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  • Day4

    Maasai Mara: Day 2

    September 19, 2019 in Kenya ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Another early start. This is starting to feel like a theme to our African journey. But, we don’t mind the 5am wake up call since we’ll be spending the whole day in the park on safari and get to see the colourful sunrise over the Maasai Mara.

    Almost immediately after leaving our accommodation our van is surrounded by a herd elephants. Turning off the engine, we silently watch these magnificent beasts munching down on their morning grub, leafs. One lets out a big fart and we all giggle like school kids.

    Venturing into the park we come across a herd of lions also enjoying their morning meal. Unlike the elephants they’ve opted out of the vegetarian option and have instead selected a wildebeest from the a la carte menu. A pack of hyenas can be seen on the sidelines hoping to get some of the leftover scraps. Their joined by a flock of vultures that circle over head and hangout in the trees. Are we in the Lion King or what?!

    Richie is on the radio talking to the rangers about what animals they’ve found. It seems to be protocol that you let the other drivers know if you’ve spotted something big. He puts the car in drive and speeds through the dirt roads of the park. Something good has obviously been spotted and our adrenaline is pumping. As we rush to follow the queue of cars, we’re told there’s a leopard in a tree. There are hundreds of trees that are about 300 metres away though. So it’s a bit difficult to actually see this sleeping leopard without superhero vision.

    By luck, another leopard was spotted a few kilometres away in a dried up river bed. On our way there we are able to see hundreds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, and impala. It’s quite impressive but hard to appreciate them as they’re literally everywhere and don’t appear to be quite as majestic as a leopard.

    After queuing up to see the leopard, we go on a mad hunt for a rhino. We spot something in the distance and drive forward to investigate only to find a decaying buffalo on the ground. Oh well. We’ve heard their quite difficult to come by in the Maasai Mara as they usually hangout in the Tanzanian side in the Serengeti, so we aren’t too disappointed when we can’t find one. This doesn’t stop Richie from going off road and driving like a mad man through the bush.

    As we bump along in the back, slightly concerned that Richie might hit a hidden animal, the radio goes mad. Could it be a rhino? As we speed through the bush we spot some other jeeps in the distance. Damn, we think. They beat us here. Richie tells us its unfortunately not a rhino but a bush leopard that is quite rare to see. Unfortunately, it’s laying down under a tree so it’s difficult to see. As we all try to lean our heads out of the car to get a glimpse, Richie proceeds to drive through the bush, right past all the other vehicles in the queue to get right next up next to the leopard. We can tell by the yelling at the radio that the other guides are not impressed by this maneuver that Richie pulled.

    Driving off to avoid any conflict, we pull up next to an almost-dry riverbed where hundreds of wildebeest are gathered. It seems they are trying to make their way down into the riverbed to quench their thirst and begin their trek to the Serengeti. Timid animals, it takes one to lead the herd down the hill into the riverbed. Any sense of danger or hesitation leads the pack to retrieve their steps and head back up the hill and away from their destination point. We watch this back and forth happen for about 20 minutes. All seems to be going well when a good portion of the pack make it down the hill and gather in the riverbed with their friends. It’s precisely at this time of confidence that another safari truck proceeds to drive through the pack, thereby causing a chain reaction of fear among the herd. All those who made it to the riverbed are now sprinting back up the slope to rejoin the pack. Better luck next time we suppose. But we can’t help feeling a sense of guilt as we saw first hand how safaris are disrupting nature and it’s wildlife.

    We’re starving by this point so we set off to the river to have our lunch. Here, we are joined by hippos and alligators that we watch from afar while enjoying our packed lunch (a bread roll with butter since that’s what vegetarians in Africa eat). The predators below aren’t half as scary as the vervet monkeys that want to get their hands on our food though. Thankfully, the rangers who are there to take us on a walking tour are also trained experts in scaring monkeys away so none of them get their hands on our plentiful lunch.

    The ranger that leads our group has a monotone voice and bears no smile on our face. He lets us know almost immediately that tips for the rangers are encouraged. As he leads us down the path and to a bridge where we can take some photos we are told limited facts about the wildlife and about his role as a ranger. We learn that you have to take a course for a year before coming a ranger and you must be from Kenya. This is disappointing news for Chris who is dressed in the same outfit as the park rangers and was hoping for an uncomplicated career change.

    Nearing the end of the day we set back towards the entrance of the camp. On our way we are mesmerized by the site of a dead zebra on the ground that’s attracted vultures from far and wide. They’ve managed to peck open the zebras body and one bird even proceeds to stick its head in so deep that half of its body disappears into the carcass. As disgusting as it was to see we couldn’t take our eyes off it. If only Sir David Attenborough was here to narrate this magnificent scene.

    Just when we think the day can’t get better we pull up directly next to a family of lions. Our presence doesn’t seem to disturb them too much as they continue napping. Richie turns off the car as silences the radio. Instead of letting the other drivers know of our discovery he lets us have this moment just to ourselves with the lions.

    A similar moment happens again not too far away when our car is surrounded again by a family of elephants. It’s amazing, yet terrifying, when they come within feet of the car. We all keep quiet and watch in awe as the elephants set off into the sunset.

    Our day draws to close sitting around the camp fire with a cold tusker lager in hand. Some men from the Maasai tribe join us and tell us about their cultural traditions. They reminisce about the days in which young boys were forced to live in the bush and could only return when they killed a lion. Returning to the village with the mane, they were officially transformed into men. Although this practice is no longer prohibited as lions are now protected, the Maasai still pride themselves on this tradition. When we ask them some questions about when this practice stopped or what they do now to become men, each Maasai had different answers. Instead they directed the conversation towards buying souvenirs from them.

    Although it’s not even 8pm, we decide to retire to bed to avoid this conversation. Tired from the long day, we fall asleep almost instantly.
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