This is THE place

Trip Start Dec 19, 2008
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Trip End Dec 19, 2009


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Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday 27th July. Up at 6am and packed on the road by 7am we headed south west to the Maasai Mara area where the national park lies on the edge of the Maasai village of Talek. The park is bordered by the Talek River and there are no fences just natural borders or rivers all the way to Tanzania where the park becomes the Serengeti national park. We entered the gate and drove through the park and on the way saw zebras, gazelles, water buffalo, wildebeest and birds as a taste of the parks wildlife. Out across the Talek River we passed a Maasai village and arrived at the Gametrackers campsite which was solar powered and had little huts and tents there with toilet and showers. Being the only people there we were given a hut which was great as had a double bed and would be great as we spent 3 nights here. After lunch we went on a game drive from 4pm till 6.30 pm when the park closes. We went deeper into the park and saw the thousands of wildebeest mixed with zebras migrating in long lines from the Serengeti deeper into the Maasai Mara for grazing on grass which grows after the April rains. The migration occurs in July/August and the animals return to Serengeti in October. This year the rains were less so the grasses less so many of the animals were moving back and forth looking for feed. However in either direction the numbers were astonishing and as far as the eye could see across the plains of the savannahs long lines of the wildebeests and zebras where moving. I had bought a small pair of binoculars in Nairobi and these were excellent to get close up views of the animals as the trucks must stick to the dirt roads and not interfere with the savannahs or the animals in anyway. The park is massive and it was great that we had 3 days to see it. So I will condense the next 3 days here and talk about the sights we saw.

Tuesday and Wednesday 28 and 29th July. At night we had dinner and were in bed by 8pm as we had early starts and were in the park on 2 days by 7.30 and on one day at opening at 6.30 am which was a day we saw the balloons at sunrise, 5 of them going up but at a cost of 425 US dollars we declined the ride. At night we could here lots of noises as there were no fences and as we camped on the river the animals crossed sometimes into the camp so the camp had 3 Maasai warriors as guards to keep the animals out. These tall men carried their weapons of a spear; machete and club so were well armed. Over the 3 nights we heard hyenas, baboons and elephants and even saw the elephants just down from our hut in the river and the Maasai chased them away. Next morning on the 6.30 start we saw the family of elephants returning into the park from near our camp and we had wonderful close up views as they crossed the road by our truck. In all, the elephant group numbered 13 with the big bull and females herding and protecting the young elephants as they moved across to the safety of trees. On game drives we saw beautiful giraffes grazing and with their young ones, huge groups of zebras also with young, many Thompson's gazelles with their wagging tails and other hoofed animals such as Topi, Impala, Eland, and hartebeest. We also saw spotted hyenas, jackals, warthogs, water buffalo, and the odd rhino here and there and in the river Mara massive hippo groups wallowing in the water. On one day we went to the Mara river which is close to the Tanzania border and the park ranger (armed) took us on a walk to the river bank where we saw crocodiles and very large ones and hippos .The crossing point where the wildebeest cross the river is here and the crocs sit in wait as they cross and attack. We had seen this event on documentaries and it was great to see it in real life .Both the hippos and crocs are dangerous and hence the armed walk along the bank. This was the only time we were allowed out of the truck in the park. By far the most amazing up close sights were the lions we saw on a number of different occasions with a kill. One group had killed a zebra and were eating it – big male and hi lioness and on another a wildebeest had been killed and the group was around it. Another occasion we saw a group by the river –juveniles playing in the river and up top big male and lioness resting and looking at us in the truck. At each of the lion sites loads of trucks pull up like us vying for a look. The animals don’t seem to care about the trucks and are used to them as they are no threat. At other points in the park we saw cheetahs, one on its own and on another occasion we saw 2 hiding in a group of bushes near a group of zebra and wildebeest. The birdlife was interesting too as we saw ostriches walking across the grasses, eagles, vultures, secretary birds which travel in pairs walking looking for snakes to eat, marabou storks, southern ground hornbills- big black birds with red trim bashing a turtle to break it up to eat it, amazing. There were loads of brightly small starlings and finches. Late one afternoon we saw a group of over a dozen striped mongooses crossing the long grasses looking for snakes. It is probably boring you all now with the list but I can say seeing these animals has been such a highlight that it is hard not to rant. These animals and their habitats are threatened as Kenya has been deforested and is in drought as a result and the pattern of lessening rainfall is removing the grasses and feed for the animals so I am grateful that I have seen them before the environment is unable to support them. We saw evidence of the drought and the low rivers and dried up water holes and the grass less and more yellow having dried out.
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