Hiace Safari - Masai Mara
Trip Start Aug 09, 2005
67Trip End Aug 09, 2006
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We left Ethiopia and landed back in Nairobi Kenya ... first thing on the agenda was to set about organising extra passport pages as we have none left!! We visited the Irish Consulate Office which turned out to be a prefab office in the front of a diesel workshop ... times must be hard for the Irish Ambassadors!! Not kidding though the Consulate was in a very dodgy area of town about 5kms from central Nairobi ... guess location isn't everything when it comes to office space and important work can be done anywhere even in a diesel workshop!!! But the upside was that there was a very helpful representative in the workshop, who although couldn't personally help in our plight of needing extra pages, did get us information on where and who could help us and so in a way she has helped us plan some of our route through East Africa. Turns out there is an Irish Embassy in Kampala, Uganda and they can issue us a temporary passport ..
Happy now that we can "Keep on keeping on like a bird that flew, tangled up in blue..." with our travels with no worries about where the next visa or country stamps will fit we wandered about Nairobi visiting a few Safari companies, accompanied by 2 shadows who leeched onto us the first day we arrived. 'Peter and Tito' brought us to some of their favourite companies, that is those who would give them some commission for bringing foreigners into their office - if we booked a safari with their company. They shadowed us until we finally gave in and booked a 4 day Safari with one of their favourites. But we did get a good deal and so Peter, Tito, and us all ended up happy!!
So the next morning we were off to the Masai Mara National Park for a 3 day Game drive and a 4th day Game drive in the Nakura National park, with promises of seeing the Big 5 and much more in our Hiace Safari van with a 'Pop-up' roof!!! The road from Nairobi to the park is probably the most potholed road in the world ... the daily entrance fees of $30 into the park certainly aren't being used to improve the road to the park. Just outside the Masai Mara Park we were already seeing Zebra, Giraffe, and Wildebeest. Our guide told us that they had moved out of the park area to avoid being food for the Lions. The long rainy season is just finishing and everywhere is very lush and green, the grass is tall and is at its best for Lions, Cheetahs, and Leopards who can hide and mount surprise attacks on the animals. We were caught up in a large downpour, it was beautiful and sunny one moment then suddenly it changed and our Hiace was slip sliding along in the mud. As we slid sideways around one bend we were face to face with a Leopard who was sitting happily in the middle of the 'track' and seemingly enjoying the rain!
About a half hour later we arrived at our campsite, dropped off the bags and headed out again on our first game drive. The guide popped up the roof of the Hiace (it had finally stopped raining) so that we could all stand up in the van and have a 360 view. The Masai Mara is a beautiful landscape at this time of the year, rolling hills dotted with trees and bush, and everywhere varying shades of green and yellow tall grass. We set off in search of Lions ... which we found though they kept themselves well hidden in the long grass. We next saw a lone Bull Elephant who had been ejected from his group probably because he was aggressive or bad tempered with the calves or adolescent males. So now he's left to wander the Masai alone. Soon thereafter we came across a small pack of adolescent Lions; the guide said they were between 2-4 years old, no longer under their mother's care, too old to stay with the original pride
Next our attention was turned to the many beautiful and varied hoofed animals of the Masai. Here are numerous kinds of 'same but different' we saw Impala, Hartebeest, Topi, Thomsons Gazelle, and Wildebeest. The day was fast drawing to a close so headed back for the camp but we were treated to a magnificent Kenyan sunset over the Masai Mara hills and plains to end day 1 of an excellent first Game drive in Africa.
Day 2 was an all-day drive across the Masai to the Mara River and the Tanzanian Border where the Masai Mara turns into the Serengeti NP. The morning drive began with us spotting a family of Cheetah, a mother with her 2 seven month old cubs and an eager male who is hoping to woo the mother away from the cubs ..
Throughout the morning drive to the Mara River we tried to spot another leopard, searching them out in trees, but all we found were the leftovers of a Thompson Gazelle, whose skeletal remains dangled from a branch ... a telltale sign that a leopard has dined here. Almost at the river we stopped to watch some Masai giraffe munching on Acacia treetops. It was amazing to watch them, felt like a Jurassic Park moment as they sauntered through the trees. At the river we were greeted by several hundred hungry Hippos, bobbing up and down in the water, and then completely submerging for a stroll along the river bed before surfacing again in an explosion of gurgles and bubbles. They are huge animals, not even their crocodile neighbours mess with them!!!
After lunch with the Hippos we started along another dirt track, and crossed paths with some more Giraffe and yet another solo Bull Elephant, this one was busy stuffing himself with huge mouthfuls of grass, not bothered by our presence, and even passed right beside us without even a sideward glance
Day 3, our last morning in the Masai, started with an early game drive at dawn. We packed up the hiace and headed off, and came across the same family of Cheetah. They hadn't moved an inch since yesterday, but now the male was between the cubs and the mother ... looks like his persistence won the females affection. The cubs no longer seemed to be her priority. We left the happy couple and the now hungry cubs, to go in search of more Lions. Passed out by the side of a track, we found our Lion King deep in slumber and seemingly unaware of the Hiace chaos about him. He had a beautiful mane and was an impressive beast. As more vans arrived on the scene, noise escalated, disturbing the sleeping beauty, at which point he forced open one eye to scan the area. Slowly slowly (Pole Pole a phrase often used by the natives) he lifted himself and turned tail in disgust disappearing into the tall grass, to rest again under a nearby tree.
Our time in the Masai was over; we hit the very bad potholed road again this time heading north to Lake Nakuru, specifically to see the Rhino's and 2 million flamingoes!!
Next we visited some herds of Buffalo, Zebra, and Impala that were grazing by the Lake shore... We hadn't seen any buffalo in the Masai and very few Zebras so this was an added bonus for us to see them now. A lot of the animals had young off spring dawdling along behind them, and even hiding behind them when frightened by the approaching white hiace animal!!!!
Next up was the huge White Rhino
More excitement came later that morning, we had just visited a lookout point, which gave a beautiful vista of the park, after which we started to drive some of the lake circuit. Suddenly the guide slammed on the brakes, made a 3 point turn, and we fled at top speed in the opposite direction. We instantly knew he had heard something over the radio...... it was something big, but he didn’t say a word. There were a couple of vans pulled up at the side of the track, everyone standing rigid, and looking up into a nearby tree. "It’s a leopard.... look up in the tree" the guide explained, excited himself as it was the first leopard he had seen in Lake Nakuru NP
If you've actually read this far, you'll have guessed by now that the safari was excellent and that we enjoyed every single minute of it. We've been privileged to see the big 5 in the wild, travel through beautiful landscapes, and also enjoy the parks during low season..... Which definitely added to the overall experience. From Nakuru we head west to Uganda to spend a few days in Kampala, our priority to visit the Irish Embassy and organise temporary passports as 10 months on we've run out of pages!!!