Another Amazing Week in The Mara

Late afternoon rain showers have turned Kenya’s Maasai Mara a deep, verdant green. With the Great Migration behind us for this year, Adam writes about the sudden calmness in the air, and the feeling that change is on the way.

 

 

 

 

There is just one word that best describes the Maasai Mara at the moment: green. Who knew that there were so many different shades of green? Driving around the Mara at the moment you could be forgiven for not bothering to look for animals, but rather being distracted by just how beautiful the scenery is. Please enjoy this very green instalment of This Week At Angama.

 

 

 

 

For me,  one of the great attractions of the Mara is indeed the seasonality of the landscape. Albeit located just south of the equator, we still experience incredible variation from month to month and it really means that trips at different times of the year can yield different sightings, images and memories. Of course, traditionally the Mara is known for the dramatic river crossings in the drier months of July, August and September, but from a photographic standpoint I find that November is the time to create really memorable images. The reasons? Short electric green grass, dramatic cloudy skies, misty mornings and incredibly powerful, but short-lived storms.

 

 

 

 

November also signals the return of large breeding herds of elephants into the Triangle. Right now, it is possible to see herds that number between 80 and 100 individuals, happily feeding in the waterlogged swampy areas.

 

 

 

 

Buffalo herds are also flourishing, especially in the southern regions where the landscape looks like a massive green, gently undulating carpet.

 

 

 

 

The Migration has all but left us now, and of course it was rather sad to see the last herds of wildebeest marching south across the political border into Tanzania. However, there are still some sizable herds of zebras dotted across the Inselbergs area. Traditionally the zebras are the first to arrive in the Mara, signalling the start of the Migration season, and they are also the last to leave.

 

 

 

 

The short grasses also make it a bit easier to find some of the more secretive cats. Amongst the guiding team, this week we have had some very special spotted-cat sightings.

 

 

 

 

From a lion perspective, mid to late November signals a dramatic change. After a few months of glut and plenty, in the form of feasting on a seemingly never-ending supply of wildebeest, they now have to start venturing further afield; often taking on larger prey species such as buffalo.

 

 

 

 

Reading over the blogs I wrote during this week in 2019 and 2018, I feel reassured of the status quo and confident that even though this year has offered up some massive challenges and changes, there is still some stability. Nature persists.


Angama Safari Camp – Roughing it in Style!

“To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest detail.” – Giorgio Armani

 

I know it’s a bit of a stretch using Signor Armani when describing a camping experience in Africa but I am certain he wouldn’t mind. He may even be flattered? We don’t have sequins, hand spun fabrics, glass beads and exquisite lace adorning our drop dead gorgeous addition to the family, Angama Safari Camp, but we do have a heap of tiny, sometimes impractical and often humorous details throughout the camp which I felt needed a story all of their own. So no images here of anything other than the detail that our Kenya Safari will love when they come to stay.

 

 

 

The talented and some might say somewhat whacky team (not you, Ali) hunted down every item to reflect the perfect story of what it means to rough it in Africa. The spectrum of ‘roughing it’ is indeed wide but Angama’s guests rough it in Armani style. No shortcuts, no “it’s too much bother” and certainly no skimping. Spoiling our guests rotten is what we love doing best and delighting them with unexpected details is such fun for them and us. Kenya’s king of canvas, Jan Allan, lovingly detailed every square inch of the tents and I won’t bore you with the detailing that went into the padded quilted canvas covers for the solar panels. Africa’s design diva Annemarie Meintjes, patiently guided by Ali Mitchell, queen of details, insisted that every guest touchpoint had to be ‘on brand’. No ifs, no buts.

 

 

 

 

Needless to say planning, executing, shipping from all four corners and installing these delightful guest touches in the middle of nowhere was nothing short of miraculous in The Time of Covid. But happily it all came together in time and in the middle of nowhere for the hugely talented Paris Brummer to photograph the camp last month. I know she will shoot me – and not photographically – but I have to add that she is Annemarie’s daughter and watching this family duo work their magic was a joy.

 

 

 

 

It’s a problem when the mother ship is so wonderfully detailed in the simplest of ways. Angama Mara is all about the design of the tents, the architecture of the guest area buildings, the design of the John Vogel furniture, and the brass touches, or jewelry as Annemarie describes it. So why should the baby be any different? Well, of course there is the ever so small challenge of packing it all up and moving it every couple of weeks which thankfully is not something needing to be tackled at Angama Mara.

