December 12, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C
Had one of the most amazing days of my life, to date. We went for a game drive in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
Driving to park, past barrier, big gate, man with kalashnikov. Entering jurassic park like scene with wide open spaces, short grass, huge sky, acacia tree. This is how I imagined Africa to be. It just seemed ancient and immense.
Almost immediately, we started seeing animals, ostridge, zebras, impala, Thompson gazelles, warthog, wildebeest, and loads more. We then started seeing small herds of antelope types animals. I must admit I’m not very up on the names, yet.
Huge excitement from the guys on the jeep, one, an eagle-eyed one, saw a cheetah and 2 cubs but they were very far away, even with a zoom lens. Even seeing them was a buzz, though.
We see an elephant too but again at a distance. Then another one appeared, then another and another. Soon there was a little herd of them. Two of them started facing off but maybe they were doing something else.
We stop, the top of a tree moving. It’s a giraffe, fairly near to the road. We stop and take photos of these fabulous creatures. I think they were designed for photography as they’re so photogenic.
It’s the rainy season now but it should have ended a long time ago. The paths are very muddy, 4WD is a huge advantage, ours is a Toyota Land Cruiser permanent 4 wheel drive and grinds away like an old tractor and sounds like my knees in the morning. It’s just the job though for the dirt roads and muddy paths around here.
We are in 2 jeeps. Our driver, Alex, is very experienced and handles the jeep expertly, especially the huge muddy ruts. The driver of the other jeep, Lonike, Often’s son and much younger than the other drivers, is less experienced although a sweet guy. He gets stuck twice and has to be helped out. There are several other jeeps around and the drivers know each other. They rib Lonike at every opportunity. It seems good natured, what men around the world do to boys or young men.
Weather is beautiful, blue sky. Lone acacia trees against huge sky and wide open plains. Is for me the iconic African sight.
Huge dark thunderstorm starting on the horizon. Looks awesome and ominous.
Then suddenly, Alex drives faster and soon we are all pitching around in the back of the jeep like we are in a small boat on a stormy sea. What’s going on? We notice all the other jeeps in our area of the reserve, about 15, are converging on one spot. What could it be, I’m wondering.
It’s Highlight no 1 of the trip, so far. It’s a pride of lions eating a recently killed zebra. The kill must have happened a few hours previously because all that was left of the poor zebra was a huge ribcage. There must be plenty of meat left because 4 or 5 lionesses are still tucking in. There is no sign of the male and there are 3 or 4 other lions including a young male on the periphery of the kill, maybe waiting their turn.
We were very close to the kill, about 3 or 4 metres, but the lions seem not to see the jeeps or hear the engines. One jeep wheel dislodges a stone and it makes a noise. The lions immediately look alert. One of our guys, in the other jeep, isn’t aware that his camera’s flash is activated and it goes off when he is taking a photo. The lions immediately notice this and one looks like it might attack, judging by the photo taken.
When we were doing the gorilla trek, the ranger warned us not to use a flash. He said that the gorillas think something is being thrown at them and might attack. Maybe the same thing was going on here.
By this time, it’s getting darkish, not from the dusk but from the approaching storm. Torrential rain soon starts lashing down and thunder thunders and lightning flashes. I find this terribly exciting but it does curtail our viewing of the wildlife. Time to pull the elevating roof down and start back home to the campsite.
We’re thinking that this is the end of our game viewing and I put away my camera and prepare myself for the long bumpy ride home. Now I know why they call it bumpy, ask my bum.
Then, again, commotion. We see a family of cheetahs on the hunt. They are looping purposefully along and Alex chases after them. Like the lions, they ignore the jeeps and continue on their merry way. They stop and start and look around with, what seems to me, alertness. Maybe they’re looking for a kill.
We are about a metre or two from them and it’s such a privilege to view these beautiful creatures in their natural habits on the way to a hunt.
Reluctantly, we move on. I think the rangers don’t want the animals stressed. From what I see, read and directly observe, the rangers seem very dedicated and committed to the task of protecting the wellbeing, safety and continued existence of the wildlife in the game reserves.
It’s getting darker now but not dark yet. We can see OK. Then we spot some elephants very close by, one huge one. We stop and take photos and marvel at these beautiful magnificent creatures.
We arrive back at the camp, Tired, exhilarated and very satisfied. A real African meal is prepared for us which we scoff down. I go to bed early as knackered.
A good day.