Of all the animals we saw during our safari in Kenya, the most fulfilling were the lions of the Maasai Mara. I say “fulfilling” because seeing these lions came at the end of 120 years (cumulatively, for my mom and I) of pondering Africa — reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, watching Denys Finch Hatton fly over Out of Africa, and hearing Richard Attenborough’s excited descriptions of the wildlife there — but never having had a chance to personally go on safari. So, finally seeing prides of lions, with their cubs, with their kills, in trees and roaming the savannah, was exciting. I guess someone who sees a whale for the first time, up close, after waiting their entire life must feel the same thing. We did see a few lions in Amboseli National Park around the elephants of course, and in Meru National Park as well, hidden in the bush, but it was not until we arrived in the greater Maasai Mara region that we really saw a lot of lions (and other cats) on the wide open terrain.
The “Marsh Pride” is a family of lions living along the Mara River, near the lodge at which we were staying, so we made a point of finding them first thing on our sunrise game drives. These lions are stars of TV program I believe, as there were some folks at the lodge who knew all the “names” of the adults and how they were related. When I was a part of a whale research team in Hawaii, I learned quickly never to name the subjects of our observations. The practice has remained with me through my time photographing and watching animals, but I can see why these cats have their names. They are celebrities.
Our final morning at Little Governors camp, my mom opted to sleep in so I had a car to myself. My driver and I spent the entire morning watching Marsh Pride lions, all lionesses and cubs, as they moved out from the trees along the Mara river onto the savannah, inspecting old kills not yet fully consumed, the cubs alternating between play and keeping up the adults as they moved from place to place. As the sun rose and the day grew warmer, the lions finally settled under a cluster of trees in an otherwise wide open area, with a good view of the herds they would likely hunt later in the day, and slept.