Mara Plains, Kenya – exciting start to the year

“Look deep into Nature and then you will understand everything better” – Albert Einstein

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After having had one of the wettest Christmas and New Years any of us can remember, on the 3rd January, as we closed the camp for the full rebuild, the sun emerged and is shining brightly on our plans for the near future.

Over the next few months Mara Plains will be transformed and rise as one of the flagship models for conservation ethics in design and ethos. Maintaining ultimate exclusivity there will still be only seven guest tents concealed beneath the tranquil, shady canopy that snakes with the Ntiakitiak river through the private Olare Orok Conservancy. Mid-2013 Mara Plains will emerge as a stunning, awe-inspiring and luxurious safari experience offering every comfort under a canvas roof, without compromising on sustainability, privacy or flexibility.

In the meantime the final phases are underway in building Mara Toto down stream of Mara Plains. This charming 5-tent camp will bring an entirely new concept and experience to safari across Kenya. Drawing inspiration from early 20th century exploration of the African wilderness, Mara Toto is charming and intimate in its conception and, for those who find this hidden treasure, to walk through riverine forest into this secret glade will be to take steps back in time.

The wildlife in the Olare Orok has been spectacular over the past weeks, largely due to vast numbers of plains game in the conservancy and also in part due to the overcast skies keeping the midday ‘siesta’ heat at bay, giving predators an edge in the rain. It has been an almost daily occurrence for drives to find lion prides on carcasses, freshly killed and hardly touched. It is definitely the zebra that have suffered the most casualties now that many of the Lloita migration of wildebeest have finally filed out. One lucky zebra lived to see another day, however, as guests witnessed an incredible chase and a very near kill.

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In parting with the current design of Mara Plains the OOC wildlife gave us some icing on the cake. On the 2nd, just after sunset, the Enkoyeni pride picked off the last 3 remaining piglets from a pair of warthogs in front of guests. The lions then began to taunt and chase a family of elephant who charged in to investigate the squeals, and a clan of hyenas joined the commotion as well.
In further news of this pride we are sad to report that one of the three new cubs has been killed (and eaten) by a couple of the young males from the same pride. The culprits found the hidden cubs while their mother was hunting and began a game of ‘cat and mouse’. One cub was injured badly and killed; the other two only escaped by falling into a flooding stream. Dereck and Beverly Joubert with their Mara Plains guide, Kevin, spent the entire day watching helplessly, knowing they must not intervene, waiting for the cubs mother to return as one of the tiny cats clung to a twig in the stream barely able to hold on. When the mother lioness finally arrived, too late for the first cub, she quickly collected the remaining two, deposited them safely in a bush and then turned in anger towards the young males. They clearly felt her wrath as they ran before she could reach them. It is for such reasons that adolescent male lions are evicted from their prides, not yet aware of their own strength and unable to control it.

Happier news on the front of the strong Moniko pride is that two (possibly) three of the lionesses have all got cubs. The two older cubs at around four months are already convinced that they can beat up one of the pride males who is remarkably relaxed about having these little ones jumping on him and pulling his tail. Another lioness, easily identifiable with nicks on both her ears, has three two-month-old cubs. These three are very curious of everything including the vehicle and can be watched as they charge after each other and the older cubs, still ungainly. Their mother and her fellow lioness are happy to ignore the cavorting unless they are the ‘hunted’ targets as they lie atop the rocky hill surveying their kingdom like the queens that they are.

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Narasha, the mother cheetah, and her two youngsters are still in the OOC and proving to be great value for time. In the last three days at Mara Plains guests with Ping witnessed three cheetah hunts and a lion hunt. An irresponsible guide from another camp in the Mara reserve unfortunately ruined the developing leopard hunt they watched only minutes after they landed.

The cheetress, ‘Nosim’ (meaning ‘always entertaining’), with her yearling cub has crossed over into the reserve, though we expect soon she will return to the conservancy, a place where she can hunt in peace and with respect.

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The spectacular birdlife in this region closed 2012 in style with very special sightings including displays from crowned cranes, bustards, black and white hornbills and rollers, all excited by the rains, the green, and the promise of plenty. Egyptian geese are leading goslings through the paradise of puddles and chattering male weavers are busy competing with one another through architectural design of their nests, winning the ladies with location, strength, size, and obviously the view. Also this month more sightings of the long crested eagles, as well as crowned eagles, the marshal eagle trio and fish eagles with sub-adults who can be heard calling their song daily as they soar in circles above the camp.

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In the past weeks warthog piglets have exploded in numbers throughout the area with almost every bend in the road having a pair or trio of adults high tailing it in attempts to ensure a high survival rate of their offspring, desperately trying to outrun their piglets’ premier position on this month’s menu.

Further great news is that the resident pod of hippos has also added another member to their group with one of the cows having recently given birth to a tiny calf. These two have been spotted on a couple of occasions as the mother takes the calf upriver, under the bridge and towards the family suite obviously trying to keep the little one away from the other boisterous beasts and even males who would attempt to kill it.

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The shy leopardess mentioned in our last couple of blogs is still spending much of her time around the camp, leaving trails of fresh tracks in the morning mud. It seems she may be hiding her cub(s) nearby. In the last week she even made a meal of a monitor lizard on the east side of the bridge, neatly picking it clean, leaving the skeleton intact. Last night it sounded like she got a shock as she pasted under tent 4, suddenly letting out a furious growl before charging back towards tent 5. We now have some infrared camera traps in camp, so watch this space for footage.

As we say farewell and give thanks to our beloved Mara Plains tents, we look forward with excitement to the future creations that will rise from the ground on which this special place has planted such solid roots. In the words of Dereck Joubert, “there is magic here”. That magic will remain and grow, as it is founded in the heart of the enchanted Mara, built on the foundation of an exceptional team, and with all of the ingredients for greatness beyond words. You will just have to come and experience it for yourselves!

With very best wishes to you all for a stunning start to the year. May 2013 bring mankind the inspiration and encouragement we need to safeguard that which is most precious to us… our home, our planet Earth.

Happy new year : )

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PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS:

MONIKO LIONS CUBS – Peter Davis

LION HUNT – Peter Davis

MONIKO CUB – Peter Davis

NARASHA’S CUBS – Lorna Buchanan-Jardine

EGYPTIAN GEESE – Lorna Buchanan-Jardine

HIPPO – Lorna Buchanan-Jardine

THOMPSON’S GAZELLE – Peter Davis

 

 

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