Masai Mara

Trip Start May 31, 2008
1
79
107
Trip End Jun 01, 2009


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Saturday, February 14, 2009

We have visitors again!  Virginia and Russ are joining us for a few weeks in East Africa, and we are looking forward to hearing tidbits from home and sharing some beers with old friends.

Africa is synonymous with safari, and seeing wild animals was one of the main reasons we decided to travel here.  Benedict, our driver and guide picked us up early in the morning from Nairobi, and we were off to the famous Masai Mara National Park.  We stopped in the Great Rift Valley on the way (they always add "Great", and after seeing the views from the escarpment I can understand why).  I was pleasantly surprised at our permanent camp accommodations.  Nice beds, mosquito nets, windows with screens...attached bathroom!  Either my standards have gone down, or I get very excited about the little things!

Our first game drive at night was an experience I will never forget.  Though everything was beautiful to see, the pride of lions took the top prize for me.  We wandered over and saw them snoozing early on in the drive (they sleep a lot apparently).  And then got a call, saw many safari vans all hustling in the same direction (much like a herd themselves), joined the vans, and saw the pride eat a warthog!  It was only then that I saw how many lions were in the pride!  Two lioness, and probably six cubs of varying sizes.  The giraffes soon became a favourite of Virginia's too!  Dinner was beef again (the meat of choice here), so I had to load up on filler instead of killer as Calvin would say.

We spent all of the second day in the park.  And though it's a somewhat arbitrary measure of safari success, we saw four of the big five.  My favourite sites included:
1)  A row of giraffes in the horizon with two old male giraffes leading and trailing a very large family.  You can tell how old a giraffe is by the colour of their spots: darker is older.
2)  The pride of lions from yesterday playing in the bush.  The cubs were chasing each others tails, and one determined one was gnawing on the remnants of the warthog carcass from last night.  He didn't want to let it go!
3)  Elephants and their calves!  Super close.  Do I need to say more?  Virginia went picture happy at this point and needed an intervention.
4) Black Rhino - one of the Big Five, and uncommon to see.  The rhino walked in front of our safari van!  They look so pre-historic, like dinosaurs.
5)  A herd of buffaloes with all these birds eating ticks from their hides.  If I was to reclassify the big five, I would bump the buffalo and add the giraffe.
6)  Herd of hippos cooling themselves in the water.  They looked like giant rocks in the pictures, so we had to take a few videos.
7)  At the end of the day, as we were heading home, Virginia hoped to see a spotted cat.  She wanted to see either a cheetah or leopard, but didn't want to be choosy about which one we got to see.  Unfortunately, she made her wish a little too vague, and we did see a spotted cat - the serval.  The small mammal wasn't exactly what she had in mind, and she was a little mad at the universe for finding a loophole in her wish!

Russ has also become a birder, but is having a hard time grasping the concept of identifying the birds.  They are all one of the following: little bird, big bird, zombie duck (Egyption Goose), ugly bird, birds with names (ie penguins).

We went to Lake Nakuru on the last day of the safari to see the white rhino and flamingos.  We decided that anything in too large a quantity is no longer pretty, and that was definitely the case with the  hoards of water birds that day.  The pelicans and marabu storks just littered the shores of the lake, and Virginia started to get a bit freaked out.  But we also saw the almost endangered white rhino (a few times with their calves!), and that was a real highlight.  The sea of pink where the flamingos were was also quite the site.

Two camera cards full, hundreds of pictures, and safari dust all over us - what an experience!
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