It was dark outside, an inky darkness in a slow, seductive dance with the light fog.
We bumped along, occasionally catching a startled hare in our headlights or causing an irritated bird, out for the early worm on the dirt track, to take off hurriedly.
This is, by far, my favorite time of a safari.
The only sound right now is that of the low, powerful hum of the engine, the grunt when it hits a small depression and the sound of the tyres over the dust track occasionally splashing water or the wet squelchy sound when going over a particularly muddy patch.
Everyone inside our vehicle is either lost in their own thoughts or dozing off. I could feel the slight draft coming in from narrow opening of the window from Antony’s side as he drove and I turned my face to it, breathing in the smells of the Mara.
I wonder what the day has in store.
The track, as always, is a bumpy one and a little bumpier for one of us. Each day, by turn, one of us sits on the most favoured position in the vehicle.
The floor of the vehicle.
We have an altered vehicle for ourselves. One of the vehicle’s doors is removed, a seat too is removed, allowing for enough floor space to keep the numerous gear all of us carry. This also allows one person to be on the floor, to crouch and often to lie down to get the much desired low level shot.
We had started even earlier than usual this morning. Our destination was a place a little further away and the intent was to reach before daybreak.
A top view of the seating space
IF we are able to reach in time and IF we are able to find where the famed Black Rock pride is and IF they are up on the rocks, then we could get some good silhouettes.
Lots of ‘ifs’. It’s definitely an awfully difficult task.
First, we will need to locate the pride in the dark and on top of that, the area around the Black Rock isn’t easy to scout. Then, the pride should be on the move and not be snoozing away as lions are prone to do. And, if all that happens, they should be in a mood to get onto the rocks and not roam around in the grass.
On some days, Dame Luck smiles benevolently on us.
Or it is just that uncanny sense that Antony Tira, of Matira Bush Camp, possesses. Every game drive with him has been rich with some memorable encounters.
We met a large pride, with a delightful number of cubs. To add to the sheer joy of finding them so early, the entire pride was proceeding to the rocky outcrop and soon decided to stay put as a family to watch the sunrise. The skies changed colour as if in an extremely temperamental mood.
At the start it seemed as if the skies will burst into a fiery orange, but then it suddenly calmed down and took the shade of a lovely soft, mauve with a hint of blue shyly suggesting its presence and soon a pale yellow jumped into the mix, forming an intoxicating palette.
That unmistakeable profile
Look at the strength in that pose.
"Look, kids, that's what is called a sunrise"
Cubs...they need the occasional snarl and a nip
Bah ! Its just another sunrise...big deal !
A little later, they decided to go for a stroll. More opportunities to take some interesting images. Should I try out something new ? Use the wide angle lens to give an idea of the expanse that is Mara ?
The wide open landscape
Lion cubs are possibly the cutest of all cubs. There is an unmistakable swagger about them that is just totally endearing. They are totally ready to rule the world. I mean, totally.
Wait.. There is a puddle along the way. If one cub comes over for a drink, the entire lot is bound to follow them. Will it happen ? Just one cub needs to come !
To cap a good morning, the pride then had a successful hunt.
I spy a little.....warthog !!
It was too far away to get a single good image and honestly, that was a good thing. It was fascinating to watch the entire strategy of the lioness unfold. How three lionesses separated from the pride, leaving the rest to watch over the cubs. How they took significant and separate detours to circle around their target – a family of boars – and how slowly, but surely, they had the family perfectly trapped with little avenue for escape. We saw how first one lioness crept forward to play the enforcer but held herself back as the unsuspecting family moved away and then another lioness took up the lead role.
Once again, I wondered…how do they communicate with each other ? How does one know what the other is upto ? How does the baton pass on who will be the enforcer ? How do they decide as a team, which specific member is the target ?
It was a morning that is etched into my memory.
A morning where nature showcased us its entire bouquet of offerings, from the heart-stopping beauty that sunrises tend to throw up, to the harsher realities of survival.
Just another day in the wild.