We began to see the animals below us
as we flew into the Masai Mara.
The Masai Mara takes its name from the Masai people who inhabit the area and the Mara river which crosses it.
Along with the Serengeti in Tanzania, it encompasses 25,000 square km and provides a beautiful backdrop to the miracle that is The Great Migration.
We stayed in a tented camp while in the Masai Mara but that is a misnomer. The tents were built on stilts high off the ground
and equipped with all the conveniences of modern life (except WiFi) including a balcony to look out at the savanna from. Although warthogs
have the run of the land, the camp had a beautiful pool from where the wildebeest looked inquisitively at us.
The food was worthy of a five star restaurant and way too much of it. If we keep “roughing it” this way in Africa, we’re going to be charged extra on the flight back home.
Our guide here was a rough character who went by “Professor Jackson”. He knew all about the animals but unlike Nelson in Kruger, he wouldn’t share his knowledge unless asked a direct question and then he would keep yelling the answer at us until one of us said OK loud enough for him to hear over the roar of the engine. When Fernando asked him to stop to take a picture of a vulture, the Professor wouldn’t allow it. We were in a hurry to see something else, I assume. Gruff as he was, Jackson apparently was the better of the bunch. An Australian couple got told they had already seen the important animals by their driver as he refused to stop their car! Maybe we were just spoiled by Nelson and Shadi back in Kruger.
The Masai Mara is so incredibly amazing, a though guide can’t really detract from it. I won’t even attempt to describe the wonder of this place as words haven’t yet been invented which can do it justice.
We saw all the Big 5 and then some.
The classification “Big Five” comes from when only hunters came on safari. The Big Five are the five animals who, when hunted, can kill the hunter before dying and hence they were actually known as “the Dangerous Five” in years past. When the African tourism industry reinvented itself and decided to cater to photographers and other non-hunters, they needed a new name for this group of animals. The Big Five are the African Elephant
and Cape Buffalo.
The animals here number so many, it becomes difficult to decide where to turn your attention to. The amount of different birds is staggering as well. However, the Wildebeest take the cake, they’re like an infestation. Do you see all those black rocks in the background?
In the Masai Mara, they’re called Wildebeest. These guys were everywhere and their calls, which can be heard throughout the night, kept Fernando awake. I slept like a Lion: completely unperturbed.
Speaking of Lions, there are lots of them around.
People go about their business with no regard to them because they are hard to spot in the yellow grass.
Although they can be playful,
animals here know better than to let their guard down when Lions are around.
Except when they just don’t even notice them.
These Topi are standing at attention.
Can you see why?
Most of the time, Lions slept through the racket of our jeeps and cameras.
Remember the Dassies (Rock Hyrax) from South Africa? Meet their cousin, the Tree Hyrax.
Every morning on our game drives, we would come across at least one animal carcass which had been hunted down the night before.
We saw a jackal fighting the vultures for the spoils.
Animals being killed during the night is such a common occurrence that zebras carelessly walked by while the jackal and vultures duked it out.
Lions with blood on their faces
and Storks waiting their turn at the buffet.
Whoever came up with the story about storks delivering babies must have been a sadist. Storks are scavengers, they eat entrails! Would you trust your newborn to these ugly guys?
Some of these animals we saw in spite of Jackson.
On several occasions we had to scream at him to stop the jeep. He would act pissed for a few minutes but then finally notice what we were looking at and try to position the jeep at the best viewing angle. This resulted in lots of blurry pictures as he tended to move just as we were pressing the shutter.
On one such occasion we saw a hyena apparently walking back home after feeding suddenly stop.
We had seen so many hyenas that we almost didn’t even pay attention but something about the sudden stop made us beg Jackson to halt. What a surprise we had when suddenly we saw a lion walking straight towards it.
Jackson saw the lion and began moving the jeep into its path forcing it to walk around us.
Every time we could get the Lion into focus the Professor would start the jeep again. At some point even the Lion got annoyed and faced us square on as if admonishing us to back off. I got really scared, I confess.This picture is blurry because Jackson suddenly started the jeep but you can still feel the menace in the lion’s eyes.
After that scare, we convinced Jackson to drive us all the way out to the Serengeti.
Since at this time of the season the Wildebeest have migrated into the Masai Mara, the Serengeti was almost empty except for the occasional zebra or antelope.
This rock marks the border between Tanzania (on the left) and Kenya (on the right).
After the guys left their mark in the Serengeti, we drove back to the Mara river just in time to see the most astonishing river crossing but that will have to wait for a separate post (it is that incredible).
In spite of our grumpy guide (and the lack of shock absorbers in the jeep), we fell deeply in love with the Masai Mara and truly hope to be back some day.