Three visits in eight months, surely I must be a great fan of the Maasai Mara. Well, what’s not there to be a fan about? Every time you’re in the Maasai Mara, each experience is as uniquely different as the last.
From watching the dramatic annual Wildebeest Migration to witnessing the first steps of a baby hippo to seeing blood-stained hyenas eagerly ripping off flesh from a carcass to driving through river rapids and even observing the haunting expansive skies literally opening up, just to name a few.
My most recent visit was no different. Uniquely memorable and majestic.
Caught in a Lions’ turf war
The warm and golden afternoon sun is setting and the towering afternoon clouds are rolling out. As we start our short drive back to our lodge in the Greater Mara Region, our smart custom Defender stumbled upon a pride of lions marching through the tall grass, probably heading to find a spot to conserve their energy in preparation for a hunt at night.
Just centimetres away from our vehicle, a muscular lioness marched confidently in the middle of the group, with two of her cubs leading and her younger ones trailing. Not too far ahead were two males striding ahead into the sunset. The pride stopped abruptly just steps away to pause for a much-needed water break. The loud gulping sounds from the lioness and cubs resonated in the still air like music.
Suddenly, a monstrously loud roar broke the silence. The pride of lions and even us, froze in fear. Somewhere out in the plains, close by, camouflaged by the tall swaying grass, was a formidable lion sending out a warning.
There were three fully matured male lions, known to the local community as the ones whom have attacked and feasted on hippos, slowly marched confidently out of the grass into the open, where their presence was clearly visible.
The first one roared, then another, and finally a third, forming a raw chorus of harmonic repetitive bellows. Clearly, the first pride had marched into someone else’s territory, and we were stuck in the middle.
“You’re really lucky. Though bloody and often sad, we might just see a scene of warring prides,” warned Dickson, our seasoned Maasai guide.
The standoff continued between the prides, and we remained parked where we had stopped. The bellows from the large trio of lions continued and the other pride led by two young male lions stood their ground. Who was going to make the move first?
Finally, the largest of the trio of dominant males started to march towards the other pride. One stride after another, full of confidence and sheer muscle – even our hands began to sweat in anticipation.
The younger lions almost instantly turned around, and as a result guided the rest of their pride in the opposite direction. The trio of mature males continued to stand there, watch and eventually lay down to conserve their energy, but their presence and bellows continued to resonate in the air.
I suppose it was a bit of an anticlimax – no paw-on-paw contact. But, this is probably the best scenario for both prides. In the wild, there is often more to lose than to gain. A rare scene, fighting amongst wild animals thankfully only happens when it’s out of necessity for survival.
PHOTOBLOG: Photo Credits Susan Wong 2012 © All rights reserved