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Pole to Pole

Day 97: The Masai Mara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleSix elephants, mighty ears flapping and trunks ripping at the croton bushes, move down the hill away from us. They only sleep about two hours a night, I'm told. Kalului, who has an extraordinary sixth sense about the presence of animals, spots a lion couple away in the distance. As we drive closer they turn out to be a somewhat battered male and a lethargic female. Neither seems to bat an eyelid at the circling presence of three vehicles and a clutch of cameras only yards away. The female after washing and yawning, unhurriedly raises herself and the male immediately follows. He is limping. Lions spend about a week together mating, sometimes coupling as often as eighty times in twenty-four hours, but this affair looks to be over, if it ever began.

Meanwhile, in another episode of the Masai Mara soap opera, a male ostrich is doing his best to attract the ladies' attention. He cannot rely on subtlety as his legs turn pink during the mating season, so he goes for broke with an outrageous fan dance, a wonderful spectacle of feather control, which does seem to have several female beaks turning in his direction.

In the midst of life we are in death. We pass Nubian vultures tearing away at the corpse of a zebra. These birds are known as the butchers, the only ones with necks and beaks powerful enough to open up a carcass. The coarse grass of the plain is littered with skulls, bones and skins, and the constant presence of vultures, eagles, buzzards and land scavengers like jackals, with their sharp faces and big ears, is a reminder of the precariousness of life.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 97
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Mara River
  • Book page no: 212

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