Nakuru- lions and buffalo

Lake Nakuru National Park is full of surprises for a first time visitor.

“Wandering the rift takes you through ancient times, travelling into unfamilar places which open your sense to timelessness and wonder.” ~ Mike Haworth

We saw lion and a leopard in Lake Nakuru National Park. We never saw hyaena or even heard them. The forest environment seems to be ideal for servals, civets and genets, but being nocturnal and having to be back in camp by 18h00 we never got to see any of these species.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and they’re absolute free. Don’t miss any of them.” ~ Jo Walton

There is an abundance of grazers varying from buffalo, Rothchild’s giraffe to Debussa waterbuck, eland and zebra. There are also the smaller antelope such as bushbuck and impala but we never saw any duiker. The next image is of two old buffalo bulls, we call them “dagga boys” because they are often covered in mud and their bosses are caked with mud after a good wallow in a mud pool. These two old boys were lying down under the shade of a tree in the late morning.

We found a lioness with her three cubs near a buffalo kill on our first morning on the southbound section of the ring road south of the lake. The next day we found two male lions in the south west section of the park. They were traversing an open grassland to find shade under a small tree, much like the buffaloes.

“Wherever you go becomes part of you somehow.” ~ Anita Desai

When one lion is walking up to another one, either it is moving in to greet the other lion or there will be a fight. On this occasion, the first male lion lying in the shade of a small tree was greeted with head rubbing by the approaching male. Many of the cats were collared in the park- a sign of the times. There is much research underway and it certainly makes it easier to find them in this well forested park.

After the initial greeting the second male lay down in the shade next to his coalition partner. The male on the left of the image looked to be older than the male on the right judging from the darkness of his mane. Interestingly, both males were not “flat cats” but remained alert and sitting up while we were watching them in mid-morning. Something must have had their attention which we had not seen, heard or smelt.

The first male to lie down in the shade looked to be around five years old judging from the length and colour of his mane and the condition of his teeth. He had flies all over him which did not seem to bother him much – and they were probably the stinging type!

You can see from the condition of his ears that he must have been in some tangles but his teeth were in good condition.

” Life is etched in that face. A male lion’s journey is etched with scars and torn ears. His eyes remain steady, his heart strong. He has earned his place”~ Mike Haworth

We travelled along the same road the next day only to find this scene. A male and female lion together, probably in their mating phase, then, buffalo emerged from the gloom of the forest and began chasing them into the grassland. The lions seemed to prefer to operate along the edge of the forest during the day, probably because of the abundance of shade.

This buffalo bull was not going to tolerate the mating pair anywhere near his herd and continued to push them away from the herd which was just inside the edge of the forest.

“Choose you battles wisely. After all, life is not measured by how many times you stood up to fight. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most important ones and let the rest go.” ~ C. Joybell

There are many buffalo in Lake Nakuru National Park. They seem to enjoy the forest and the wet conditions around the lake.

The next image is of two adult but young buffalo bulls mock fighting. They were just pushing each other around with their bosses, nothing serious. When their bosses connected it made quite a cracking sound.

“The main difference between play and playfulness is that play is an activity while playfulness is an attitude.” ~ Miguel Sicart

On our last day in the park, it was early morning and we were travelling along the southern ring road when we came upon this lioness walking along the road. As she wandered along the road she would sometimes stop and listen and at other times detour to the embankment next to the road to investigate a sound or a smell. After about five minutes of following her she heard buffalo on the Lion Hill ridge. Immediately she crossed the road and started to work her way up the ridge to get into a better position to assess the meal potential. As time passed the herd moved down the ridge and in doing so began to split up. This calf was separated from its mother, an opportunity which was not missed by the lioness. For some inexplicable reason she did not immediately attack the calf despite getting within approximately 20 metres of it.

The calf stopped, seeming to sense that the lioness was close by. We held our breath thinking we were about to witness an ambush. A few seconds passed the the calf moved on down the ridge and to our surprise the lioness just sat and watched the calf walk away.

The lioness did not attack the buffalo calf. We did not expect her to abandon the hunt but we did not also see what she saw and could not possible judge whether the odds were in her favour. The calf lived to see another day and we were left with a little magic.

Nakuru was not a place I expected to see such interactions with buffalo and lion. I am reminded every time I go into the bush to leave my perceived ideas back in camp. Our limited ideas about the dynamics in the bush only serve to remind us of how much we still have to learn and understand.

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” ~ Neil Armstrong

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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