 

 

 

 

Maestro Armani would certainly approve that the detail when camping is not to be contained indoors but also to be scattered across the rolling plains of the Maasai Mara. And liberally so.

 

 

 

 

Enough said. Pack your bags and start your African Safari Adventure in style!

 

 

By NICKY FITZGERALD – Angama Safari Camp


Discover Khwai – Botswana’s Hidden Gem!

Safari goers to Khwai in northern Botswana enjoy the luxury of game drives, bushwalking and gliding down water channels in a mokoro – the best of everything in one of the most scenic reaches of the Okavango Delta.

Make no mistake, experiencing a safari by vehicle is an extraordinary experience. As Africa’s wild animals have come to accept these peculiar moving parts of their everyday landscape, excited passengers have the opportunity to view them at close proximity. Which is perfect. That said, there is nothing that quite compares to the silent glide of a mokoro through the thick reed beds of Botswana’s pristine waterways.

Surrounded by lilies and with only the gentle splash of the expertly guided pole, these traditional dugout “canoes” follow ancient elephant and hippo paths through the reeds and grasses at a sedate pace that makes the experience even more absorbing. Brief flashes of color draw the eye to tiny, flamboyant malachite kingfishers and dancing dragonflies hovering over the surface. And the occasional elephant could loom large from a neighboring bank or wade through the shallow floodplains in front of view. Exhilarating. As the mokoro cuts through the water, its motion is almost hypnotic, yet the soothing effect is undercut by a profound sense of excitement as to what lies around the next bend in the watery pathways. Video: Mokorro magic in the early evening.

This languid pace contrasts beautifully against the heart-pounding adrenaline of viewing a buffalo herd or lion on foot, or perhaps the frenzied excitement of following (at a discreet distance) a hunting pack of painted wolves (African wild dogs) in a game-drive vehicle. This is Khwai – a Botswana safari gem.

 

 

 

 

The 200,000 ha (2,000 km²) Khwai area consists of the small Khwai Community Concession (NG19) and the larger Khwai Private Reserve (NG18). The tourism core of this area lies along the banks of the Khwai River and its tributaries with associated floodplains and woodlands – much of the area north of the rivers is remote and dominated by mopane woodlands and open floodplains.

Khwai comprises the north-east fingers of the Okavango Delta and lies between two of northern Botswana’s world-famous parks: Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve. There are no fences restricting animal movements between these protected areas, so the wildlife viewing experience in Khwai is equal to the spectacular standards of anywhere in northern Botswana; possibly even more so due to its ideal geographic positioning.

Botswana, and particularly the Okavango Delta, can be a seasonal safari experience for those seeking big cats – based not just on the rains themselves but also the rise and fall of Delta water levels. The dry (no rain) season in Botswana runs from about April until October, which coincides perfectly with the arrival of the Angolan floodwaters to the Delta’s many waterways and swamps, and to Khwai. As a result, many herbivores that spend the rainy summer months in search of nutritious green grass deep in Chobe/Savute move towards Moremi and the Delta during the dry season, in search of a more reliable source of water and nutritious food. There are no fences to restrict animal movements, and Khwai lies directly along this seasonal migratory route. As the annual flood arrives during the dry (no rain) season, the Khwai River levels rise in turn, and mokoro safaris are once again possible in the many channels.

 

 

 

 

Visitors to Khwai are guaranteed the full Botswana wildlife viewing experience – resident lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas revel in the opportunities afforded by a rich abundance of prey, herds of hundreds of buffalo regularly stream through the waters on their way to fresh grazing grounds and naturally, given northern Botswana is the population stronghold, there is an elephant around every corner. Hippos eye passing mekoros with a degree of suspicion by day and wander the camps at night, and massive crocodiles silently slice through the permanent waterways. Khwai is renowned for its wild dog sightings, and these lithe, athletic canines regularly give birth in known den sites in the area during the dry winter months. Naturally, herds of ubiquitous waterbuck and red lechwe dot the floodplains and healthy populations of rare roan and sable antelope regularly leave the surrounding mopane forests to quench their thirst. Despite the seasonal fluctuations described above this smorgasbord of wildlife is viewable all year round, though naturally, the dry season offers better sightings due to the lack of dense vegetation.

The diversity of habitats found in Khwai automatically translates into impressive birding opportunities, with over 500 different species recorded in the area. An added advantage for keen birders is that the best time for birding is during the summer months when visiting migrants have arrived in full force which also happens to be the low tourism season in Botswana – which means fewer visitors and cheaper rates.

