A Year of Living Dangerously

26 December 2017 | Inside Angama |

Reading Time: 8 MINUTES

Pangolins, porcupines and pitched battles – enjoy the most extraordinary sightings of the year, as told by Angama Mara's guides

Alice Mantaine – One lovely evening we went out on safari in search of a black rhino. We scanned all corners of the forest but with no luck. Suddenly we heard a movement in the bushes. “Ooh, lion!” exclaimed my guest. Looking closer we saw what the lions were interested in – a porcupine, a dinner favourite for lions despite the hard work it entails. The porcupine had cleverly rolled into a tight ball of quills and the lions were unable to get their claws on it. The porcupine suddenly made a dash for safety but the lions gave chase. It was impressive watching 4 lionesses and 13 cubs hot on the heels of a porcupine. In a flash the porcupine bolted down a hole and disappeared, leaving the lions in shock and still hungry for their dinner. Porcupine 1 – Lions 0.

Moses Kibet – My sighting of the year is pretty amazing and very brief. It was on a cloudy afternoon safari, which my guests had contemplated skipping but luckily decided not to in the end. We weren’t looking for anything specific but would you believe it on the side of the road we spotted a very elusive animal ambling along in that very recognisable gait – a pangolin! I couldn’t hide my joy. Unbelievable! My second pangolin in 11 years, what a wonderful sighting.

Titus Keteko – It was an early morning in October when my guests and I set off hunting for a hunt. As you know this is not so easy to deliver but I had a plan. First off we would try and find the mother cheetah and her two cubs hoping for some lion action along the way. We would be driving through territories of at least two lion prides – the Mawe Ya Breakfast pride and the Sausage Tree pride. We have interesting names in the Mara Triangle! With my guests on full alert we slowly made our way below the escarpment along that lovely route. My guests spotted a buffalo herd making its way down the hill and whilst they kept an eye on them, using my binos, I scanned around and was rewarded with tawny cats gorging on a big black beast. To my amazement both prides, with much snarling, were feasting on the buffalo carcass. Then the drama increased: the buffalo herd started to charge the lions, approaching with fury. The 14 lions scattered but the two lionesses and one of the big males regrouped in no time and killed another buffalo. My guests were speechless. Lions 2 – Buffalo 0.

Sophie Sadera – One beautiful morning we set off on our game drive hoping to see cheetah and luck was on our side when we found the two brothers. On our way back for lunch, I asked the guests if we could pass by the river to view crocodiles. The guests agreed and we headed to Kaburu Crossing where we found many crocodiles, dead wildebeest and topis. While watching the crocodiles, and to all of our amazement, a leopard came out of the bushes on the other side of the river. It entered the river and pulled out a dead topi, dragging it out of the water right between two crocodiles. It was just amazing!


Douglas Onsongo – I was guiding a family of four – mum, dad and their two children – and we had had a fabulous morning. The kids had asked for a comfort break and so we headed toward the famous ‘Hippo Pool and Toilet’. I parked as close as possible, we all disembarked and headed towards the building. Little did I know that a lioness was on the prowl and headed for a drinking spot right next to the toilet. Luckily three vehicles, which were following the lioness and, upon realizing our situation, drove nearer and the guides informed me of the lioness’s presence. By this time the parents were with me and the children were in between us and the lioness. I told the parents to get into the car and called for the children to stay put as I moved to their side. One minute felt like forever as the lioness was only about 40ft away – the children hung on to my side like terrified puppies. The lioness clawed the ground and gave us angry glare. Some zebras then startled and luckily she refocused her sites back on them. A very wild experience for both my guests and me!

Daniel Njiriri – My sighting of the year was short but incredible. One morning my guests and I set out in search of cheetah, which had until then eluded us. I decided to stop for breakfast under the Egyptian Goose picnic tree. As usual when positioning the vehicle under a tree, I looked up to check for any animals and mentioned the same to my guests. To our great surprise a female leopard was on one of the branches well hidden and relaxed. I quickly reversed back for a good view and we enjoyed the sighting for 20 minutes. Suddenly the leopard woke up with eyes wide open and teeth bared. What had caught her attention? We followed her gaze and saw two cheetahs approaching that same tree. As they arrived, the cheetah followed our suit and upon looking up noticed the leopard just as it started climbing down towards them. The cheetahs disappeared in different directions and the leopard calmly walked off as though nothing had even happened.

