Maasai Mara

10 06 2009

After the massive meal of the night before, I awoke early to grab some breakfast and then meet up with the truck in the car park.  On first inspection everyone seemed ok, but its a bit like the first day at a new job where its that nervous excitement. 

The Great Rift ValleyAs we were heading to the Maasai Mara, we weren’t in the huge truck the Zambezi, we were in 3 little Bedford rascal type vans (aka Safari Ferrari) with pop up roofs so that you can stand with your head out the top of them.  The first stop along the way was at the edge of the Great Rift Valley.  It is huge, and wide, and it is a shame that it was a hazy day as you couldn’t see the other side properly.  Driving down the side of the cliff, there were reminders of how dangerous these roads are, with lorries fallen off the side. 

Driving down the rift valley for about 80km is an experience.  The road is long and dusty and you can’t see the edges of the valley meaning that it is also fairly dull.

We arrived at our campsite to some exceptionally nice tents with toilets and Zebrashowers in and a great lunch (food is much better than I thought it would be) before setting off on the first evening of game drives.  Going through the gates is a little bit like entering Jurassic park, its exciting and you don’t know what you are going to see.  It turned out that Evans our driver did (he was always on the radio trying to find the best things for us) and was off like Michael Schumacher with a rocket up his tailpipe.  That evening we saw Secretary BirdElephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Thompsons Gazelle, Hartebeast, Water Buffalo, Warthog, Secretary Birds (I was quite excited about this as Secretary Birds kick Snakes to death (FACT!) and I have been obsessed by this since I was about 8.

About half an hour before our drive came to an end we came across a pride Motherly loveof lions, about 4 metres away. After watching the cubs play with the Lionesses and the large male pride leader for about 20 minutes we headed back to the camp for a well earned beer (Tusker) or 2.

The next morning we left for the park again, thinking that today couldn’t get any better…how wrong we could be.  After seeing more elephants, we pulled to a stop beside 5 other trucks scanning the horizon.  Once we had found the spot, we saw a cheetah stalking a Thompsons Gazelle.  Slowly at first, it made its way towards the little animal, then boom, the speed is incredible, swing an arc to the left, it bought down its prey, and then the strangest thing happened…all of the trucks fired their engines and were off at about the Cheetah and preysame speed as the cheetah, circling it while it was panting for breath.  The Cheetah didn’t seem to mind though, it just dragged the prey into the shade (of our vehicle) and sat catching its breath.  At that point, we saw 2 cubs coming across the grassland.  These joined the mother and sat down to feed.

Food FightFor the next 20 minutes we stood open mouthed as the 3 stunning cats carefully dissected the gazelle, leaving the stomach intact for the vultures.  It was a real privilege to see natures 2 fastest land animals go at it.  There really is only 1 winner though.  Soon the vultures started circling and Jackals came in to pick the bones once the cats had their fill and it was Crocodileon to our next animals.  After seeing a rather manky lion we went for lunch by a hippo filled river and taking a guide with an AK47 we headed off for a walk to get a bit closer to them and crocodiles.  More driving in the afternoon, saw the now familiar Elephants and Zebras before heading back to the camp for more camp fire japery and an early night.  We had an early start so that we could get into the park for dawn, and watch the sunrise over the plains. 

This proved to be really worth the lack of sleep, seeing the sunrise and the hot air balloon was the tip of the iceberg.

Balloon and RhinoThe real treat was seeing the Black Rhino.  These are incredibly rare on the Mara, with various numbers being thrown about, but never more than an estimated 25.  This really is a spectacular animal and seeing it that close in the wild is a great thing.  Soon it was time to head back to the camp for breakfast and then head back to Nairobi along the Great Rift Valley.


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