After a 10 hour flight from Heathrow, one night in Nairobi and a 6 hour drive to the Mara we had finally arrived at the Naboisho Conservancy. The drive to the Mara had been an eye opener, my first look at Kenya in the light and the dusty bumpy roads that made the majority of the journey. We saw a few native wildlife, including a rock hyrax as we stopped to look over the Great Rift Valley but mostly the area we travelled through seemed to be commercial farmland, a huge difference to the wide opened savannah that I had expected and had maybe been here only a few decades ago.
As we entered the Conservancy I was in awe of the amount of wildlife we saw within the first ten minutes - wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, cape buffalo, topi and Thomson's gazelle to name a few. As we reached the Eneskeren River we approached the rocky crossing and we saw a small pod of hippo resting in the water. As we were watching the hippo suddenly someone shouted lion! We all looked to our left and there was a lioness only 20 yards away on a rock by the waters edge and with her was a tiny cub. The small cub appeared for about two minutes, enough time to get a couple of photographs before it quickly sank back behind the rock and went out of view.
The cub was small, clearly no more than a month old. After the cub retreated the lioness re-joined another adult female basking in the shade of the African sunshine right next to the river. This was the ideal place for a nursery, no doubt that the rocks around the river provided ample cover and small places for the cubs to hide from any potential threat such as smaller carnivores and other lions. By being a water hole it also gave the lionesses plenty of food around in which to hopefully provide the much needed milk to quench the thirst of their tiny offspring. The two lionesses seemed to be enjoying their siesta, a prime indicator of the heat that loomed after the hottest part of the day. This was their time of rest but also the time when they were safest, as it was when all the other predators were in the middle of their sleep too. The cub was therefore safe to explore at this time but mother was still wary of the little one going too far.
The pictures above show the lionesses resting in their chosen nursery site, the river is just to the right and in front of these pictures.
This was an incredible first sighting, this was the first time that I had ever seen lions in the wild and my first sighting filled me with the thought that this little cub was more important than ever. This cub was part of a new generation of lions suffering a fate incredibly different to that of any of their ancestors. Their habitat is under huge pressure and like many animals their numbers have decreased at a huge rate, yet this cub was here to keep going and to trial life as much as it could. This is the generation where every lion counts, and I really hoped that this little cub would make it to the iconic figure of an adult lion and one day sire or rear their own cubs into this world in the wild, to keep this species alive. I came to Africa to see lions and the problems they face but my first view of a wild lion filled me with hope.