Safari 12: Sundowner Surprise

As the sun sets over the African plains, Porini Camps guest Clinton Richardson gets close to Big Cats and a mystery creature …

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This series of blogs will take you on Clinton’s safari in Kenya as he travels from Atlanta (USA) to Nairobi National Park, Selenkay Conservancy (Amboseli), Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Laikipia) and Olare Motorogi Conservancy (Maasai Mara). Let’s join him on his journey as he shares his insights into the conservancies, Porini Camps and the people (and animals!) that he meets along the way. All images are from Clinton’s photo site. Blog entries are from his Venture Moola blog at
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Because we are on the equator, the days and nights both last 12 hours and the sunrises and sunsets seem to happen relatively quickly. There is great light for photographs just after sunrise and before sunset. Beautiful hues of reds and blues filled the skies on this overcast night as the sun began to set.
This particular evening, however, will be remembered more for what happened just before sunset. We were finishing a great afternoon drive with wine and snacks served on a picnic table outside our vehicle. The typical African safari Sundowner. We had driven off the dirt road we were parked on an area of grassland punctuated here and there by small trees, not unlike the terrain in the picture above.
Everyone was chatting and reliving the day when the driver and spotter began quickly gathering up the food and chairs and directed us to get back in the vehicle. “Lions,” our driver said “I have spotted lions nearby.”
We moved quickly into the vehicle, feeling at risk only momentarily. It is one thing to see lions from inside the safety of a vehicle. It is quite another thing be told they are nearby when you are standing on the grass.

Lioness on the Hill
Once we were all back in the vehicle, the spotter explained that he had seen a pride of lions gather on a nearby hill maybe 250 yards away. He started the vehicle and began driving right toward the pride.

Watching for Dinner
We counted 12 lions, mostly female, lounging in the grass on a hill and drove to within a few feet of them. They were alert but mostly sitting around watching the horizon. It was early for them to actually be hunting.

Calling Out
Seeing so many lions in one place gave us an opportunity to see how distinctive some of them appeared. It was easy to tell one from another, not just because their ages varied, but because their coloration was varied as were the shapes of their heads and even their color and patterns of their coats.

Alert to Our Presence
The one in the pair below seen staring intently to the left got up to join two others who were between her and the activity that caught her attention. No only does she have a distinctive facial appearance but, as you can see in the next picture, her legs are spotted almost giraffes.

Checking It Out
After watching the pride for awhile a second safari vehicle pulled up and we pulled up to make room so everyone could see. The lions, for their part, ignored us and went about their business. After a good long look but before the lions moved off the hill to pursue a kill, we headed toward camp.

Movement Down the Hill
When we got back, we cleaned up and gathered around a fire pit set in front of the mess tent. Folks from the other vehicle arrived and we exchanged stories. As we talked we could hear something across the small stream that separated us from the waterhole.
It was too dark to see anything but the sounds we heard suggested something large. And, dinner was called before we could get a big enough light to see what we were hearing. Our imaginations would have to fill in the blank.
Whatever it was, something big appeared behind our tent while we were sleeping. I woke up to hear snorting and grazing just behind my headboard. Outside our tent something big was eating and rubbing against the ten wall when it moved. I cannot say with certainty what was dining nearby but the next morning a steaming Cape Buffalo paddy was sitting just yards outside our tent.
First published 13 Dec 2018. All photos and text are © Clinton Richardson. All images are from his galleries at

About Clinton Richardson

Clinton Richardson has been writing and taking photographs for decades. His books include the critically acclaimed 5th edition Richardson’s Growth Company Guide 5.0 and the award-winning book about social media and ancient coins called Ancient Selfies. His images, including images taken on his trip, can be viewed at His Venture Moola blog can be viewed at

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