Kenya. Part 3. Big Cats.

I was lucky enough to see and hear many lions on this trip to Kenya. There were some huge paw prints very close to camp one morning so it was good that we’d been warned about the need to shine a powerful torch around before making any nocturnal trips to the toilet block! Lions are magnificent beasts and I always get a thrill when one looks me directly in the eye. Being in an open sided vehicle means that if they wanted to, they could eat me for dinner, but they are very accustomed to these huge green lumps that trundle noisily up to them, and if they are asleep they barely raise their heads to bother to look at us. It’s very easy to photograph a huge yawn with all their teeth bared as lions sleep for between 15-20 hours each day! This huge male seemed to still be half asleep when he got up as he was extremely groggy to the point of looking drunk. (Top Middle image in the set below)

Lions are the only cats that are social and live in groups. All the females are related and usually live with their pride for life. I always enjoy seeing them greet each other with lots of head rubs, and they often sleep close together. Male lions however often live alone, or band together in small groups of “bachelor” males called coalitions. Only the strongest and boldest will attempt to take over a pride by driving the established males out.

We saw quite a lot of mating from various animals on this trip. Lions can mate up to 100 times a day in a process that lasts only about 17 seconds. They can keep this up for around four to five days meaning that they are both exhausted and thin by then. The first mating we saw had all the women in the vehicle exclaiming at the same time “That was quick!” The men looked suitably embarrassed as we all dissolved into fits of laughter!

This guy has obviously been in a few fights to win the mating rights so she’s probably impressed by his prowess!

November is supposed to be the ‘short rains’ season but we did have rather more than usual. The bonus was greenery everywhere and some pretty rainbows.

We didn’t see any leopards this time, but cheetahs almost made up for it. They have such beautiful faces…

On quite a few occasions we saw a family of Mum and her four cubs. Mum has done really well to keep the cubs safe so far as cub mortality is very high, with up to 90% of cubs dying. These cubs are at the age when they play fight with each other and it was fun to watch.

When any big cat looks you in the eye it’s a magical feeling.