Unlike the (unfenced) neighboring national parks and reserves, the Khwai concessions allow night drives, meaning that guided visitors to Khwai have the opportunity to search for leopard, serval, porcupine and honey badger, as well as the elusive and mysterious aardwolf. This flexibility also allows off-road driving (with rules) and guided walking safaris.

 

 


 

 

Most importantly, Khwai Community Concession – which receives the majority of visitors – is owned and run by the local community, with camps and lodges renting the privilege of operating in this exquisite space. For visitors, that means knowing that the proceeds of their trip directly benefit the local people in the area, which in turn is vital for the survival of any conservation area. A visit to Khwai village, situated in the concession itself, also offers the opportunity to meet some of Botswana’s charismatic citizens and to appreciate their history and culture that is so intricately entwined with the wilderness around them. Khwai Private Reserve also pays concession fees which benefit the local community.


A Chameleon Comeback!

The last official sighting of the Voeltzkow’s chameleon (Furcifer voeltzkowi) was in 1913 in Africa’s Madagascar, earning it a spot on the Top 25 Most Wanted taxon in Global Wildlife Conservation’s Search for Lost Species initiative. A two-week expedition to north-western Madagascar resulted in not only the rediscovery of this unique chameleon but the very first description of the colorful females.

The Voeltzkow’s chameleon was first described from a male specimen collected by German biologist Alfred Voeltzkow in 1893. Little was known about this cryptic species, and no female specimens had ever been described. The expedition to find the Voeltzkow’s chameleon ran from the 25th of March to the 3rd of April 2018 (during Madagascar’s rainy season) and, according to the biologists, yielded nothing but frustration until the final few days. Angeluc Razafimanantsoa, a professional Malagasy guide and member of the expedition, was the first to spot one of the mysterious chameleons in the wild gardens of Chez Madame Chabaud hotel.

 

 

 

 

One explanation behind the difficulty in finding the Voeltzkow’s chameleon lies in its close relationship to the Labord’s chameleon (Furcifer labordi), which lives for just a few months every year. The eggs of the Labord’s chameleon hatch in November and the young chameleons reach sexual maturity extremely rapidly (within two months). Once the mature individuals have had the opportunity to mate and lay their eggs in January and February, they will die just a month or two later. Biologists believe it highly likely that the Voeltzkow’s chameleon follows a similar lifecycle which has made finding them a challenging task. This has been exacerbated by the fact that adult chameleons are active during Madagascar’s rainy season, where parts of the island become almost inaccessible.

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, the team managed to find three males and 15 females – numbers which, according to the researchers, suggest the possibility of a healthy population for a short-lived species. They also discovered just how colorful the females, particularly gravid (pregnant) females, can be. The newly released paper on the discovery describes how the Voeltzkow’s chameleon is a sexually dimorphic species, with the males observed to be significantly less colorful than their female counterparts (though both are primarily green in color when relaxed). Like all chameleons, the female Voeltzkow’s chameleons change colour according to their moods, particularly when antagonized in some way, displaying vivid and highly variable colour patterns of purple, orange, red, green, black, and white.

The newly published study released in Salamandra, the German Journal of Herpetology, the researchers detail the findings of the 2018 expedition, providing the first new information on the little animal’s genetics, morphology, and behavior in over a century.

Madagascar is home to around half the world’s chameleon species, over 100 of which are endemic. Of these Malagasy chameleons, 52% are threatened, and 70% are considered threatened or near-threatened. Habitat loss and deforestation are some of the main threats facing most of the island’s endemic wildlife – it is believed that less than 10% of Madagascar’s natural forests remain.

“The Voeltzkow’s chameleon is a powerful flagship species for conservation in the region,” said Carlos Zanotelli, a member of the 2018 expedition. “It is imperative that we protect nature and treat natural habitats as if we would like to live there. Only in this way can we ensure the future of the incredible species, like the Voeltzkow’s chameleon, we share this planet with.”

 

 

 

 

Along with the rediscovery of the Somali sengi announced earlier this year, the Voeltzkow’s chameleon is the sixth species on the Global Wildlife Conservation’s 25 most wanted list to be confirmed as having been rediscovered. As the study on the Voeltzkow’s chameleon succinctly explains, “rediscoveries of “lost” species are important as they provide crucial data for conservation measures and bring some hope amidst the biodiversity crisis.”


