We headed for the Maasai Mara National Reserve, we had woken up at 5:30 to leave the camp at 6am. I was incredibly excited, it was the place I had seen on Television through countless documentaries and of course Big Cat Diary. This was said to be one of the best places in the world to see big cats in the wild, I couldn't wait.
However on our drive to the Reserve we had to go through some of the Conservancy at a prime time for the wildlife. We had only been on the road for 5 minutes and we spotted a lioness on a wildebeest kill. The wildebeest had already been half eaten and there was no signs of other lions around. She seemed slightly startled by our truck and she moved the carcass a few yards away. Her chin was dripping with bright red blood from the meat she had just been gorging herself on.
A few minutes later she started to move off and started to call while moving at quite a pace. Our guide Joseph seemed to think that she was heading off to find the rest of the pride. Clearly she wasn't hungry anymore as she had just left half of the carcass. On our way back at 5pm there was no sign of the carcass. Back at camp we identified this lioness as Jasmina, a five year old lioness from the Enesikiria Pride, born in July 2012.
We continued on our way to the Reserve and drove onto an open plain, the sun was rising behind us signalling the start of a new day in the Mara. On the horizon we saw the silhouette of a male lion walking powerfully through the grassland
As we drove onto the grass we got a head on view of the adult male lion. His eyes were fixated on the journey ahead. Many wildebeest had gathered onto the plain had dispersed to form a path for him to walk through. He clearly had no interest in the wildebeest and they knew this, but they still gave him plenty of distance. The plain was silent apart from the nervous grunts of the wildebeest herds. Through the next few minutes in typical lion fashion he didn't look at the herds around and continued on his journey.
His mane was a lot shorter than that of any zoo lion that I have ever seen. His mane was focussed around his neck with a long Mohawk of dark hair going down his spine, His shulders were clearly visible as the mane went straight down his chest. With many zoo lions you may see in the UK the mane continues from the chest to the back of the spine along the shoulder but this mane was not exaggerated it served a very important purpose - It covered his vulnerable neck area. His mane was dark brown except for a ruff of blonde hair around his face and scars featured on his long face. He clearly was a warrior.
Our guide Joseph identified this male as Ron 2, one of the members of the powerful Rekero Coalition who controlled the Naboisho Conservancy. Ron 2 was born in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in November 2010 and along with his 3 other companions they left their birth pride and headed into the neighbouring areas eventually moving into Naboisho last year. For those of you who are Big Cat Diary fans the Rekero males are the grandsons of the famous Marsh Lion Notch who reigned over the Marsh Pride in between 2005 and 2007. When the Marsh Pride was taken over and Notch lost his claim to the Marsh he left with 5 young adolescent sons. Two years later they had all matured and they became a force to be reckoned with. They started to conquer pride by pride the majority of the prides along the Mara River and became a power that had not been seen in the Mara for generations.
The Rekero males had followed their fathers footsteps and presented the same ruthless nature. Like all male lions they were no strangers to infanticide and when they arrived in Naboisho they killed all cubs in the area which brought all of the lionesses straight back into breeding season. Weirdly enough they then killed the next two litters from those females, from what the local guides have worked out this could be for two reasons - It could be to make sure that no previous males had ventured back into the area, thus making absolutely clear these cubs belonged to them. It could also be due to a resources issue as the acceptance of the third litters of cubs coincides with the arrival of the wildebeest migration.
Joseph thought that Ron 2 was on his way to meet his coalition members after a night patrolling separately. He said they spent a lot of time together but would occasionally split in smaller groups of nomadic. Their success of course was their team work, by working together they could share the workload, patrolling and defending their territory.
We continued on our way to the Reserve and he continued on his route passing the herds and walking into the mist of a new morning, it was a true Lion King moment. I have never seen this level of respect from one animal to another and the sense of power from this one lion was incredible. It clearly was his kingdom and the wildebeest knew it.