At the foothills of safariLIVE’s Mara camp, past the FC studio, lies a dense bracket of trees that, covers the outskirts of our campsite. While not quite a forest, this part of the geography provides a dense wood that is inhabited by all manner of animals. Wildebeest, elephants and zebra have been spotted wandering through this thicket of brush. But some of the noisiest neighhbors are the largest primates of the Maasai Mara: the olive baboon.

These baboons inhabit steppes, savannas, and forests, making the craggy, wood covered foothills a perfect residence for them. The first time I saw one of these baboons was on my first day. After unpacking my things, I stood outside my tent and gazed upon the splendid view. a rustle in the small trees caught my attention I and looked forward, just in time to catch a glimpse of a baboon fleeing deeper into the foliage! This was quite a shock to me, seeing such a large animal up close, but it reminded me I wasn’t in New York anymore.

Since then, the baboons have been elusive, but it’s always a pleasure to see them. They never stray into the camp itself, preferring to stick around the outskirts where they can easily hide. I’ve caught glimpses of their family groups moving through the trees, barely visible.

Sometimes, the baboons do make their presence known. Once, when I was heading back to my tent, I heard a chorus of horrible screeching from the trees. Turning, I saw baboons chasing each other, screaming wildly as they did so. A guide nearby me remarked they must be having a fight. I watched, fascinated, as their cacophony of wails echoed across the area, the foliage rustling as they darted after each other.

Most of the time, the baboons keep to themselves and are surprisingly quiet for such large creatures. I see them, quietly going about their day just beyond our territory. Once, I even caught a glimpse of something special. A female baboon, walking slowly through the trees, carrying a baby on her back. The baby was sleeping soundly, faced pressed into its mother’s fur. It was a fleeting moment but one that stuck with me. The dynamics of the baboons remind me of a family, one that squabbles but also one that cares deeply for each other. I’m glad to have these animals as neighbors, even if I don’t see much of them.

Written by: Jake McDaniel