Lions and Cheetahs and Leopards and Caracal!
A caracal is an African cat that looks like a slightly large house cat. I saw them in Kenya in the Maasai Mara, along with lots of other cats at Richard's Camp.
Richard's Camp is in a private concession bordering the national Maasai Mara park. It's a tented camp but it's not even remotely camping, given that each tent has a cement foundation, carpets, furnishing like a hotel room and a full bathroom with running water. The glamping element comes in with things like paper lanterns hanging from the trees in the evening, guides leading you to your tent by flashlight, and an outdoor bubble bath.
My agenda for Kenya was riding at Ol Donyo and Borana, and the visit to the Mara was recommended by Cathy at In The Saddle, to round out the Kenyan safari experience with maximum animals. It was a good reco. Here's just a few great moments:
1. Every drive was remarkable with Maasai brothers William and Sanera. They were super gung ho about finding animals - and I couldn't believe the things they could spot from about 1 km away. They also made sure we lived up every moment: from picnic breakfasts to sundowners.
2. Too many lion tales to tell. Two of the best was following the howling hyenas and blood trail to find 3 brothers and their zebra prey as sun was setting. Then returning the next morning to watch hyenas, hawks and jackals scrap it out for the remains.
3a. Sanera and William saw the cheetah from blocks away (city measurement reference mine) and I thought it was just a stick. We pulled up to this mother cheetah and watched her for some time. Then the guys anticipated her next move and we drove about a block away and waited. I realized she was watching a gazelle and we were right between her and her prey. She walked about 3 feet behind the jeep and went after him. Unfortunately, a couple of secretary birds caused a fuss to warn the gazelle and he got away.
3b. The cheetah moved on to try her luck elsewhere. We pulled the jeep into a gulley to try to go the direction she was heading without driving behind her. We were rather astonished to see a leopard hanging in a tree. They are really hard to find and this was our second leopard siting during our visit.
4. Several times we saw lion cubs act like kids. They played together, bothered their parents and watched us with great curiosity. One evening as the sun was going down, we saw two year old siblings attempt to hunt a baby warthog. They stalked him for 15 minutes but they miscalculated their pounce and he was able to run down his burrow.
5. We went just after the long rains but we did get to experience a downpour one day. The rain was highly localized and we could see it coming our way. It was torrential but only lasted about 10 minutes. The good thing about going in June is that the babies are only a month or two old and the grass is green.
I probably don't need to emphasize visiting the Maasai Mara in Kenya but it really is an incredible lifetime experience. I recommend Richard's camp because in an area well developed for tourism, you feel like you're away from it all.
Booked through In The Saddle. This isn't a riding trip that they offer, but In The Saddle will book lodges, hotels, etc. to round off your holiday.
Date of safari: June 2012