BBC Dynasties – Lion
Lion, the next episode in the BBC TV ‘Dynasties’ series follows the Marsh Pride of Kenya’s Masai Mara. Stars already, from the earlier documentary ‘Big Cat Diary’, this episode offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of these iconic African predators.
FOUR decades have passed since I first fell under the spell of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, yet its magic is as strong as ever. Partly it is due to it setting, 5,000 ft up on the plains of East Africa. But above all it is because the Mara is carnivore country, and if you want to come face to face with a pride of lions, there is no better place to be.
It all began with an assignment for The Sunday Times in the late 1970s when a young photographer called Jonathan Scott (later the leading presenter of the BBC TV’s Big Cat Diary) was working there as a safari guide. During our game drives he was eager to show me one particular pride whose territory lay near Governor’s Camp.
The Marsh Lions, he called them, after Musiara Marsh, the lush sweep of reed beds at the core of their territory, and in no time I began to see Jonathan’s favourite pride as he saw them, each one a recognisable individual with its own dramatic life story.
So the idea of The Marsh Lions was born, a best-seller recording the next four years in the life of the pride as we followed their fortunes, waking each morning to the sound of their thunderous voices and driving out into the bright Mara dawns to find them out on the plains.
By the end of that time Scar and his two companions, Brando and Mkubwa, were as familiar to me as old friends, as were their lionesses, the three Marsh Sisters and the Talek Twins. Those days spent with the Marsh Lions were among the happiest of my life.
Following on from the success of The Marsh Lions, the Big Cat Diary TV cameras turned the Mara’s carnivores into superstars, not only the Marsh Lions themselves but also leopards such as Half Tail and a succession of exceptional cheetah mothers.
Today, of course, the original members of the Marsh Pride I knew in the 1970s are long gone, but their descendants including Charm – the oldest lioness of the current dynasty – still cling to their traditional territory, fighting and killing to protect it when necessary.
Looking back, it is clear that those early years spent in the company of the Marsh pride was a golden age for lions. Yet in spite of the changes that have swept through the Mara there is no finer place to observe the big cats than right here in Kenya’s most famous wildlife stronghold. Brian Jackman
Where to see the Marsh Pride:
The Masai Mara is a major highlight of any East African safari and is one of Africa’s most prolific wildlife regions. Its status as a premier wildlife region brings its own problems, particularly that parts can be very busy with safari vehicles. Knowing how to avoid the crowds is key.
If you want to stay in the heart of the action then Little Governors Camp has an idyllic setting overlooking the Musiara Marsh. With numerous resident animals and birds it is perfectly positioned for exceptional wildlife viewing and, of course, the Marsh Pride.
A little outside the home range of the Marsh Pride are the Mara Conservancies. Bordering the national reserve they offer the same habitats and wildlife, but in huge private areas, so all the action with far fewer visitors. It’s perfectly possible to take a day trip into the main reserve to catch up with the antics of the Marsh Pride. Alice’s blog takes a more detailed look.
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