It was like waiting for santa on Christmas eve as was my excitement the night before the safari. I tried to sleep but to no avail. I even tried counting zebras (thought it was better than sheep given the context) but it didn’t work -I eagerly awaited the morning time to head to the Masai Mara. We were delighted then that at 7.30am the next morning, the safari company arrived with our vehicle ready for the trip. You see picking a safari company is quite hard as there are so many to choose from and it is so expensive that we wanted our moneys worth. In the end we decided to go for a local company that we had read good reports about and it also meant that we had the vehicle and driver to ourselves.
Once the van was loaded we headed off on the long trip to the Masai Mara. On the way down, we passed through the famous Rift Valley which is a sight to behold. Its is where the first human remains were found apparently. After about 7 hours of driving down some of the bumpiest roads I have ever encountered, we arrived at our campsite. We were tired and hungry and were beginning to wonder if the journey was worth it. I can say now that it absolutely was. After a quick bite to eat, we entered through Talek gate to see what lay ahead. I should mentioned that even though we entered through a gate to show our passes, the Masai Mara isn’t actually ring fenced, It is far too big for that. After we entered the gate, it didn’t take long to see that the journey down the bumpy roads were more than worth it. It is spectacular. In the 2 hours of our first drive, we saw 3 of the big five (lion, buffalo, elephant –the other two are leopard and rhino) and much much more. It is difficult to describe the feeling of seeing so many animals I had only seen in documentaries roaming freely. Needless to say that as you drive through the reserve the camera becomes an extension to your hand. We actually got very lucky with our little video camera catching a scene of a male lion fighting off another right in front of our vehicle.
Of course the most important thing about this month in the Masai Mara is the arrival of the wildebeest from Tanzania. The Great Migration – and great it is. The migrate from Tanzania to the Masai Mara every July/August and then go back aorund December. How they find their way is beyond me! It is spectacular seeing thousands of wildebeest roaming migrating across the grasslands walking, leaping and running about. The are true to their name and are prone to buck-leaping about.
The amazing thing about the arrival of the wildebeest is that they seem to complete the ecosystem here, providing much needed food for the meat eaters and friendship for the zebras. The zebras and the wildebeest are good mates and can been seen hanging around together in massive groups. This relationship works well for the wildebeest as they can sense the lions approaching, and start running. Unfortunately the wildebeest aren’t the smartest of animal in sensing danger so the warning if much needed.
On day two of the safari, we left the campsite at 7am and headed off on our full day game drive across the park. It was unbelievable. We saw so many animals and birds I think I was just going around with my jaw dropped for the day. Some of animals were more elusive but many had no fear of the vehicle and a lion walked straight beside the van. One interesting thing about the lions in the Mara is that they aren’t man eaters. The ones in some of the parks near Mombasa, the lions can be man eaters but apparently if a lion eats a man, he is killed. The reason being that humans are meant to be unbelievably tasty to eat and once a lion eats a human it wont eat anything else and will continue to hunt humans so it has to be killed. I never knew we were delicious!!!
The thing I found so amazing was that all of these animals (elephants, lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, wildebeest just to name a few – live in the same area and just get about their daily business. Yes, obviously some animals are food for others but it seems to be on a need only basis. They don’t just randomly kill for fun. The day ended seeing two Cheetahs lying together under a tree – what a sight. They were so cat like just sprawled out (I couldn’t help think of poncho at that moment).
Today- Sunday we got really lucky and got to see the famous wildebeest crossing of a river. It was spectacular. Thousands of wildebeest crossed the Talek river. It was over in about 15 minutes. The amazing thing is that they all gather together on one side of the river and when the leader decides to cross they all follow. It was amazing. There were a few zebra in the group too!!!
Aside from the animals, it is also important to remember that this area is home to the Masai people who live just on the outskirts of the Masai Mara in different villages. We passed through some of them on the way to the campsite. They are a very interesting tribe and take great pride in their livestock. They have a wonderful traditional dress that some of them wear but many others just wear plain clothes and are not involved livestock anymore but have taken jobs elsewhere. We got chatting to a really nice guy called Freddy in Watamu who a shop selling Masai crafts. He was very interesting and while he seem to take part in traditional dances etc, he lived like us other days.
I could go on and on about the experience in the Masai Mara but I don’t think I could do this place justice in just how amazing it is. It was always my number one dream to see the African wildlife in person and now I have fulfilled it. Hopefully I will be back again someday – actually I know I will!
Dodging Mosquitos Status: Was so overwhelmed by this place that I forgot about them!