Rain in the Mara usually comes in the form of localised storms that build up in the afternoon and evening. Look around the hilltops just befire sunset and you’ll see small columns of rain over several of them, or huge grey curtains covering portions of the sky, with the setting sun peeking between them. The Mara’s numerous lone, gnarled trees offer a fantastic point of focus in this massive landscape.
As the torrential rain arrives, all the grazing animals stop moving and turn with their backs to the wind, zebras, gazelles and wildebeeste all aligned in the same direction. Is it because they don’t like driving rain in their faces or because they want water to penetrate their backward facing fur and clean it? I’ve yet to hear a convincing explanation of this universal behaviour. Twenty minutes later, it’s over, and twenty mm of refreshment has covered an area of only fifty square kilometres. In three days time, the wildebeeste will come from far and wide reap the benefits.
Lions love this kind of weather. It always makes them active, and full or not, ready for a hunt. This was one of the main reasons for our trip, to see what lions actually do at night, and we weren’t disappointed.
We had three more fantastic evenings with the lions, doing what they seem to normally do on dark moonless nights - bumbling around chasing stuff and every now and again actually bumping into animals and killing them.
It’ is now, finally clear, that without moonlight, lions can’t see their prey at any distance any more than the grazing animals can see the lions. Detection of each other now depends almost entirely on smell and hearing. All the lions have to do is be very quiet - but then, most of the prey animals do the same. They stop moving and sit down to chew their cuds. Which has given us incredible images of lions stalking right past their victims - all of them unaware of each other.
For more information on Mara lions check out the Mara Predator Project website