My anxiety over East Africa has subsided. This is a place of great peace and tranquility and is refreshing. All kinds of animals and birds exist against a backdrop of endless golden expanses of grasses. This is quintessential Africa! I like this and understand why so many come to visit this gentle land.
Our wake up call came promptly at 6am. I slept amazingly well listening to the animal cries through my window all night. I heard the moan of lions, barking of hyenas, trumpeting of elephants, and a new sound, low moans of hipposfrom the Mara River below. The morning was surprisingly cold (about 50 F). We dressed, had that great Kenyan coffee, then met up with our guide, Fredrick, for a morning game drive.
We drove out into the beautiful morning and golden grass spotting the usual wildlife but this time with a stunning backdrop of grasses and scattering of acacias. All the wildlife looked so much better in this landscape, in this illumination. We stepped out of our vehicle on a bank above the Mara River to observe huge, lumbering hippo. Looking like large black boulders, they just lay motionless, partially submerged. The bulls watched us closely. A few came down the steep, muddy embankment on their stubby legs. They forage a few kilometers away from the river at night. We saw a few crocodiles near the hippos, but they kept their distance. We drove away from the river and over a few lions relaxing on a small mound. Two of the pride members left the mound and headed casually in the direction of a large zebra herd. We watched with binoculars hoping to see some action. Within a few hundred meters of the zebra, the lions separated and moved more stealthy, crouching down just below the tops of the grasses. The zebra occasionally lift their heads and the lions would freeze their motion. When the zebra continued to graze, the Lions moved ever closer. Within 50 meters, several of the lookout zebras let out a loud bray and the herd divided quickly into two and ran in opposite directions. One of the lions sprang forward at a fast pace but the zebras were much faster and after a very short chase the lion gave up and casually walked back toward her pride. We drove back to the lodge for breakfast.
After breakfast we drove to a Maasai village on outskirts of the park. The Maasai are not permitted to live in the park. On the way to the village we passed fields of grass and picturesque acacia. We passed herds of buffalo, occasional wildebeest, herds of tope and impala, giraffes, zebra, and Warthogs. It was getting hot and a little humid. There was a haze now settled upon the plains obscuring an otherwise great view. The village was about twice the size of the one we visited in Amboseli. I counted 30 dung huts. The tribe consisted of a number of brothers, their wives and children. The elders welcomed us and took us into the village. We were brought to the center which was deep in cow dung. Beside their cattle, this tribe counts the dung as a valuable asset which they sell. We were shown, the now, usual demonstration of making fire with wooden sticks. There was the usual welcome dance by the women. We were then invited into one of the dung huts. It was more spacious then the one in Amboseli. There was a small outer room for some domestic animals. Inside was a cooking fire giving off smoke to keep the mosquitoes away. It was stifling hot inside and I could not wait to get out. Outside the men performed a dance that included the jumping contest. We then went behind the village where the villagers sat in a large circle selling their wares. My wife went to each person and made her selections while her personal shopper stood by. While she was shopping spoke with a Maasai. Of interest is that the Maasai seriously believe that all cattle in the world belong to Maasai. He said that they are entitled to rustle cattle from other tribes. Fredrick, however, told me that the Kenyan government treats cattle rustling as a serious crime so the Maasai have restricted rustling between Maasai tribes keeping it away from the attention of the police. My wife was in heavy negotiations with the tribal elders over her proposed purchases. We finally settled the bill for the treasures and headed back to the lodge.
It was now mid-July, and we were well into the famous migration of ruminants from the Serengeti to the Masaai and Trans Mara. Paralleling this the lodge prices increase by two to three fold on July first. While we have seen lots of animals we have not seen anything resembling a migration. Our guide said that the migration has not yet reached this far north. Since our journey covers the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Trans Mara I am hoping to spot the herds at some point.
Our afternoon game drive was much the usual. It was now very hot, and very dusty. We stopped by the portion of the Mara River made famous by nature documentaries for crocodile attacks upon crossing migrating wildlife. While the masses of the migration have not reached this far, there were lingering herds of grazing zebra and wildebeest near the river. While we watched a couple of Zebra moved cautiously to the river’s edge. They watched the river, sniffed the air, were startled at the least noise or movement. After about half an hour one started to walk ever so slowly into the river stopping every few inches to look around. I could plainly see two very large Nile crocodiles on the opposite shore and wondered why the zebra had not noticed. Finally, the zebra moved into the water up to its stomach. Suddenly, the large croc jumped into the water rushing toward the zebra. Not a very good hunter, as there was at least a 10 meter gap to cover. The zebra practically exploded out of the water, giving almost a human-like scream as it ran. That caused the large neighboring herds of zebra and wildebeest to instinctively run in the opposite direction, despite not knowing what the alarm was about. We hung out a little while longer, but none of the animals returned. We spent the next half-hour watching the hippos at the bend in the river. I was particularly interested in photographing them yawning to expose those massive saber-like teeth. We drove out into the savannah and ran across a female lion on the hunt. It walked within inches beside our slow moving car and did not even seem to notice us. I gave much thought to reaching out and touching its backside through the window but not know how fast it might react I thought better of it. We came upon the biggest Elephant we have seen so far. It was massive. Fredrick thought he might be in his 50s. He was alone, incontinent and not very happy about our presence. We pulled to the side of the road and I photographed him. He was getting angry. He flared his ears, threw dirt on his back, moved his legs up and down and his head rapidly from side to side. I was in hysterics over these “scary” antics. Finally, he gave an eardrum-crushing trumpet. Fredrick was laughing until the elephant trumpeted and said it was time to go before the elephant damaged the car. We headed back along the dusty trails toward our lodge. Along the way was the most stunning sunset I have ever seen. A beautiful orange sky, with a large orange solar disk and, just on queue, a quickly moving herd of Giraffe. I was in photography heaven as I clicked away. Fredrick drove faster to head off the herd so I could get the right angle for my shots. One of the photographs I took was probably the best I have ever taken. What a beautiful scene!
My wife and daughter went to dinner while I went to the room. I wanted to write this passage. I was also stuffed from all the eating and no exercise, I was cooked from the heat, and I was coated with an inch of dust. While writing this there was distant thunder, then lightening and finally a very strong rain. An hour later it was gone and the barking of hyena and noise of the insects were back as was a cooling breeze. It is this rain that makes the north side of the Serengeti plains attract the migration this time of year.