We had just returned from a magnificent hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara when our guide Makau asked us if we wanted to go out on a late morning game drive.  “We think we’ll wait until this afternoon and have a nap instead.” we replied. “Did you see any male lions?” He asked. “Not yet” we said. “Let’s go for a game drive, your nap can wait.” …We were intrigued. 

Wildlife of the Masai Mara

We had been in the Masai Mara for three days and had seen so much of what wanted to see. Leopards, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, giraffes…you name it we saw it.

No, that’s not a lion, it’s a giraffe. Patience, patience, the lions are coming….

masai mara giraffe

A giraffe on the Masai Mara

Yes, we saw all wildlife from warthogs to waterbucks, but the fully grown male lions were proving elusive. We did see a pride late in the day on day-one but they didn’t do much besides sleep and we were a little far away to really see what was going on. The sun was setting quickly and we only had about 15 minutes with the sleeping pride. We didn’t see much but the odd tail wagging and a few big yawns.

photos of lions

Female Lions Sleeping Day 1

Day-two brought us more luck with other animals. We saw a leopard in a tree and with a little patience we managed to capture him walk down from his perch. We’ll be sharing more leopard photos in the future.

Leopard in Tree in Kenya

Leopard comes down from his tree

Finally on our afternoon drive we saw some lions. Our guide Makau suggested we take a picnic lunch with us today for maximum time on the savannah. Most people go in during the hot hours, but we kept searching for lions and it paid off.  One sighting was particularly exciting when we came upon a pride sleeping together right after a kill. They slept right beside the road and barely stirred when we approached.

photos of lions

Pride of Lions Sleeping – Look how content they are.

We even followed two females for about an hour as they searched for prey. They’d walk, stop, look and listen. It seemed as if they were on a re-con mission. I envisioned them hunting for game and then going back to the pride to report what was around. There might be a kill tonight!

photos of lions

The Lion King

We had now seen every animal we had really wanted to see except for the big male lion.  Time was running out and we thought we’d leave the Masai Mara without viewing the beautiful mane of a big male lion.  But then our luck changed.

We came upon a tree where four male lions were sleeping in the shade. For the longest time we could see nothing but their paws sticking out of the grass. We watched them for at least 2-hours while the hot sun beat down on the van. It was like a sauna, but we couldn’t take our eyes away from the scene in front of us. The lions relaxed in the shade for some time and we watched them roll over, scratch and yawn.  They didn’t have a care in the world. And why should they? They are the Lion Kings,  a team of four and the top of the food chain.

photos of lions

Lion King

It seemed to be a sound that caught their attention. It could have been a wounded buffalo or maybe a baby had strayed from the herd. Whatever it was, the lions decided to pull themselves away from their shady comfort and slowly and deliberately scope out the valley.

photos of lions

A Lion watches the Buffalo in the Valley Below

Lions are stealthy and smart and it was fascinating to watch them work together. They spread out and circled around. They took their time and you could see that they had a plan for attack.  Hunting in Africa is dangerous for any animal and a lion needs to be sure that they can take down their prey before they go in for a kill. Buffalo are strong and can put up a good fight. For a lion to take down such a large animal, a lot of preparation and teamwork is needed. It could be hours before they make their move.

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Lion stalking buffalo

As the herd and the lions moved further and further away from us, we decided to give up on the hunt and head back to the lodge. The Masai Mara has very strict rules about going off the trail. Our vehicle cannot chase after the animals and these lions and buffalo were moving deep into the savanna. We were losing sight of them, even with Dave’s big lens. These lions were hundreds of meters away by now and were only going to get farther away. It was time to let them hunt in peace and time for us to have a mid afternoon nap before our evening game drive.

photos of lions

Lion Hunting Buffalo

It had been an early morning wake up call for our sunrise balloon flight and now it had been hours in the African heat. We were getting tired and afternoon tea was calling us at the lodge.

Read more about our Masai Mara Safari at Day 1, Kenya Safari. 

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    1. debndave Post author

      Haha, that was my ploy:-) I like to confuse people a bit. I can be a little weird sometimes. I was like ‘I need a photo here, but I haven’t talked about the lions yet’Hey, I haven’t showed off a giraffe yet, let’s put it in!

  1. Jam @icoSnap

    Fantastic Photos! A couple of my friends have been bugging me to go do a safari tour with them but I haven’t gotten a chance yet. Hopefully within this year or next year I can go, your photos are just inspiring to go and see the wild.

    1. debndave Post author

      We were very close at times. The lions sleeping in a group were under a tree right beside the path we were driving on. We pulled up, turned off the engine and watched in silence for quite some time. They didn’t seem to notice or care. It was incredible.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Mike, yes there is something about Africa that sticks with you. I think it’s a place that you have to return to every couple years to fulfill that void.

  2. Arti

    Stunning captures! What thrill to be so close to the Majestic Creatures! Loved the capture of the leopard coming down from the tree.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Arti. We waited a long time for that leopard shot. The sun was going down and all the other safari vehicles had left. We’d been watching this leopard for over an hour, but Dave had his heart set on getting a shot of it coming out of the tree. I guess he had a sixth sense because 15 minutes before we had to start heading back to the lodge, the leopard decided to leave it’s perch and walk away. It was a magnificent moment.

  3. Stephen S.

    I’m thinking of adding a Sarfari to my already massive trip coming up. I think I could watch Lions (while simultaneously listing to a recording of James Earl Jones talking in Mufasa’s voice) all day.

    However, my favorite photo is the leopard coming down the tree. It’s cool how she has her tail whipped around the tree to help her come down. Clever girl.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Stephen, you should definitely add a Safari to your trip, you won’t regret it. The James Earl Jones recording would be an added bonus.

  4. Timothy Kirigha

    The male lion may be the king of the Masai Mara, but that photo of the leopard is my favorite. It’s simply lovely. I can’t wait to see more of the leopard photos you have promised. Having visited the Mara three times, I haven’t been as lucky in spotting leopards there (they are known to be very elusive), though I saw plenty of lions (including males) all those three times.

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