The last two days of my week in Kenya were spent at the fantastic Maasai Mara Game Reserve. I was accompanied by my new friend Salaton and I felt extremely privileged to have the tribal chief as my personal safari guide! We were driven in a 4-wheel drive van with a pop-up top, so I could stand up and take pictures.
This was my first real safari and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was expecting to see animals, of course, but nothing really prepared me for the enormous space of the Mara, or of how up close and personal we were able to get to the animals. Since they have learned that these funny-looking two-legged creatures in the noisy contraptions are neither prey nor predator, they mostly ignore us completely…going about their business and allowing us to gawk.
I was able to see more than 30 different animals; most closely enough to get a good look and a good picture. ALL the pictures here were taken with my little point-and-shoot camera.
We saw giraffes before we even got into the boundaries of the reserve…and later saw more, even closer.
As I had hoped, we saw many elephants. There were even a couple of babies…but the mother carefully herded them away as we approached.
We saw several kinds of vultures…some in trees and a bunch feeding on the carcass of a dead elephant.
I got a good shot of a malibu stork, which is the bird I saw flying from a distance on my bird watch last month.
There were other birds, too….a secretary bird and a pair of Egyptian ducks with their little babies, no bigger than feather-balls.
We saw a lot of zebras and wildebeests. This was the end of their big migration (they tend to migrate together) and at one point, we saw a HUGE herd of them walking slowing across the plain. There were also gazelles, impala, antelope and eland.
We came upon a couple of water buffalo, which apparently is one of the more dangerous animals, as they have been known to charge a vehicle! And we also saw some warthogs…and some adorable babies, trotting along after their parents. (“The Kenyan express,” Salaton said.) I was unable to get a picture of the babies, but did get a snapshot of one hog hiding under a bush.
Of course, everyone wants to see the majestic lion. We came upon four different male lions. May I present: The King Of Beasts!
Meanwhile, the female lion had made a kill and was guarding it carefully. There was a flock of vultures nearby, waiting for her to be finished.
We were lucky enough to see a cheetah – although not close enough for a good picture, I was able to view it through my binoculars. It was sitting under a tree, looking like a huge housecat as it licked its paws and yawned.
Later on, we came upon a pair of lions. Salaton said it looked as though they might be getting ready to mate, and indeed, the male put on a great show to the female – approaching her several times with his hips swaying and making huffing sounds. He even went so far as to urinate most spectacularly right in front of her nose (and I got a picture of him doing it!) However, she was unimpressed and merely moved away from him. He sat down again to wait for another opportunity.
Just before lunch, we found a watering hole with at least a dozen hippos! They did not come out of the water (which was probably a good thing) but we could see their heads and ears and hear their snuffling sounds…almost like whales…as they surfaced to breathe.
More animals included a bushback (very rare to see; as they are quite shy…) a jackal, an ostrich (which is HUGE and looks like a mistake in design!), some mongoose and a couple of crocodiles, swimming near the hippos.
We encountered some Maasai boys just as we were having our lunch and gave them all our bread-and-butter sandwiches. I remembered to touch their heads and say “supa” to them – who knows what they thought of me, a mzungu woman with white hair, a big floppy hat and green sunglasses! But they smiled and said “supa” back to me.
It was a fantastic way to end my week in Kenya.