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Big Cats in the Mara Reserve & Naboisho

I am going to deviate now to a general overview of my time in Naboisho and to highlight it with some photos. I didn’t take notes on a daily basis on this trip so I will not be able to do a daily report justice.

Naboisho is a luxury camp with nine tented suites with fantastic views over the conservancy. Each tent has running hot/cold water for the indoor shower and sink with an outdoor bucket shower. There is also flushing toilets. The tents are extremely spacious with comfortable king size beds, sitting area, desk with chair and day bed. There is also an undercover outdoor area to sit outside an admire the view of animals walking to and from the waterhole that is situated in front of the main communal area. The communal lounge is a semi permanent structure with an indoor fireplace, large comfortable chairs and lounges to sit in and enjoy a drink before or after dinner. The dining area is a large long table where guests are joined by different members of staff who host the meals throughout the day. The camp also had an additional wifi tent with very slow access for anyone needing to contact the outside world. There was also talk of a pool being built for the 2017 season. Like all of Asilia’s camps the food was spectacular and probably the best I have had apart from Mara Bush House. The staff were particularly professional, helpful, friendly and proactive. Definitely on top of their game when it came to service that was beyond expected.

Sightings in Naboisho were a mixed bag due to the weather. November is the start of the short rains and prior to my arrival there had been some very wet days that had created havoc throughout the Triangle, Reserve and Conservancies. The wet combined with the wonderful black cotton soil meant that some camps were not able to pick up or drop off guests from airstrips, roads were closed and creeks were overflowing. This continued throughout my stay but in different areas of the Mara and on two occasions we had extra guests due to the temperamental weather. I ended up having only two/three big downpours during 18 game drives although overnight rains did create adventures for the guides when driving around.

I was extremely impressed with Evelyn’s ability to drive in all the different conditions we encountered. She was probably the best driver I have had in wet weather because she didn’t need to assert her skills to anyone, would put the car into 4WD when necessary and take the precautions just in case. This meant that we never got bogged during my stay and we were in some very interesting situations but I took it all in my stride and had full confidence in her. I especially appreciated when we went off road during a heavy storm to watch a pride of lions playing in the newly formed creek as the rain pelted down. We ended up parking as the water flowed around us and the lions played in every direction. It was a brilliant opportunity to see the sub adults and cubs really interacting in the cooler temperatures and playing in the water.

Other highlights of my stay was the amazing Osirata and her two cubs (male and female). This is one brilliant and beautiful leopard mum. She was extremely comfortable with cars around her and this was passed down to her cubs, especially the male. During my stay she had two dens with the first only being active for the first two days of my stay whilst the creek level was high and then she moved and remained at the same den in bush for the other 7 days. It was a great privilege to enjoy Osirata’s company and her two cubs were absolutely divine. I spent nearly 5 drives just concentrating on her and her family which allowed for some very intimate experiences as they explored the nearby rocky creek, scaled trees and logs and also performed an unsuccessful hunt.

Cheetahs were plentiful around the conservancy and also during my two visits to the reserve (arrival day and another full day drive). My main reason to visit the reserve was to find Malika and at the time her three cubs. We eventually found her in the afternoon and spent about 2 hours with her as she too tried an unsuccessful. She gracefully posed for a number of photos and then decided to settle down to rest as the light ebbed away. We also found another shy male in the conservancy, a mum with a single cub and another mum with three cubs who had successfully made a kill within the front of Encounter Mara and we were able to enter the camp and see it due to their being no other guests in the camp. I calculated that we saw at least 14 individual cheetahs with three of the families at least two times each. All the cheetahs looked really happy and healthy with at least 50% of our visits were when they were on kills. I was amazed at how many cheetahs I saw during my stay with most of the sightings being alone or maybe one other car whilst in the conservancy and with three other cars in the reserve.

Lions were a hit and miss during this trip compared to other visits when I would see them daily. Honestly, I can’t complain because the sightings were great (6 out of the 9 days) and the opportunity to stay with the cats after dark to see what they would do was fantastic. The pride of lions that were close to camp were split into two and they were generally late movers in the afternoons. To guarantee being with the pride as it became dark it was important to find them and then we were able to follow them as they normally went up to the nearby plains. Two evenings we spent just parked on the plain with the lions close by, watching them under the quarter moon and waiting to see what would happen. During these evenings we had five unsuccessful hunts which was exciting to listen to and see at the last minute when we used the red spotlight when we realized the herd had escaped. The communication between the lions was also an incredible experience with the sound just reverberating through my body with goose bumps forming as the males continued to roar and the females echoed back. A special experience with this pride was finding them playing one afternoon when we had a huge storm and to be in the middle of them. Even with the rain coming down we put the flaps up and enjoyed the spectacle and of course I tried to get photos when possible. My favorite lion encounters were when the pride was on the move in the early mornings which we saw twice. This is always a great opportunity to get more active photos and to see behavior between the family members. The days we didn’t find the lions we came back to camp to find that they were in the vicinity of the camp and two evenings actually saw them on the edge of camp walking down to the waterhole and beyond.

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