On day two of our stay in the Maasai Mara, we had an early wake-up call from one of the hotel staff and wandered off to the bar area for coffee. The morning was quite chilly for us valley-dwellers where the temperature is warm and sunny throughout the year !
Enjoying coffee in the bar area on the second morning in the Mara
While we were waking up and thawing, we heard the hot-air balloons firing up across the river. It was quite a temptation every time we saw the balloons hovering over the park, but just thinking about the price, was enough to opt for watching the balloons and passengers above us instead. At US$450pp for one hour in the air, plus a two-hour champagne breakfast under an acacia trees, which looked very festive through the binoculars, this was very expensive for locals no matter which way you look at it!
Hot air balloon over Maasai Mara
Soon we were travelling along the depicted routes through the outer part of the Mara. Of course the first things I heard and spotted were a number of little birds, I'll post those at a later date.
The very first animals we came across sunning themselves on the side of the road, were Black-backed Jackals. While on safari, I made it my mission to try and capture as many young animals and I managed to do this regularly. In this group of jackals were two very young pups. They were curled up, one either side of the road, obviously waiting for mum to catch their breakfast.
The top two, and bottom right photos are young Black-backed Jackal
Jackals usually den in holes made by other species, though they will occasionally dig their own; females will dig tunnels 1–2 metres in depth with a 1-metre-wide entrance. Black-backed jackals are monogomous and territorial animals, with a strong social structure. The assistance of elder offspring in helping raise the pups of their parents has a greater bearing on pup survival rates.
Pups are born from July to October. Summer births are thought to be timed to coincide with population peaks of vlei/marsh rats and four-striped grass mice, while winter births are timed for ungulate calving seasons. Litters usually consist of three to six pups. For the first three weeks of their lives, the pups are kept under constant surveillance by their mother, while the father and elder offspring provide food. They typically leave the den after three weeks, and become independent at six to eight months.
Jackals are omnivorous hunters and scavengers eating a wide variety of food including carion, rodents, reptiles and birds. They hunt singly for this smaller prey and work in pairs or larger groups when hunting bigger animals. They select weaker animals like impala lambs (African antelope species) or old, sick animals. They hunt in open areas where their prey is found.
In the distance across the grassland, we saw a Maasai Giraffe. The Maasai Giraffe, also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) is the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal. It is found in Kenya and Tanzania.
The spots are definitely jagged on a Maasai Giraffe
The Maasai Giraffe has jagged spots on its body. It also has a short tassel of hair on its tail. Adult males usually reach around 6m in height; females tend to be a bit shorter at around 5.5 m tall. Their legs and necks are both approximately 2m long, and their heart has a mass of roughly 12 kg (25 lb).From its height, however, the giraffe can spot a predator from far off and move away very fast when threatened.
There is no seasonal breeding season for the Maasai Giraffe, and females can get pregnant from the age of 4. They also give birth standing up. It takes 2–6 hours for a giraffe to be born and then it drops 2m to the ground. About 50–75% of the calves die in their first few months due to predation. Even though many calves die, the mother will try to stab predators such as hyenas or lions with its sharp hooves. This action may injure or kill a predator quickly; the Maasai Giraffe's kick is strong enough to crush a lion's skull or shatter its spine.
Continuing our early morning drive, we came across a small herd of elephant and, to my delight, a number of calves.
African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The African elephant is one of three wild animals (the other two being the hippo and the rhino) that are, as adults, too large for any predator, even a lion, to catch. The only true enemy to these is unfortunately the human. The elephant male stands 2.8m high and weighs 5750kg. The female weighs 3800kg. Its life expectancy is 60 years.
I was delighted to see a calf with this small herd of elephants
Mama leading two calves away from the road
I loved this delightful "little" family!
At this point the sun was high in the sky and returned to camp else we'd miss breakfast if we arrived after 9am.
Source: Part Google and part the Maasai Mara Visitors Guide book