Cheetahs and Vultures (Maasai Mara stories – 1)

The concept of an all day safari was mouth watering. We were supposed to leave at 7:30 AM and return by 4:30 PM. That’s 9 hours of wildlife. Technically, that’s 8 hours of wildlife, as the road from the lodge to the gate is pretty bad and takes a good half hour one way with no sighting except cattle and sheep! The lodge had packed our lunch boxes which were to be eaten in the forest, and we had an early breakfast.

The drive goes on till the Mara river where you can see the famous crossing by Wildebeest. And if you are lucky, you might chance upon a crocodile or two attempting a hunt on crossing herds. The river is so far away that it takes a few hours to drive up there, and then the same amount back. Along the way you take a few digressions to catch more wildlife. It’s a lot of fun.

We started off with an elephant herd, a lot of Wildebeest herds running, or hanging around.
Elephant herd, calf shows up
Wildebeest traffic
The vast grasslands were dotted with wildebeest hanging around everywhere at an unbelievable scale!
Wildebeest
As we drove on, we saw a herd of vehicles parked in a semi circle formation, as if watching a fight unfold in the centre. Turned out to be a female cheetah chilling on her own. She was unfazed, but kept a wary eye on the paparazzi.
Relaxing cheetah female

Some minutes later, we hurried on. After a lot more wildebeest, we came across another congregation of vehicles. This turned out to be another cheetah group, but with a wildebeest kill in the centre. A band of 4 brothers was cleaning up the wildebeest while a large venue of vultures was hanging around waiting for the cheetahs to leave.
Cheetahs feeding

Cheetahs with wildebeest kill!

Chilling

Vultures waiting

The cheetahs finished one by one, and one came close to us as he passed us, showing his bloodied mouth.
Cheetah, blood faced
Another took a pass at the sitting vultures sending them flying, but of course they were back immediately.
Cheetah chases off vultures
They left soon, and the vultures pounced on the meal resulting in some frenzied cleaning up of the carcass. These were mainly of 2 species – Rüpell’s Griffon Vultures which have white heads, and white backed vultures, which have black heads with white hair and white backs.
One last cheetah takes a last bite

Vultures take the stage

A Marabou stork came into the wake and got out with a section of the intestine on its neck. Many of the vultures went after it pecking out the intestine from it.
Marabou stork with wildebeest intestine

After a while, the larger Nubian or Lappett-faced vultures joined the wake, displacing the smaller ones.
Nubian vulture marks its presence

Vultures feeding

As we left we saw more and more vultures fly down to the kill. A sight to behold, from start to end!
Vulture arriving
Nubian vulture amidst White backed and Rüpell's Griffon vultures
Nubian Vultures

The whole thing in video here. Watch in HD please.

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