Sammy Komu – One afternoon we set off on safari and were lucky to spot one of the Angama pride lions stalking a group of zebras. My guests, being new to the Mara, were so excited to see a lion but after some time they were ready to move on. I explained to them that with a little patience we might get to see a kill so we decided to stay. By this time the lioness was getting close to the zebras but the zebras kept moving away. All of a sudden the lion started running quite fast but went straight past the zebras. I followed her only to realize that there was a family of eland further down that she’d had her eye one. She got one of the little ones and immediately started eating. We stayed with her until she finished everything. My guests couldn’t believe what had just happened. Lioness and Zebra 1 – Eland 0.

Ericson Lemaalo – It was an early morning drive when Geoffrey and myself were driving a group of first-time safari guests. We drove slowly down our private road serenaded by the lovely calls of Narina Trogons, Red-Chested Cuckoos and Sulphur-Breasted Bush Shrikes – a perfect start to the morning. I couldn’t wait to show them that breath-taking view that officially welcomes you to the Mara Triangle and allows me to explain the meanings of the Mara Triangle and Maasai Mara. I could see the Angama pride basking in the morning sun and as usual the zebras are making a single line down from our magnificent Oloololo Escarpment to the Mara Triangle. Elephant, buffalo and impala bachelor herds greeted us as we drove down to view the Angama pride. What a day! The unbelievable Mara never disappoints – near the Oloololo Gate we were able to see four of the Big Five in a square kilometer – the buffalo lazing in the distance, four lionesses trying to hunt zebra that were grazing towards a herd of elephants and a solitary black rhino moving slowly behind the hunting lionesses. Lionesses 1 – Zebra 0.


Kenneth Tanui – Four kills in one afternoon game drive – beat that for a sighting of the year! It was a lovely afternoon when I picked guests up coming from the other side of the Mara Game Reserve where they had spent 3 nights and seen the Big Five. I was not off hook because one big thing they still wanted to see was a live kill. As it was Migration season I drove down to Shieni Bridge to where the wildebeest were crossing the dry riverbed. We watched a lioness from the Angama pride stalking and killing a young wildebeest and drag it into the bushes. Since the herds were heading towards the Breakfast Rock along the escarpment, I decided to follow. The grass was very tall, providing perfect cover for lions. The Breakfast Rock pride was also on the hunt. One of the females killed three young wildebeest one after the other – bang, bang, bang. She then went to call the six cubs to join her for the feast. My guests, needless to say, were very happy and promised to come back. Lionesses 4 – Wildebeest 0.

Jackson Etoot – The clouds were gradually building up giving us shade and there was a fairly cool breeze, which was perfect for the coalition of five male cheetahs who were now waking up, stretching, clawing and spraying urine in preparation for a hunt. Off they went looking for something to fill their stomachs and within a few minutes the hunting semi circle was taking shape with the lead cheetah lifting his head up as if he was focusing on something in particular. I took my binoculars and looked in that direction but couldn’t see any potential prey except for a very big herd of buffalo. The cheetah continued towards the herd of buffaloes so I again took my binoculars out and scanned carefully. This time I noticed a wildebeest lying about 300m from the herd. I quickly pointed it out to my guests explaining that the wildebeest could be potential cheetah prey. The cheetah were now in full stalk and the gap between them and the wildebeest was closing. As they ran in at top speed suddenly the wildebeest stood up and bravely attacked and charged the cheetah in defense. “Wow it’s charging them!” one of my guests shouted in amazement. The dust was high and cameras were clicking. With a broken leg, the wildebeest had no choice but to defend itself. Inexplicably the cheetah suddenly ducked behind a nearby bush. I couldn’t make out what was happening but could tell that they looked scared. I scanned the area and noticed that in the bush behind the wildebeest was an old male lion trying to use the small bush as a cover to hunt the wildebeest. The lion then made a move and came into the open but it also looked wounded and was moving slowly. Just then an oxpecker made an alarm call and the wildebeest looked back and saw the lion. The chase was on but it was the slowest chase I’ve ever seen as both animals were moving with great difficulty. The wildebeest cleverly proceeded towards the buffalo who had picked up the scent of the lion and were now lifting their noses up in aggression. The lion realized he was out of luck and just watched his easy meal walk away. “Bravo!” shouted some of my guests and “Oh poor lion” the others. That was my magical, dramatic sighting of the year. Wildebeest 1 – Lion 0.

