One lion we did not see while on safari this past week was the Marsh Pride female known as Mama Lugga – she was named by Saba when we were filming with the pride in 2002. Saba often found Mama Lugga (and White Eye, Khali and Notch) along the Bila Shaka Lugga as Mama Lugga had given birth to cubs there in the summer of 2002 (as did the other three lionesses).
Lugga, donga, karongo all mean ‘intermittent watercourse’ – a seasonal stream bed or ditch-like geographical feature often lined with croton bushes or acacia bushes – and trees – which lions and leopards like to rest up along. Luggas make excellent ambush points and places to hide cubs. These luggas are crucial for these predators and often comprise the core of their territories.
Some of the other driver-guides knew Mama Lugga as Red. She is/was a beautiful square faced lioness – big and a superb hunter. She was brave too like her close relative White Eye. Red and White Eye are the oldest of the four lionesses in the Marsh Pride, and were born around mid June/early July 1998.
So what happened to Red? Well, it could be that she has young cubs and is keeping them hidden away along the
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Great to be home – but what a wonderful safari we shared in the Mara with our fifteen friends and guests. Missed speaking to you all too!
It took us around 7 hours to drive to Governor’s Camp which is our base in the Mara. The road from Nairobi to Narok is really good right now – all tarmac – but during the heavy rains we have experienced since the drought broke a torrent has been unleashed alongside the road creating a massive gully. Not sure how the engineers are going to ‘shore up’ the precipitous embankment – interesting drives ahead!
We drove in to the Reserve via the Sekanani Gate, straight out again through the Talek Gate and then east via the Double Crossing to Governors. Sounds easy written like that but just after we got into the Reserve we hit a major storm and visibility was almost zero. When we got to the Double Crossing (of the Ntiakitiak and Olare Orok streams) the water was rising fast. I assured Angie we could still cross only to find that the water came right up to the bonnet of her car and swept a wave of water towards her – it was deeper than I had expected!! You can imagine Angie’s thoughts on that!
We have been stuck at these crossings in the past and it is not uncommon for vehicles not to be able to cross at all
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There is always a mix of excitement and panic prior to heading for the bush. While I was in town yesterday driving around doing last minute errands I suddenly caught/smelt a sense of the ‘bush’ – a sudden sensory jolt to my system that brought memories rushing back – sights, smells, sounds that connected me to the past and spoke of the future. You know the kind of thing – when you think of school days or childhood days on the farm and can ‘smell’ that period of your life. It is exquisite.
Anyway – the Mara is reaching out to us already – and tomorrow early in the morning we will say good bye to Little Cat and the dogs and drive out through the gate – Angie in her Toyota and me in mine – saying goodbye to Kioko and Elizabeth and Daniel who look after the house, safari stores and property for us. Five to seven hours later – maybe later depending on the road and how much time we spend having breaks and drinking tea) and we will arrive at Governor’s Camp where we will spend the night.
Governor’s is our base when we are working on our books and images in the Mara and we need to take Angie’s
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PRESS STATEMENT – SOMAK HOLIDAYS AND THE OLKEJU RONKAI CAMP
The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO, www.aito.com) states that, after discussions with AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Committee, member company Somak Holidays has agreed to suspend sales of the Olkeju Ronkai Camp development in the Masai Mara. Somak will also remove all references to the camp on its website.
Somak Holidays has volunteered to work with AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Committee to help tackle a wide variety of issues in the Masai Mara over the longer term.
AITO’s Chairman, Derek Moore, says: “We are delighted that AITO and Somak Holidays have together agreed a way forward. We believe that Somak’s collaboration with AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Committee will prove of great benefit to the Masai Mara, and we applaud Somak for its positive and ongoing commitment to long-term support for Kenya.”
Ash Sofat, Director of Somak Holidays, says: “We appreciate the opportunity to work with AITO’s Sustainable Tourism Committee on issues linked with the jewel in Kenya’s crown, the Masai Mara. Somak has been linked with Kenya for many years now – in fact, since my father started the company, in 1968. We are a Kenyan family, and Kenya is a big part of our DNA. It makes good business sense for us to protect our most valuable asset – the wildlife for which Kenya is justly famous – and we are more than happy to work with AITO to this end.”
Ends 9th February, 2010
Note for Editors: AITO (www.aito.com) has 140 specialist tour operators within its membership.
Press: For further information on AITO, or to arrange an interview with AITO’s Chairman, please contact Sue Ockwell or Ian Bradley at Travel PR on 020 8891 4440, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Angie was born in Africa and I have lived here since 1974 (in Kenya since 1977) – it is our home.
