The Rongai Pride
We had only been in the Mara for 45 minutes and we saw several tourist trucks together in the distance - A clear indication of something exciting ahead.
As we drove up we saw lions, many lions! All of them were on a wildebeest kill that looked like it was killed earlier this year. All I together I counted 12 cubs ranging from 3 to 6 months. Four lionesses sat with the cubs, all adults. One of the lionesses had a limp, as we arrived the three others had finished eating and she had just managed to get on the carcass. In lion society the lionesses may in the wild keep the elderly or the weak with them but they still have to wait their turn to eat when next to the healthier individuals. While we were there the cubs started to wander out playing and exploring. Their mothers didn't seem too bothered, almost knowing that at some point they would inevitably come back. One by one the lionesses moved to the shelter of the tourist trucks to rest in the shade - Definitely using the human influence to their own advantage. We must have been about one of eight or so vehicles gathered around the pride each filled with tourists around the world who have come to the Mara to see it's wonderful wildlife.
All of the cubs stomachs were bulging with all of the fresh meat that they had stuffed themselves with. It was lovely to see all of the cubs playing with each other, with age not seeming to be a problem whatsoever. It was also interesting to see all four lionesses on the open plain, compared to the much smaller groups we have seen in Naboisho so far. Perhaps they feel more comfortable alone in the bush but in the open the company is maybe much more appreciated. With 12 cubs in tow I estimate that at least three of the lionesses have cubs if not all of them. The average litter of a lioness is between 2-4 but it is not uncommon for not all cubs to make it. So with a total of 12 about 3 cubs each, would fit the average.
All of the lioness seemed content while the limping female was feeding, all of them more focused on getting in the shade with the cubs. After a quick rest the lionesses started to wake up and moved their cubs further onto the plain away from the safety and security of the trucks. Some watching the open savannah intently, while others sat with their cubs.
This was the biggest pride that I had seen in the Mara so far and it was interestingly that they lived in such an open area compared to what I had seen so far. The Reserve was vast and the plains went on in the distance forever. The open territory here offered very little cover from other predators but it also meant that threats could be seen from a long way away. We saw no sign of male lions nearby. One thing that I had seen a lot of so far was that the male lions actually spent very little time with the lionesses. The females formed the core group of the pride while the males had rights to the pride by controlling the territory in which the pride lives. So far I had not seen any females and males together and the females here seemed completely content about the whole matter. It became clear to me that prides are constantly changing and that the cubs born in the pride wont necessarily stay with their mothers but may form a sub group nearby. The four lionesses for example were not enough to form a whole group where all the females stayed together. They all looked to be of similar age so were more likely a set of sisters or cousins. It is likely that all of these 12 cubs would not spend their whole lives together, the males would almost certainly live a life away from the females once they reach maturity while the lionesses will most likely stay with their closest relatives.
Seeing the Rongai Pride had really matched my expectations of the Mara and is certainly a sighting I wont forget any time soon. The lionesses soon headed off into the plain presumably seeking some more natural shelter to spent their day, it was already starting to heat up. I hope the pictures so far give you a good idea of the vastness of the Reserve. We headed on towards Lookout Hill and the Mara river to try and see what else we could find.