The cub was the most adorable thing I have ever seen.  Bear cubs used to be #1 but this cub knocked them down a notch:
Hey, that stump looks nice

What was especially amazing about this encounter is that we were the only vehicle on this side of the tree.  There were probably 3 or 4 other vehicles around but they didn't have this view:
Posing for the camera

Fig was comfortable enough to let the cub roam around on its own.  This despite apparently losing her other cub to baboons within the last month or so.  So, the cub decided to have some fun and jumped around a bit:
The Jump

And, back up

To the top...

King or Queen of the Stump

Eventually, they did leave the fallen tree and kept walking toward the area where the dead impala was.  But, they still posed for pictures along the way:


Mother and Cub

Cub checking us out

Hey, where's the cub?
Hey, where's the cub?

There it is!
Here it comes

I guess the cub got a bit too far away for Fig's liking so a little discipline was in order:
Don't Stray!

For the remainder of the time it stayed close to Mom:
Stay Close

Cub sticking close to Mom now

Dusk had come at this point so the light was getting really low.  But, none of us were leaving the leopards until they dragged us away:


I should mention that there were probably 6 or 7 vehicles by the end of this sighting which might have been the grand total in the whole conservancy.  But, each was incredibly respectful.  The vehicles would leap frog each other so everyone had a turn watching the leopards walk towards and then by them.  Fig actually walked under the back of our vehicle.  She wasn't phased by our presence at all.

When it got pretty dark they stopped walking and Fig nursed the cub.  But, I was a bit far for pictures of that.  Here they are right afterwards when we got closer and had our sundowners.  Not a bad view:
Leopards at Dusk

Well, it was at this time that two hyenas came trotting up and Fig sent the cub up a tree.  The hyenas weren't scared off though and confronted Fig who hissed and growled at them:
Curious Hyenas

She then went to the tree, gave a last look at the tenacious hyenas...:
Time to send the cub up a tree

And realized that she best climb up too:
Time to both get in the tree

At that point it was close to pitch dark and we needed to get back to camp.

Wow!  Just...Wow!  What an incredible evening with the Leopards.  I don't think anything else needs to be said today.

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