BBC Dynasties – Lion

November 19th 2018  |   Kenya, Countries, Unique Experiences, Miscellaneous  |  by   Richard Smith
BBC Dynasties - Lion - lions in the Masai Mara

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.

We caught up with author of Savannah Diaries and award-winning journalist, Brian Jackman, who co-authored a book on the Marsh Pride.

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.

Classic Masai Mara scene on a game drive from Elephant Pepper Camp

Classic Masai Mara scene on a game drive from Elephant Pepper Camp

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.

Magnificent male spotted on a game drive from Rekero Camp, Masai Mara

Magnificent male spotted on a game drive from Rekero Camp, Masai Mara

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.

Lioness and cubs close to Little Governors Camp, Masai Mara

Lioness and cubs close to Little Governors Camp, Masai Mara

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.

Lion kill, Mara Plans Camp, Masai Mara. Copyright A J Patel

Lion kill, Mara Plains Camp, Masai Mara. Copyright A J Patel

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.

Scenery around Little Governors Camp

Scenery around Little Governors Camp

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.

Any questions on a safari in Africa?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions about visiting an area with lion or other iconic African predators. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

2 responses to “BBC Dynasties – Lion”

  1. Madeleine Jona says:

    Hi, my husband and i are hoping to take a safari holiday next year and would love to see the Marsh Pride as well as the other big cats. Where would be the best place to stay and what would be the best time to visit? Do we plan a stay elsewhere with a safari included?

    • Richard Smith says:

      Thanks for your question. I’ll ask one of our Kenya experts to reply fully by email, but the brief answer is that you would normally stay close to the home range of the pride in the Masai Mara. Lions are inactive for long periods, so having the ability to get to them quickly and spend long periods with them will give you the best chance of seeing them when they are active. There are good camps within the Masai Mara National Reserve, and strong arguments for staying in the conservancies surrounding the reserve itself – I’ll let the person who contacts you give you the full information to allow you to make the choice.

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