Day 6 (Friday, 10th November)
As usual, we started the morning game drive to the Masai Mara at 6:30, with the sky looking clear and a cool breeze blowing. This was only after a swift cup of coffee accompanied by Purple Grenadiers and Superb Starlings at our feet. It was immediately obvious that the terrain here was very different to Samburu, with vast open plains filled with many sizeable herds of mainly Wildebeest, along with Plains Zebra and a selection of antelope. They were even waiting in good numbers as we exited the gates of the lodge, with the addition of some African Buffalo next to the track. Our first hit of the day was a duo of Black-backed Jackals, taking it easy amongst the leg high grasses, with a watching Black-bellied Bustard standing guard nearby. We continually passed the masses of Wildebeest, when the driver made a sharp turn, aiming for a couple of parked safari vehicles. This was to observe what proved to one of the highlights of the trip. Ensconced in a small “wigwam” of high grasses was a female Cheetah with 5 very young cubs. We gorged on this spectacle for some time, watching as the family eventually wandered off through the low grasses. Back on the hunt again, we passed an adult Ostrich and Yellow-throated Longclaw, shortly after finding another small collection of safari vans, eagerly watching a pride of 7 or so spread out Lions, three of which were feeding on a recently killed Wildebeest. A female was approached to almost tickling distance, 2 cubs were busy play fighting, and all of the time there was a constant flypast of White-rumped Swifts. Even on the walk back to the room on return to Keekorok Lodge, a quick inspection of the swimming pool unearthed a White-browed Robin-chat, with a single Grosbeak Weaver feeding in front of the room.
Following breakfast, I had the opportunity to have a good look around the Keekorok Lodge grounds. These are set in the centre of the Masai Mara, yet have no restraining fence around the boundary, so in theory animals are free to come and go as they please. The individual lodges radiate from the dining and restaurant building, with a central lawn. A track leads from here along a boardwalk to the Hippo pool, which had too little water during our visit for noteable Hippo appearances. Some birds were regularly seen around the grounds, such as Superb Starling, Purple Grenadier, White-bellied Canary, and Black Sawwing (occasionally supporting the odd White-headed Sawwing). Many more interesting birds were found during the exploration, including small flocks of Speckled Mousebirds, intermittent sightings of Cardinal Woodpecker, and an African Hoopoe, which seemed to have a favoured spot on the lawn. The White-browed Robin-chat was also relocated, still around the pool area, with the Superb Starlings harbouring the occasional Hildebrandt’s Starling, and later on a few Rüppell’s Long-tailed Starlings. Sunbirds were common, particularly in front of the reception, and they took some sorting out, with the identification eventually falling to Mariqua Sunbird, as opposed to the smaller Purple-banded. Scarlet-chested Sunbirds were dotted in amongst these. On the lawn below, among the White-bellied Canaries, were small numbers of Grey-headed Social-weavers and Common Bulbuls. The Hippo pool was very quiet, apart from 3 Wooly-necked Storks, a few Three-banded Plovers and Wood Sandpipers, with 2 brief Yellow-throated Longclaws.