Elegance on The Laikipia Plateau

Kenya pioneered the concept of bush homes that welcomed safari travelers long before this form of hospitality was adapted by other African safari countries. The early bush homes were originally family residences in the northern region of Kenya set on vast cattle ranches, that also teemed with wildlife of every description. They were warm, charming, cozy and guests were graciously hosted by the families that lived there. And this still holds true today.

 

 

 

 

Amongst this collection of bush homes, four extraordinary exclusive-use safari villas also welcome guests visiting the vast wilderness of the beautiful Laikipia Plateau. Each one has its own personality, its own charm, its own surprises. And surprises there are a-plenty. In fact, this is what sets them apart: an endless journey of discovery both indoors and out. Each was lovingly built by its owner and is still used by the family for their bush holidays. It’s this feeling of ‘these buildings were built with love and built to be shared by both the families who own them and guests who come to stay’ that makes these safari homes feel so authentic. They live and breathe.

 

 

 

 

There is only one Ol Jogi on the planet, never mind in Africa. And of one thing I am absolutely certain is that there will never be another. I had no idea what to expect but from the moment I crossed the threshold one line of school poetry buzzed permanently in my head: In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure-dome decree. A trove of priceless treasures does not come close to describing what guests discover here.

Forty years ago, the family who built Ol Jogi amassed a collection of art, artefacts and furniture that quite simply takes your breath away. Ol Jogi’s surprises are too numerous to detail but when you go – and please do – make sure you discover the hide, the cellar and the Moroccan-inspired spa. Remember to ask your host to take you to the rooms (plural) where the crockery, glassware and silver tableware are stored. Downton Abbey has nothing on Ol Jogi. And please also ask for the stories behind each beautiful item, many of which were crafted for the house by Kenyan artists. And all this set in 60 000 acres of wilderness, home to rhino, both black and white, and huge numbers of all the northern Kenyan endemics: reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, vulturine guinea fowl, Somali ostrich, beisa oryx and Jackson’s hartebeest.

 

 

 

 

Set high up on a ridge overlooking the huge Borana Conservancy with Mt Kenya to the east is Lengishu. The brand promise here is that Lengishu is an authentic Kenyan home. And it fulfils that promise in spade loads. From the moment you arrive you feel at home: kick off your shoes and flop down on an enormous comfy sofa and have a siesta. Even if you might snore a little who cares? It’s home after all. The owner created all the interiors, and they are gorgeous, especially the cheeky use of tartans, a nod to her Scottish heritage. What are Lengishu’s surprises? Beautiful gardens, a different setting for each meal, a snooker table, the pizza oven, and sundowners on the Pride Rock that inspired the creators of the Lion King. It is such an amazing setting, don’t be surprised if you burst into a loud rendition of The Circle of Life. I did.

 

 

 

 

Just down the road, well 40 minutes but in Africa that is around the corner, and tucked away into the gentle sloping game-filled landscape of the Borana Conservancy, sits the jewel that goes by the lilting name of Arijiju. A feeling of utter tranquility washes over you as you enter. Soft pink walls, a garden spilling over with jasmine, white roses, wild olive trees, and lavender which is surrounded by vaulted walkways and the sound of water running softly envelops you. Inspired by the great sunken cathedrals of Ethiopia, this lovely home feels like it has been here since long before time began. The hammam in the spa, the thatched roofed squash court, sprung floor naturally, the clay tennis court and fitness room are just a few of this home’s surprises. The food is fresh, light, plentiful and delicious. The service is sweet. Be warned – you may never leave. It’s that special.

 

 

 

 

And then there is Segera Retreat. My Laikipia home from home. Segera is not just a villa but a collection of beautiful villas, each with its own personality. The downside of this is that you must visit many times to experience them all. Set on a 50 000-acre ranch and tucked into a walled garden the Retreat also has its own secrets and surprises: the Explorers’ Lounge (home to letters penned by David Livingstone and Karen Blixen), a sleep out in the Nay Palad Bird Nest, a visit to GAAMY, the Gypsy Moth used in the filming of Out of Africa and tour of one of the world’s greatest African art collections. And all of this before exploring the ranch, home to lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, cheetah and more. Oh, I forgot to mention that the airfield is right at the front door.

Only in Laikipia.


A Literary Safari!

