Masai Mara – big cats

The Masai Mara is big sky country and big cat country. This is where much of Big Cat Diary was filmed and where parts of “Out of Africa” were filmed. Once you gaze over the Mara it is easy to see  why!

We came across many Lions in our travels, different prides, different individuals, male coalitions, lone young females and mating pairs. The plains are covered in Red Oat and thatch grass, which provides ideal cover for crouching Lions. The temperature tends to show little variation during the seasons in the Mara Triangle because it is one degree below the equator. In the short time we were scouting the Mara, the days started with soft pinks, yellows, blues and greens at sunrise. The mornings usually offered blue skies and it was hot by midday, The sparely scattered Desert Dates provided the animals with some respite from the midday sun. In the afternoon, the cumulonimbus clouds would build, creating a moody dark sky and wonderful photographic backgrounds.

Among the many Lions we saw on the Mara,  one of the big attractions were two Lionesses each with four cubs. The Lionesses had chosen to stay alongside the road, resting in the cool of a moist gully during the day and probably keeping their cubs in the culvert at night for protection. Here Lou taught us an important lesson. When you have an ideal photographic opportunity like this you work it. The chances of finding an opportunity like this again will probably not come again this lifetime – lesson learnt Lou – thanks.

The two Lionesses took turns to look after the cubs, while the other off-duty Lioness could catch up on some well earned rest.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

When the cubs moved onto the road we had clear backgrounds.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The three ‘mischief-makers’ off to seek another adventure!!!

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Ahh – the next target insight.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The cubs were very cute and Mum’s tail was clearly an ideal way to sharpen your attack techniques.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Cubs have needle sharp teeth, so as fun as catching the tail must be, a bite must be really sore. This Lioness shows her irritation.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Generally, the  cubs stuck together as they were just waiting for one of their playmates to start a game.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

Most of the time the cubs played with each other, but there were times when one would find a toy and have great fun biting and throwing it about – uncomplicated joy!

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The Lionesses took turns to watch over the cubs and so giving each other a break. This Lioness is just basking in the warm, morning sun in peace.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The cubs were very demanding at times and it was clear the Lionesses teats were raw, so when the cubs competed for a teat it must have been excuciating.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The Lionesses were remarkably tolerant of their boisterous cubs but every now and then when a cub would  approach its mother with the clear intention to suckle, she would indicate in no uncertain terms that she was not ready by snarling. If my mother looked at me like that I reckon I would defer to her snarl – oh mother what big teeth you have!!!

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

We came across other Lions too. Not too far south of the two Lionesses with cubs, we saw a mating pair. It was about nine in the morning and the pair were catching up on some rest in the soft morning sun after what must have been an adventurous night.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The two were lying close together with the female stretching often and lying full stretch on her back looking at us. The male eventually moved some distance away and the female moved to a anthill find a soft bed of grass with a view where she promptly feel asleep.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

On two separate occasions, we saw a lone Lioness lurking in the trees and bushes along the Mara river waiting for a crossing. We were also fortunate enough to see a classic Lion kill after one group of Wildebeest and Zebra has just crossed the Mara river, but this is a story for another post.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

We also came across two young males resting in the shade of a Desert Date tree. We found them close to where we had seen a Cheetah mother move her cub. After seeing the Cheetah mother, we drove some distance away to have a ‘relief break’ and Veronica said be quick as there were Lions there. I thought this was just a ploy to get us to be quicker. It was only when we were climbing back into the vehicle that we realised there really were Lions there. When you have got to go you have got to go!!!

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

On the way back to camp one evening at last light we came across a lone young Lioness lying on a mound along side the road. We drove around to get a better perspective so that we were looking up at her. She was not fussed by us and in fact was inquisitive.

Photographic safari with Coetzer Nature Photography

The Mara is a wonderful place to see Lions but perhaps our childrens’ children will not see them.

LionAid reports that over the past 50 years Africa’s lion populations have plummeted from over 200,000 individuals back in the 1960’s to fewer than 25,000 today. A shocking number if you consider the size of that continent, and by far the greatest number of remaining lion populations are small, scattered, and highly vulnerable.

There have been many conservation foundations working to improve the lot of the African lion, but sadly to date the declines have not abated. In fact the rate of decline in lion numbers is accelerating. Ghana, Coted’Ivoire, and Congo are the latest African countries added to long list that have lost all their lions, and Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda predict local extinctions in the next ten years.

West African lion virtually extinct: Population numbers are dangerously low with just 34 left in Nigeria.

LionAid say there are just 645 wild lions remaining in west and central Africa.

There are no lions in 25 African countries and are only just surviving in ten others.


The current world population is estimated at 7,100,000,000 and in the next 27 years another 2,000,000,000 people are expected to join their ranks, most of which will be in Asia and Africa. Don’t procrastinate,  wild places in Africa are disappearing fast and with them Lion, Rhino, and Elephant, you may not see them in 20 years, other than in canned enclosures.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Ghandi

If people were superior to animals, they would take better care of the world”

 – Winnie the Pooh

Seek, watch, enjoy, respect and let it be.


6 thoughts on “Masai Mara – big cats

  1. Great images, Mike. In July my wife and I were in the Mashatu reserve in Botswana where we came across a large pride just finishing the remains of an eland they had killed earlier. I have to say though that what I enjoyed most were the six leopard sightings. In three previous safari holidays in Africa we had never seen a leopard until this year. I cannot think of a better way to spend a holiday than to be out photographing wildlife.

    • Hello Keith, I am very pleased you liked Mashatu. The winter is a wonderful time to see predators e=such as Leopards. The am glad you enjoyed it – it is a piece of wild paradise in Africa. It is loaded with photographic opportunities from wildlife to vistas. I hope your trip has whetted your appetite!!
      Best wishes

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