Dining with Lions and Leopards – Maasai Mara

One of the last part of my journey through Kenya was the Maasai Mara National Reserve (aka Masai Mara or simply The Mara) a massive 1500 sq km game reserve in the Narok County at Kenya. It is right next to, adjacent with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

The Maasai are the historical inhabitants of the area. Tall and hardy they are a colourful tribe in the way they dress and their simple lives – still making fire the very old fashioned way!

I was staying in a camp just outside the game reserve and it is a jungle camp right in the middle of the Mara land. I have a tent to myself for the four nights I planned to be here. The tents are spread out and right in the middle the Maasai men have a fire lit up while they sit around taking comfort from it’s heat. They have a generator which is on four hours in the morning and for another four in the evening at dinner time. The even have a wifi connection but it is rather slow and I could barely send a few e mails. There is also a large dining hall which is another tent and somewhat aptly the TV there is tuned on to National Geographic wild life shows. Dinner is served at 7:30 pm till 8:30 pm and then lights out by 10:00 pm. It’s a very chilled, indulgent sort of a camp and you could enjoy on your own or chat with other guests from time to time if all the solo travelling is getting to you.

Breakfast is served at 6:30 am and most people venture out after that into the reserve to catch a glimpse of the animals. There were several people from around the world and some were obviously super pro photographers. For novice photographers like me it is overwhelming to see the sizes of some of the lenses these folks are carrying. I saw some really huge bazooka style lenses with their cameras. My camera though a DSLR looked like the proverbial mouse in front of their paraphernalia.

The South Koreans seemed to have got it right they wear face masks all the time, protecting them from the dust and the germs of an alien land. I have managed to stay disciplined during my stay at the camp. Getting up on time, eating on time and fully participating in the activities of the day. Morning and evening’s are a bit nippy with a chill in the air. But the afternoon can get hot as I realised when I wandered into the forest near the Mara lake.

It was hot and sticky with flies buzzing around my face , more i would swat them , the more they would come back to irritate me. The beauty of Masaai Mara is to see the variety of Gods creatures surviving together. Well knit by nature and the circle of life. Each one has  a unique place in the habitat and contributes to the entire eco system. The predator and the prey together on the same land and amongst them all us and man trying to get a peek into the world of wild beasts.

This is also the right weather as animal migration happens at this time and the intrepid traveller can see thousands of animals seemingly walking in single file crossing the vast savannah.

After two days of hectic but enjoyable safari we have some rest time where one does nothing much, not me at least. I chilled out in my tent with a book and admired the pictures I had shot.

We have been advised to zip up our tents in the night to safe guard from the baboons who frequent the camp at night staling and creating general havoc. Apart from that it’s a pretty safe place I might add. On my day of rest – that bit of Sabbath in the Savannah I had, I reached a final conclusion. This is the mother of all  safaris. The sheer size, the resplendent natural surroundings, the whole cradle of humanity thing, the diversity of the fauna. With out a doubt this is an adventure that cannot be missed and deserves a bucket listing!

After a day of rest in the wilderness of the park it was me feasting and dinning with the wild cats of Africa again. I woke up to munching on my cheese sandwiches and I knew it was going to be a long and hard day.

My driver and I started at 7:30  am for the deep inside of the Game Reserve. The first thing that hits you when you enter the gates of the reserve is the vastness and space of Masaai Mara and the animals. It is like a sea of wild beasts, Zebras, Deer, Antelope’s, Gazelle.

There were probably more but those were who I recognized !  The safari takes you so close to the animals that if you really wanted to perhaps you could kiss them, not that it would be advisable of course because the operative word here is animals that are wild!

At points you feel like you are  bang in the middle of the action with them. I had seen now a life times worth of water buck and zebras but there was not a Lion to be spied!

The Lion King where was he to be seen? Perhaps having his breakfast and all we needed to do was to identify his kill. Yes to get to the Lion first get to his kill I thought. You can know a kill has been made when you see vultures hovering over a spot in the air. One knows instantly that must be the carcass of the wildebeest or antelope, just killed by the lion.

The vultures begin tot flock towards the dead carcass to eat it and so do other scavengers like the Hyena . One instantly knows that the Lion will be around either resting in the shade or drinking water at the near by watering hole.  These muddy watering holes are their through out this savannah and are the life blood of it’s wild animals. We spotted a lion resting under some shade. I clicked away as my driver brought us just meters away from each other.The lion opened his eyes to see the commotion , but must have been tired after the kill , so he went back to sleep.

My driver was determined to show me every nook and cranny of this great land and spot every animal that existed in ti’s territory . We just kept going deeper and deeper into the Mara , till we reached the Kenya -Tanzania border.

Then we drove up though the maze of the migrating animals to the Mara Lake. This is the Masai Mara lake , which houses a huge colony of Hippo’s all swimming together and amongst them are huge crocodiles , floating in the water.

I was handed over the the rangers here , who look me around the lake and into the forest for a hour long walk .I got a better view of the animal’s from these different vantage points.

Then it was leopard chasing time . This time we spotted a family of five leopards sitting near each other under trees . On the other side a leopard had recently killed a deer and was licking the blood of his face.

I took some photo’s of this feasting and carnage . The leopard then got up and just walked passed our SUV. As we moved on we were in for a real treat Elephants and a huge Giraffe just ran in front of us. Then we saw two ostriches trying to mate with each other, as Zebra’s kept cutting our path . This was really being in Lion King the film and was loving every bit of it. We spent over ten hour’s meandering through the rough terrain of the Masai Mara and I can confidently say I did not miss a thing .

On the way I witnessed the most beautiful sunset one can see as we headed  back to our Jungle Camp. I was tired but very satisfied with the experience , i could never imagine coming this close to wild animals , a truly mind boggling experience.

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