Updated June 2021
The King of The Masai Mara
It was he, Scarface the lion (Scar), curled up like a housecat in the grass, his thick dew-covered mane sparkling in the sun. His brothers Hunter, Sikio, and Morani were nearby; they also slept. The Four Musketeers, known for their prowess and savagery, instead looked precious where they lay.
Though they all are well known, Scar is the real celebrity. To see him in real life is considered a “thing.” In Kenya’s Masai Mara, when travelers on safari compare notes there’s one defining factor, those who’ve seen Scar and those who have not. Photographers from around the world quake with delight at the sight of him. (You can find additional photos and videos on the Scarface the Lion Facebook page.)
Scar’s virility is legendary and coupled with his rugged good looks—a black widow’s peak and a mane that sweeps back from his forehead like a
How Did Scar Get His Namesake Scar?
Scar earned his moniker in 2012 when he lost his right eyelid while making a territory grab with his three brothers Hunter, Sikio, and Morani. (Here’s a photo of him at that time.) They won the paws of the fair Marsh Pride females, defeating the lesser males they killed or sent packing.
If you are enjoying this post you may also like
Though he’s not without his close calls. He narrowly escaped death after being speared by a Maasai warrior protecting his cattle. But with the help of conservancy vets he was soon back on the hunt.
An Encounter: The Sleeping King
I’m alone in the jeep with my guide Sammy. Earlier, we’d heard from a couple of rangers that there were big cats ahead. Putting the vehicle in gear, we sped along the dusty dirt road to the spot where the four lions lay, not knowing if the male we sought was among them. I looked at Sammy, his binoculars digging into his forehead, as his concentration gave way to a toothy grin. “Scar!” he whispered. I was overjoyed.
Watching him sleep, I’m trying to imagine him in battle. Claws extended, his face twisting into a snarl as a low guttural rumble explodes into a deafening roar. But I can’t, he looks too sweet, too vulnerable, like an oversized pet.
For a moment he raises his head. Is that a baboon alarm call telling its troop that the lions are near? He sniffs the air then surveys the landscape. Indifferent to the waking plains, he uses his large paws as a pillow and falls back to sleep,
I will see Scar a few times after this first encounter, walking alone through the high grass or sleeping yet again. I never see the stuff his legend is made of. But at night I hear it, I hear the warrior, his husky bellow piercing the black with a force that shakes the trees.
I hear the king, the legend, claiming his domain.
6.12.21 – The great Scarface passed away yesterday at 1 pm according to Kenya’s Wildlife Service in the Masai Mara. R.I.P.
6.11.21: It breaks my heart to say this, but it seems that Scar may not be long for this world. Images and comments from guides and guests in the bush reveal a very diminished king who is weak and drastically underweight.
According to comments, he, thankfully, doesn’t seem to be in pain, but there’s no doubt he is near the end of his time here on earth. I so hoped to see him again before this happened, but it seems I am too late. At 14, Scar has lived much longer than the average lion. This time was near.
I will always remember him as he was when I last saw him. Strong, healthy, handsome, and the master of his universe.
Sign up for The Insatiable Traveler Newsletter