The Queen Of The Jungle Posed For Me – A True Story

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This queen of the jungle with her cubs almost looked as if they were posing for me in my recent return trip to the Maasai Mara

This queen of the jungle with her cubs almost looked as if they were posing for me in my recent return trip to the Maasai Mara. Photo courtesy of Joao Amado

My plan was to spend the weekend in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, my abode, the tented Kimana Mara Camp. For me, this was not the first time to be in the park. I had been here before during the great migration period and wanted to go back with a better camera and capture all those spectacular images that I had recorded in my mind but did not freeze in time through my camera.

Maasai Mara is the most well-known park in Kenya and corresponds to the Kenyan side of the famous Serengeti Park. The two parks are separated by the Mara River that is one of the main actors in the big migration, when the crossing of the river by hordes of wildebeests, eager to reach the grasslands of the Maasai Mara, present a good opportunity for the crocodiles to hunt for food.

We arrived at the park around lunch time and after a quick meal we had our first game drive, and stayed in the park until sunset. With all fairness, I was a bit disappointed with my first day of this return trip since beside the zebras and gazelles, we could only see a pride of lions at around 12 noon. The little success we had on that Saturday somehow reduced my expectations for the following day. After a good meal and some chit chat by the camp fire, we went to bed a bit disappointed but still hopeful.

On Sunday, we had a very early start – breakfast before 6:00am so we could be in the park by sunrise, which was a good plan because no sooner had we entered the park than we saw a black rhino at a distance! What an impressive site the dark-golden yellow colours of the savannah, marked by that black and impressive figure, was. The black rhino is one of the most endangered species and on the verge of extinction in Kenya. They say there are less than 1000 animals remaining but the good news is that it seems in some parks the numbers are increasing.

At the Nairobi National Park, one can spot these impressive animals with reasonable ease. Continuing our journey we came close to a group of elephants, around a dozen of them, some females with their calves and a big male. Not far ahead, some 2 young males were having a small fight in the middle of the road blocking our path for a while. The clashing of the tusks and the entwining trunks, was great chance to get some nice action shots of these big fellows

But the best moments were still to come. While driving around, we saw a lioness crossing the road and walking towards a small depression in the terrain. As she approached the depression, 2 cubs excitedly reached out to her with playful kisses. It was a great site as the 2 ‘Simba’ played with their mum.

They were so cute that I could not resist using my cell phone to send a photo to my daughter and her comment was, “why can’t you just put one of them in your backpack and bring it home?” Meanwhile, the lioness had sat down and was surveying the savannah surrounded by her cubs, almost as if she and her family were posing for my camera – a queen of the savannah waiting to get her portrait.

To close our great tour, we saw the last 2 members of the Big Five team – a pair of cheetahs (so maybe I’m cheating a bit, since the cheetah is really not considered part of the famous team but in my mind I was imagining the cheetahs were leopards even though cheetahs are really my favourite animals and are technically almost identical to leopards with the most obvious difference being the tear drop on the cheetah and the larger body size of the leopard). So I do not think I will be too wrong to add my sighting as one of the big five sighting. We also saw buffaloes.

As we were driving back, we had time to watch some giraffe drinking water in small nearby river. It was especially interesting to see how they spread wide their front legs to manage to reach the water with those long necks. It would be unfair to the Maasai Mara to finish this story without mentioning the numerous bird species that presented a great opportunity for some very colourful photos with the deep blues, strong yellows, light greens and bold blacks.

At the end of my second trip in the Maasai Mara, while I was returning back to Nairobi, I had just one big question in my mind – when will I get the chance to return? There are still so many things to do and so many to watch and photos to take. That balloon safari over the golden Savannah, as you watch the sunrise from above, will definitively be in my to do list next time.

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About João Amado

Joao is an amateur photographer with a special interest in wild landscapes and wildlife. He loves to travel and to discover new places and learn about those places, the people, the culture, history, habits, food and many others. He enjoys hiking and for the past 2 years, he has always travelled with his camera so as not to miss a chance to get a good photo and the opportunity for a story to tell later. He loves to freeze the moment so he can share his discoveries with friends.
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