Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Grand Slam

This was our third trip to Africa (2008, 2010 and 2012). Our first trip was to South Africa to see leopards. Our second trip was to Tanzania then on to the Masai Mara to see the plains and the great migration. The Masai Mara is completely different than South Africa, especially during the migration. In South Africa the terrain is mostly bush and a few animals here and there, while the Masai Mara is mostly plains with very little trees and massive herds of animals.
A cheetah mom and her four, two month old cubs in the Masai Mara

Our third trip was designed to combine the best from South Africa with the best from the Masai Mara. More specifically we were hoping to see and photograph lion, leopard and cheetah cubs. We had yet to see cheetah or leopard cubs and were hoping the stars would align for us. Cheetahs need space to sprint and hunt down their prey, so they are more abundant in the Mara. Leopards require bush to do well. Leopards take their prey up a tree so they can eat without lions or hyenas stealing their meals, so they require nearby bush. The Mara is miles of open plains so there aren't many leopards in those areas. Lions are found abundantly in both South Africa and in the Masai Mara. Both of the main areas that we visited are protected by a coalition of four big male lions in their prime, so both of the areas in South Africa and the Masai Mara that we visited should have very strong growing prides for many years to come.
Two lion cubs in the Marsh pride in the Masai Mara.

By our second day in the Olare Oruk/Masai Mara area our guide had already found for us a coalition of three cheetah brothers on a kill, then a cheetah and her two month old cub, then a cheetah and her four-two month old cubs. At our second camp, we hung out around a lion pride with 26 members including many cubs. In South Africa, we saw leopards on every game drive but one. Our favourite game drive was on day three in South Africa when we spent a couple hours alone with a four month old leopard cub and his mom.
Four month old leopard cub in South Africa

We hadn't ever seen a leopard cub or cheetah cub in the previous two trips to Africa, so seeing and photographing cubs from each of the three big cat families was our grand slam.

In addition to the big cats we were able to spend time with the giraffes at Giraffe Manor and ellies at the David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary. All in all a very good trip. I came home with about 15,000 images and about 20 really good shots. None of which are spectacular, but some very good images and I am happy with the results. I failed with the silhouette images that I was looking to take, I still haven't seen caracals or serval cats in the wild and I have come to the realization that I need to step up some of my equipment if I am to take this to the next level. I'll save up for more gear over the next year and go back to South Africa next year, then to the Mara and South Africa in two years and try it all again.

I almost forgot. Our other highlights were the hot air balloon ride over the Mara, our visit to the elephant sanctuary and to the monkey park in Nairobi. And now I can say it, I almost can't believe that we went all that way to all of those camps and locations with out any major glitches. Our biggest problem was not getting our favourite guide in the Mara that we requested and now we're home, safe and ready to get back to work so we can do it all again in 2014. In the meantime, my African images will be up on my wildlife photography website as soon as I finish processing them.
Floating over the Mara river in a hot air balloon in Kenya


  1. i love photos that have that spear look in the phot. very nice.

  2. Love the lion cubs playing and the leopard cub !

    We have plenty of leopards in Sri Lanka, but seems to look very different.

    Check out my Sri Lankan wildlife travels