2020. Annus horribilis. A year never to be forgotten when international travel limped to a halt. But for those with a literary inclination, simply take a few steps towards a bookshelf, blow a puff of dust from the covers, and discover that armchair travel across Africa is a magnificent adventure all of its own.

The first stop on our African Safari book tour is Nairobi, Kenya. The daily challenges and lived experience of an imperially infused Africa defines much of the continent’s literature. It’s Our Turn to Eat has all the elements of a Kenyan political thriller in a gripping account of a whistle blower, while one of Kenya’s best loved novelists Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s lauded works A Grain of Wheat and In the House of the Interpreter, give framework to the daily existence of Kenyans and their struggle for independence.

 

 

 

 

In Rules of the Wild, perhaps the ‘White Mischief’ of the 90s, author Fransesca Marciano, describes the heart-stopping magnificence of the vast Kenyan wilderness. The author sensitively explores race, class and social dynamics of the Nairobi ex-pat playground, while tipping her hat to others like Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham who explored these themes decades before her.

 

 

 

 

No bibliophile worth their salt can claim an interest in African literature without travelling deep into the heart of it all, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. This 1899 masterpiece has been studied the world over leaving lasting impressions on young readers. Problematic in parts because of his portrayal of Congolese villagers, Conrad was never-the-less critical of the entitlement of imperialism. Fast-forward a century or so and we find ourselves in the same region, where Barbara Kingsoliver set her acclaimed novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Grappling with similar themes of Western entitlement, fanatical religion and independence from colonialism, this multilayered epic spans three decades and is impossible to put down.

 

 

 

 

Nigeria, one of Africa’s literary bedrocks has birthed a impressive scope of authors and a pit-stop here reveals a treasure trove of reading. Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, pay homage to this. When Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe’s timeless debut novel, finds new and modern relevance with each reading. Travelling further south down the continent, we find ourselves in Zimbabwe where Alexandra Fuller’s beautifully written memoirs are heart wrenching in their rawness – my favorite is Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa speaks to a carefree childhood in what was then Rhodesia, and his political awakening to the injustices of colonial rule. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, We Need New Names by No Violet Bulawayo is surely one of Zimbabwe’s finest coming-of-age novels set between the author’s home country and America.

 

 

 

 

Down on the tip of Africa, Olive Schriener’s 1883 Story of An African Farm has been recognized as one of South Africa’s earliest feminist works, while Nadine Gordimer made a name for herself as one of the country’s most relevant and prolific writers. Her works explore social, moral and racial issues within the apartheid framework, as do many others from that era, notably Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying, Riaan Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart, Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One, Alan Paton’s beautiful Cry the Beloved Country and Andre Brink’s A Dry White Season. In their own way, each of these novels brings into sharp focus the complexities of South African society and the injustices of the apartheid regime.

 

 

 

 

Not all of Africa’s writing is of the “misery memory” genre however, and more recent publications like Trevor Noah’s hilarious and poignant Born A Crime and Niq Mhlongo’s Soweto Under the Apricot Tree speak to a flavor of African writers not devastated by their past but rather defined by it, all the while forging a new path of what it means to be African. No mention of South African literature is complete without including Nelson Mandela’s opus Long Walk to Freedom – a memoir impeccably narrated by Michael Boatman (all 28 hours of it) if you prefer the audiobook form of literary travel.

Impossible to delve deeper into the literary meander of African writing in a mere blog post, when it comes to reading the continent, as with travelling it, there never seems to be enough time to discover every destination. But now is a fine time to start in preparation for your next African adventure.


Lava Fields, Living Springs & Elephants!

If you’re planning on spending some of your African Safari Adventure in Kenya’s Tsavo West, then Finch Hattons should be your top choice. It is such a gem in the dry and arid red earth of Tsavo. Having never been to this part of Kenya before, I was in awe of the beautiful landscapes as we drove in. Mountains, volcanic lava flow, grasslands and bright red earth. Built around a permanent natural spring, this camp is a true oasis in a harsh arid landscape.

 

 

 

 

The gorgeous setting along with the elegant choice of crockery and cutlery make you feel as though you have travelled back in time to the early 1900s dining with Finch Hatton himself. In reality the camp, as a whole, is in fact an ode to his life. The bar, lounge and library tastefully carry touches of his lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

Every ‘tent’ has sweeping views over a natural spring and glorious bird viewing can be done from your tent veranda. When not out on game drives, we spent most of our time on the veranda watching a juvenile African fish eagle having fishing lessons.

