Mara land is… Lion Land (part 3)

small… medium… Large

As the Dire Straits used to sing: “you get to meet all sorts…” in their hit song ‘Private Investigations’, so does this apply to the Mara. In the case of lions, with a bit of luck you’ll see tiny lions, not-so-small lions, larger lions, and massive lions.

Our driver used to say: “the Mara never disappoints”, and he was right. Especially during the second half of the week we saw both cute little ones and big (especially when standing next to your vehicle) mama and papa lions with whom we had some unexpected encounters (read on for that one).

On day 5 of our safari, the sun had already set and we found ourselves in the middle of an empty (as in: no tourists around, they had already gone back) savanna when we spotted a female lion who was walking away from her pride (no reason why…). But every now and then she was standing still, turning around, seemingly waiting for something or someone. And there they were: two tiny cubs walking perfectly in sync working hard to catch up with mom…

‘little kings’
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/320 s., ISO 1250, -0.7EV exp. comp.

As I didn’t have too much light anymore and I wanted to freeze their motion as best as I could, with a bit of negative exposure compensation I still ended up over 1200 ISO which fortunately isn’t really any problem for the D850. This is where a prime lens (f/4) really helps: if I had shot this one with my D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6 zoom I would have had a very hard/impossible time trying to get rid of the noise…

And then, tiny lions become (with a bit of luck) small lions, like this one we found playing in the grass in the early morning on the last day (7) of our safari.

‘small king’
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/160 s., ISO 720, -1.0EV exp. comp.

Sometimes you get a shot which you had never thought you’d ever get, or perhaps never thought would even be possible. In the late afternoon on day 6 of our safari we were watching a couple of male and female lions. The males were quite interested in the females, and one of the females decided to walk towards our Land Cruiser to perhaps escape a bit from the unrelenting attention of the males. As the female was standing very close to our car, one of the males walked straight towards us, and to my 600mm f/4 super telephoto lens.

‘big king’
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL + TC-14E II @ 850mm on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/1600 s., ISO 160, 0EV exp. comp.

When I was thinking about this shot I couldn’t help wondering why you don’t see too many of these around. Most obvious explanation is that you just have to be very, very lucky for a male lion to walk straight towards you on the Mara savanna (or any other wildlife area for that matter). The other reason, I thought, was that if this were to happen in another situation; e.g. shooting from outside rather than from the inside of a (relatively) safe vehicle, you might actually not even make it to posting the image on your blog as you would have likely ended up as lunch (or dinner) ;∼)

So this was a once in a lifetime shot, which easily could not have happened. But it did, and so ‘the Mara never disappoints’ as our driver said, was true. There is absolutely no guarantee you get these kinds of shots when you visit the Mara, but if you’re up for the challenge, just drop me a note at: enquiry@fliek.com as I’m planning to organize another trip to the Mara around the October timeframe this year with a small group of photography enthusiasts.

My next article will probably be the last one the Mara lions, after which I’l move on to hyenas and other wildlife. Stay tuned!

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