Geoffrey Njoroge – My best sighting of the year was witnessing a female cheetah hunt and kill a Thomson’s gazelle. Vultures came for their share of course. After the kill we kept following her for about two kilometers and watched her nearly get killed by a lioness while having a drink but it was her lucky day. All of a sudden she changed direction and we realized that she had three tiny cubs hidden away. We then watched her move them to somewhere a little safer. Cheetah 2 – Lioness & Thommie 0.

John Githinji – Contrary to common belief, April is a wonderful time for game viewing in the Mara. My colleagues and I were undertaking our annual guide refresher training and with sixteen pairs of professional guiding eyes and ears a well-disguised leopard in the tall grass wouldn’t go unnoticed and no bird could make a call without being identified. We were winding up the day and on our way home when we came across a cheetah stalking a harem of Thomson’s gazelles. A few meters from the harem was a bachelor herd, also peacefully grazing. Slowly the cheetah kept narrowing the gap between her and the gazelles using the tall grass as her cover. A female gazelle was clearly the target and having spotted the cheetah started running towards the dominant male for protection. Witnessing her distress, he came towards her, walking right where the cheetah was hiding. Quick as a flash the cheetah dashed in, pinning him to the ground and strangling him to death. The harem scattered with the bachelor herd in close pursuit. Within a few minutes the new dominant male started mating immediately with the female gazelles while the cheetah was eating the previous dominant male – talk about no time wasted. Cheetah 1 – Thommie 0.


Fred Ole Sinoni – Early one morning during the birding project, the team set off to gather crucial information. As we were about to descend into the valley below the escarpment, Ken pointed out an eagle soaring along the slope of the Out of Africa kopje. We raised our binoculars with the hope of identifying the bird. Silence followed as no one was completely sure what it was. I had a clue but was a bit shy to shout it out. The eagle perched and we could see a white front, with a somewhat streaky breast. Someone murmured “Augur Buzzard” but didn’t sound very confident. But no, the streaky breast and feathery legs didn’t fit with this bird. “Let’s approach it slowly”, I suggested. Before we managed to get closer another eagle, which later turn out to be a breeding partner, landed carrying nesting material. “They are building a nest!” everyone shouted. We were all completely excited. When the second bird was about to land, white patches on the wings were visible and added more confusion to the identification dilemma. “Long Crested Eagle with white belly?” Not possible. “What about an African Hawk-Eagle?” I suggested. We perused the pages and that was exactly what they were. A Lifer, and raptors building a nest. That was very special for me.

Wilson Naitoi – My best sighting of 2017 was a zebra hunt that my guests and I watched from start to finish right here up on the escarpment not far from the lodge. Two lionesses started stalking a herd of zebra slowly over a period of 20 minutes before crouching down and breaking into full speed. The lioness passed the stallion, caught the baby zebra then dragged it whilst still alive to her eight-month old cubs to play with. This is quite common behavior for cheetah but very unusual for lion. When the baby zebra started to overpower the cubs, the lioness came to the rescue.

Benjamin Obanda – My sighting of the year was an encounter between a herd of buffalo and a pride of lion. My guests and I arrived when the lions had already killed one of the buffalo and both lions and lionesses were feeding with the cubs just a few meters away. There were actually two kills at this site – one a day old and a fresh one and the buffalos were fighting to protect the fresh one. Without realizing it, the buffalo were in the pride’s territory, which is most likely why they managed to make two kills in such a short amount of time. The buffalo were chasing any member of the pride they could get close to and continued to do so for over four hours. Lions 2 – Buffalo 0.

John Peenko – One morning I was on a walk along the Oloololo Escarpment with Amanda our chef trainer and her sister, Cinda. We came across eight Narina Trogons chasing one another around. It was like a courting dance! To me it was a miracle because just to see one Narina Trogon is a challenge, let alone eight! I have never seen such a beautiful sighting.


ABOUT: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

Koske Evelyn
December 26, 2017

Nice article

Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*