 

 

 

 

Each morning we woke to a gorgeous sunrise; birds’ song and the distant sawing of a leopard. Walking to the vehicle, over the volcanic gravel paths, it was impossible not to look left – in the distance standing proud, Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. She is a shy mountain; teasing you with brief vistas, before covering herself up with clouds. But catch her on a good day and she will make you smile.

 

 

 

 

Carrying a wholesome picnic breakfast, we ventured out each morning to traverse as much of this gigantic reserve as possible. We walked around the Shetani Lava flow. The colour contrasts here were striking; light green bushes growing out of the relatively ‘new’ black lava. A bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds and the rusty red road winding its way through.

 

 

 

 

On the second day we went to Poachers Lookout, a viewpoint so grand it is fabled in African literature. Historically, Tsavo has suffered from rampant poaching and it was from this exact point that rangers used to gaze out with binoculars and spy on the poachers who had moved into the area in search of ivory and bushmeat.
 
Fortunately, through the hard and relentless work of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and a good engagement campaign with the local communities, poaching levels have dropped dramatically. And for the most part, Tsavo has regained its status as a safe haven for many of the last great Tuskers.

 

 

 

 

Our informative, and caring guide, Evans, left the best for last: Mzima Springs. It was breathtaking. So brilliant in fact that it was here that the oasis scene in the remake of the Lion King was modelled. Shoals of bright blue fish swimming underneath palm trees. It was impossible not to catch yourself humming the tune to “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”. There was even a solitary warthog grazing casually at the entrance.


Keeping up with the Fast Five!

Since arriving in Africa’s  Masai Mara four years ago, the Tano Bora cheetah coalition has certainly made a big impression. As a fanatic of cats in all shapes and sizes, Sue van Winsen was interested to learn about the unusual bond between these five famous males.
 
There is something about a cheetah’s behavior that evokes a sense of fragility. Perhaps it’s their slender frame, or maybe it’s their shy demeanor and constant vigilance as they scout the horizon for signs of a threat in the form of a more powerful predator.
 
I think this is one of the reasons that the Fast Five, or Tano Bora – a coalition of five male cheetah – have captured the hearts and lenses of so many Mara aficionados and turned this perception on its head.
 
As the largest known male cheetah coalition in the Mara, the Tano Bora (which means ‘The Magnificent Five’ in Maa) has challenged many assumptions about typical cheetah behavior. Typically, once reaching adulthood, male cheetah will become solitary or perhaps join another to form a pair. It is very rare to see a group this large bonding together.

 

 

 

 

This formidable quintet, which have claimed the Mara as their stomping ground since 2016, have become known for their incredible take-downs of huge prey, making them a firm favorite for some of the most striking entries in The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year through the years. There are few scenes as remarkable as all of the Fast Five in full-speed pursuit, or mid-kill committing their full bodyweight to bring an adult wildebeest down to the ground.
 
Surprisingly, the five aren’t all brothers as some may assume – only two are known to have come from the same litter. And it is certain that one is a lone cheetah that joined the others despite no familial relationship.
 
Over the years, unique character traits of each of the individuals have emerged and they have been named accordingly. Olpadan (‘Great Shooter’ in Maa) was the leader of the group up until recently. He could also be a bit of a bully, with Olonyok (‘The one who puts efforts to achieve better results’ in Maa’) being the favorite target of his aggressive outbursts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olarishani (‘Judge’ in Maa) is not only a great hunter, but also the one who tends to come to the defense of his coalition-mates when squabbles arise. Always happy to go along with the general consensus is Leboo (‘The one who is always within a group in Maa), while Winda (‘Hunting’ in Kiswahili) certainly lives up to his name.
 
And despite clearly getting on each other’s nerves from time to time (in the most recent incident, Olpadan emerged with a rather serious injury to his nether regions courtesy of his coalition mates), the benefits of their collective power seem to outweigh the drawbacks: dominance over their territory, a higher success rate in taking down prey and their choice of a selection of adoring females.

 

 

 

 

While they usually separate to breed, sometimes multiple coalition members will mate with the same female, and the confusion over paternity once the cubs are born has meant that the Tano Bora males are less likely to attack the cubs they come across, always unsure whether it’s their kin or one of their coalition mate’s.
 
Being around six years’ old now – there is no doubt that the Tano Bora will continue to surprise us. And delight the photographers who have devoted themselves to immortalizing their story for the world to enjoy.