Lions of the Maasai Mara, caring parents and killing machines

Day two of my Maasai Mara adventure was only a few hours old and I’d already learned that pretty much everything that moves here is lunch for a larger, faster, smarter, more vicious creature. The animal kingdom is truly extraordinary in its utter ruthlessness, yet I was also visiting the Maasai Mara at a time when there were large numbers of young, particularly young lions. The tenderness lionesses show towards their young, seemingly at odds with the ferocious nature of these magnificent creatures, is incredible.

Seeing a decapitated zebra, a very contented lioness close by, in the early morning was just what I needed to shake me out of my slumber. It had been a fairly sleepless night in the army-surplus tent: too many unfamiliar noises, creating too many fantastical thoughts of death-by-animal…and that was before I needed to use the toilet at 3am.

Lioness with her kill, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with her kill, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with her kill, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with her kill, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

A bright moon illuminated the Maasai Mara as, in the wee (no pun intended) hours of the night, I cautiously unzipped my tent en route to the pit latrines. Two Maasai tribesmen, protecting the camp, were silently huddled under blankets next to the dying embers of a fire. They gave me encouraging words to see me on my way, but walking the 100 metres to the latrines was still an unnerving experience. Cursing the Tusker beer, cause of my nighttime peregrinations, my heart was pounding loudly when I finally zipped myself back into the lion-proof tent.

Blood stained lionesses, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa

Blood stained lionesses, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa

Blood stained lionesses, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa

Blood stained lionesses, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa

Sleep didn’t come easily, and I was grateful when the sun rose and we headed out early to see what the animals of the Maasai Mara were doing. Early morning is generally a good time to see animals hunting, we were unlucky and only saw the aftermath. There is evidence that the animals have started to change their behaviour patterns to avoid tourist vehicles, hunting earlier or later when most people are still in bed or enjoying a sundowner.

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lioness with cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

It wasn’t important that we didn’t see a chase, just being close to these wonderful hunter-killers was privilege enough. I particularly loved seeing young lions, of which there were many. I visited the Maasai Mara a few weeks before the great northward migration of zebra and wildebeest from the Serengeti; with so much on-the-hoof food heading into the Maasai Mara, its probably a good time to have young.

Baby lions look so cute and innocent, its hard to remember that in a few months time they would happily rip your throat out. These sweet looking miniatures, learning the tricks of the trade from mum, are mesmerising to watch. We sat observing them playing for a long time, although it was a little disconcerting that they were gnawing on the leg of a former antelope.

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs 'play' with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Lion cubs ‘play’ with the legs of a dead antelope, Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

2 thoughts on “Lions of the Maasai Mara, caring parents and killing machines

  1. At least the cubs weren’t gnawing on YOUR leg! 🙂 So did you learn the wisdom of taking an empty bottle to bed with you after the excitement of the first night? 🙂
    I love the image of the lioness lying on her back, utterly relaxed, and of course, those very cute cubs, though I think even at that age, they’d be a challenge to handle.
    Most animals only kill to eat, although the fox is one of those exceptions, and will go on a rampage. Humans on the other hand, seem to kill for reasons other than to allay hunger……

    • I did learn that very important lesson, and have used it ever since (the lesson, not the bottle). Its surprising just how relaxed the animals are when humans are around, even the lions. I guess, unlike most wild animals, they’ve become used to not being hunted and stuck on someone’s wall.

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