I read a lovely book recently about the adventures of a safari guide (Whatever you do don’t run). In it he describes guests trying to take photos of zebras. He describes zebras as “notorious bum flashers”. The bottom line with zebras is that just when you have everything lined up for the perfect shot they all seem to catch that camera vibe and universally all turn tail and all you are left with is a line up of striped backsides. That can be fun but not ideal photographically.
During our week in the Mara it was where the zebra earned a new name. They went from “oh wow, zebras” with excitement in my voice to becoming “pah, bloody zebras” as they’d turn tail and show me the backside of Africa.
That said, they are pretty awesome animals. The babies are super long legged so that they can fit happily behind mum and stay out of sight of predators. They are lovely and fluffy with their stripes standing up above their backs. Mum’s would always put themselves between us and their precious babies. The bigger zebras are certainly wary of everything. Unlike the lions that really didn’t care about the car, zebras always cared. As soon as we came across a herd they would turn tail and either run or walk to a safe distance where they would resume their constant eating. I guess when you are on the menu for every big predator then you rightfully get a little twitchy.
I did have a win one day though when we came across a herd that must have seen a big cat on the periphery. They all stood to attention with their gaze firmly fixed ahead to keep the threat in sight. Finally a bunch of zebras that had more on their minds than avoiding the camera.
The other great zebra times were when we came upon them heading down to the river for a drink. They were still super skittish which made for a great deal of amusement as they would routinely scare each other away from the waters edge and racing up the bank. I did manage to get a couple of shots off though which was pleasing.
When we got to the Laikipia reserve we met a different type of zebra. The ones we saw on the Mara were all Plains Zebras whereas around Mt Kenya they have the much rarer Grevys Zebra. They had huge floppy ears and much wider stripes that didn’t meet over the back or under their belly and unlike the plains zebras these guys don’t hang out in herds. They seem to shun company and just wander on their own until it is time to find a love match. After seeing so many plains zebras at the Mara it was kind of weird to see so few of the beautiful Grevys. It is sad to think that these abundant animals that were so plentiful are now endangered. I guess their beautiful pattern made them an ideal carpet for some folks.
The other thing I noticed was that zebras are cranky buggers. It seemed that every time we came across a large herd inevitably a fight would break out. The stallions would slash their teeth aiming for each other’s legs. They were brutal in their battles. It did however make for an awesome spectacle with the flying dust turning spectacle into spectacular.
While I did get some photos that I am quite happy with I did have one on the wish list that I just didn’t nab. I really wanted that classic shot of a face on zebra up close. The great thing about not nabbing all the shots on the list means I just have to go back and try again 🙂
Drinking and looking and looking and drinking.
Rare Grevys Zebra
Getting into it.
Tuck those legs in boys.