We left Nairobi early that morning heading for the infamous Masai Mara, hoping also to see some of the great migration that was now crossing from the Serengeti in Tanzania into the Masai Mara.
The road from Nairobi is worth mentioning as at times it is not for the faint hearted. Initially it is a one lane highway along the side of a mountain with the Great Rift Valley below. There are hordes of busses, semi-trailers and trucks all taking over each other vying to get to their destination as fast as possible, often around blind corners and at extremely narrow aspects of the road. As a result the smell of burnt rubber from screeching brakes dominated the air. Out of interest, this road was built by Italian POWs in 1942, with a memorial built in their honour. Despite this intenseness, there are some beautiful views of the Rift Valley below.
After leaving the paved road we hit dirt/gravel road. Now I’m not one to complain about long drives or bumpy rides and have been on many an off road journey in my travels, but this was probably the most uncomfortable drive I’ve ever done. I have no doubt being in a 4WD (as opposed to the minibus we were in) would have resulted in better suspension and a less like being in a maraca for hours. Just to make things more interesting, we then blew a tyre and even more exciting – the spare tyre was too big!!! Hahaha, how fun. The break in the shaking was quite good though. Fortunately for us another van turned up and stopped, then another, then a man on his motorbike, then a truck. All of them stopped to help change the tyre. We had people changing the tyre, people supervising the changing of the tyre and people supervising the supervisors. Go Africa!!! After our brief pit stop, we got going again, but not 30 minutes later we came across another van with a flat. Returning the favour we stopped and helped out.
After several hours of driving we reached our lodge just on the edge of the Masai Mara game park and had a bite to eat. The lodge was beautiful, well-space out with cute little cabins. However like Amboseli, there were more than a few cheeky monkeys hanging around waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting tourist’s sandwich.
The Masai Mara of Kenya and the Serengeti of Tanzania are one large continuous area, named differently probably only due to country borders. The Masai Mara however was a bit greener and much more hilly (relatively anyway) than the very flat and vast Serengeti. But like the Serengeti it was rich with wildlife and sure it enough it didn’t take long to come across a pair of lionesses on the rocks, one of which looked to be heavily pregnant. The lionesses were also joined on the rocks by the most unlikely company… A Leopard Tortoise. Hartebeest, Zebras, wildebeest, gazelle, warthogs and jackals also roamed the plains.
After feeling a bit under the weather overnight, we change our full day safari to two half days just so we could have a break. While this meant not getting right into the middle of the park, there was still more than oodles to see.
We witnessed a standoff between a buffalo and a lion. The buffalo, clearly very confident with his size and abilities, waltzed right passed 3 lionesses. 2 stayed asleep, likely full from an early morning feed, but one lioness felt the opportunity was there and proceeded to follow the buffalo. Slowly, slowly she got closer and closer. Then, in a funny turn of events the buffalo turned around, faced the lion and after realising it was a one on one situation actually ran at the lioness who was clearly surprised at this and after realising she was on her own without her friends, ran away like a little scaredy cat.
We headed towards the plains and the endless long grass in search of a cheetah. Our guide got a call from a friend who had spotted something and we sped off towards a big lone tree amongst endless long grass. Wow! Two cheetahs, apparently brothers. A story overheard from the van next to us was that their used to be 3 brothers, but one got cocky and challenged a lion… now there are two. Our guide said he doesn’t believe that story as cheetahs and lions tend to always stay away from each other.
Once again I thought after seeing those two beautiful cheetahs, my day couldn’t get any better but once again Africa blew my mind. We spotted a lioness in the grass, then another, then saw some movement in the grass surrounding the lionesses. Could it be? Are we that lucky!?! Yes!!! Baby lions!!! 3 of them!!! Prancing and pouncing around in the grass. Sooo Cute!!! We watched them for a brief period of time before they disappeared into the trees. On our way back to the hotel, we inadvertently stumbled across (and interrupted) a lion couple mating. I tell you what, they looked absolutely knackered. Plum exhausted. When a lioness is in heat the male will stay with her constantly and they will mate every 15-30 minutes for 4-5 days!!!! That’s exhaustingly insane!!!
The Masai Mara continued to produce some entertaining and hilarious animal interactions. We were watching 3 lionesses resting under some trees in the grassland, quite well hidden but clearly well fed and had settled in for a morning nap. Then from over the hill like a scene out of sound of music, a solo wildebeest came frolicking along, looking like he was having the happiest day of his life, not a care in the world. Frolic frolic frolic he went, not noticing anything at all going on around him heading straight for the lions resting place. All of a sudden he spotted the lions, froze for a second then bolted the other direction for about 200metres before resuming his frolicking again. Its good to see happy-go-lucky animals on safari.
It was lion heaven today. In addition to those 3 lioness under the trees, we spotted the three baby cubs again today, with mother, 2 lionesses and an adolescent male in tow. We spotted the even more exhausted mating coupling, still giving it a good crack as well as 3 lions eating a newly acquired meal. Just when we thought we couldn’t see anymore, we spotted 2 young males in the long grass watching intensely a zebra herd passing by. That is 17 lions!!! Woooooo!!!
We headed deep into the Masai Mara today on the search for cheetahs and the elusive Rhinoceros. We heard there were two cheetah brothers up ahead and sped to their location. We saw about a dozen cars up ahead parked along the side of the road, but before we got there we saw movement and it was quick. Real quick!! Out from behind the vehicles a gazelle at full speed came bolting, zig-zagging everywhere moving at incredible pace. Right behind this gazelle were two cheetahs giving chase. How Exciting!!! Although we were quite far away, it was still something amazing to witness in the wild!
After lunch we drove along one of the lesser used tracks in search of adventure. Adventure came in the form of a leopard sleeping in the tree next to half a zebra that had been dragged up a tree. It is extraordinary how strong a leopard is. Despite only weighing around 60kg, he has managed to kill and then drag up a tree the majority of a 200kg+ animal. Wow. Interesting to note, leopards drag their prey up the trees to protect them from scavengers including wild dogs, hyenas and lions. Yes lions may often steal leopards prey.
Nearing the end of our Masai Mara experience we were treated to an elephant herd of 30 + beautiful creatures. We also, like earlier in the Ngorongoro crater spotted a black rhino in the far far distance, only just able to make out his shape. Although so far away, we felt privileged as I understand there are only around 30 in the entire park