As much as I love our visits to the UK (where I was born) I always feel as if I am truly coming home when I walk through our front door here in Nairobi. We are so fortunate to have a beautiful home on the outskirts. The fact that we can work from home writing our books and processing our images is a blessing. And never far from our minds is the Masai Mara – our second home just a 45 min flight away (or a bumpy 5 to 6 hour drive in our Toyota Landcruiser!).
The Mara is facing a crisis. Rampant and unplanned development in and outside the Reserve is the most pressing problem. A Management Plan for the Reserve has been formulated by the two County Councils charged with administering the Reserve on behalf of the the Masai people, and has the blessing of the majority of the tourist
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Later in October I joined my old friend Brian Hall and a group of keen photographers at Kicheche Mara Camp for our annual week-long safari. The leopards performed for us once again and this time it was Binty – one of Olive’s young adult daughters – who mesmerized us not far from Rekero as she stalked and caught a hare which she then proceeded to play with before eating it. It was great to have the camp to ourselves and everyone was delighted with the game viewing.
We spent most of October in the Mara -Angie and I base ourselves at Governor’s Camp when we are working in the Mara so it is like coming home whenever we visit. The Mara never fails to deliver and we were treated to some unforgettable leopard viewing along the Talek River. The Talek is one of the most scenic places in the Mara, a ribbon-like tributary lined with giant fig trees and dense stands of croton bushes and acacia thickets – perfect leopard country. Bella the leopard of Big Cat fame had by now disappeared from all of her old haunts and is presumed dead, but her daughter Olive is proving to be a remarkably successful mother in her own right having already raised two female offspring – Binty and Ayah – who are now nearly three years old, as well as a young male called Khali.
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We have finished our latest children’s book for Harper Collins Educational Books called On Safari. This lovely little book details the way Angie and I live ‘on safari’: how we get our photographs, how we operate from our cars, where we camp, and what equipment we use. Harper Collins have pulled out all the stops on the production of the book and it looks really beautiful, and received a great response when it was previewed with children at different schools around the UK, so we are hoping that the kids will love it as much as we enjoyed working on this project. It is published in September 2009.
It has been such a pleasure for Angie and I to work on our latest book Stars of Big Cat Diary (BCD) for Evans Mitchell Publishers. The book should be in the shops in early September 2009 – so hopefully that should be one Christmas gift you can tick off your list (it is targeted to retail at GBP 19.99). It is packed with new insights in to the making of BCD with lots of snippets of gossip about life in the field and back at our tented camp along the Mara River which is outfitted for us by Governor’s Camp where we were based during the filming of Big Cat Live. Angie and I decided to write the book to celebrate the past 12 years in the history of BCD, focusing on the star big cats that we have come to know over the years – and to work with Simon King and Saba Douglas-Hamilton and our friends and colleagues from Production – Editors, Cameramen, Soundmen and Producers – to make the book an inclusive look at what has
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Sometimes life just gets the better of you, which it certainly has these past few weeks. Where to begin? All kinds of exciting things have been happening. We have completed our latest children’s book for HarperCollins called On Safari which outlines what life is like for Angie and me when we are on safari taking photographs and working on our books. It is a lot of fun and is our seventh title in the children’s series. We are about to set off for a month long safari to India – yes, we know it is going to be very hot but it will be good for tigers because they will be getting hot too and hopefully decide to hang out at the nearest water hole to keep cool. We are working on a new childrens book in India and at the end of the year we will be visiting Oman again to write a children’s book on life there. And we will be looking at all the best places to visit in India (its one of our favourite destinations) so that we can be sure to offer a really exciting safari there next year – why not join us on that adventure in 2010.
We are just putting the final touches to Stars of Big Cat Diary – a celebration of 12 years of Big Cat in words and pictures in association with Simon King and Saba Doughlas-Hamilton. There will be lots of Angie’s stunning images and lots of behind the scenes info on the series too, plus an update on all the big cat stars.The book should be in the shops by September and we will be promoting it at a number of events in the UK in late August. We will be at the Bird Fair in Rutland from 21 to 23 August as guests of Swarovski and giving three illustrated talks over that period, and speaking at the Lichfield Camera Club on the evening of the 24 August.
I just spent a week in the Mara filming an episode of a new reality show called To The Ends Of The Earth presented by Nick Knowles with James Honeyborne of the BBC Natural History Unit. More on that later but Shakira and her three daughters were all doing fine, as were Honey’s Boys, also Notch and his younger relatives down on Paradise Plain – all in fine form.
More from us tomorrow. Got to go to bed – its nearly 11.30pm and got an early start tomorrow in Nairobi