Trip Start Nov 03, 2011
23Trip End Nov 11, 2011
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Cory and I were up before the sun. I love having the coffee machine in the tent. we started the morning with a hot cup of coffee sitting on the front porch of our tent. As the sun started to stream through the trees the birds started to sing. After having plenty of time to wake up we headed town the path to the restaurant. After a filling breakfast we were in the van again for a morning game drive.
Right out of the box we saw a cheetah but this one wasn't too cooperative. He didn't seem interested in us and our view of him was mostly the back of his head. We had been hearing about the go-away bird, named after his call that sounds like "go away", from Nicholas but finally this morning we get to see the Bare-faced Go away turaco. In fact we got to see two of them together.
Our next big find was a herd of Hartebeest. There were two calves that looked to be twins. In fact we have seen babies of most of the animals. Baby elephants, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, lion and even rhino. I was so worried that since we were coming at the end of the great migration that we wouldn't see many animals at all. Our safari couldn't be better if it was organized by Walt Disney himself. We are getting to see all the animals but none of the carnage. I know that a lot of people go to Africa to see a kill but I would much rather see happy and full lions and families of hartebeest. It is amazing how in just one area you have zebra, topi, wildebeest, tommies and crowned crane.
It isn't very long until we see the hot air balloons. There are a couple of people on the tour that decided to do the hot air balloon ride. It was $450 a person and seemed totally ridiculous to me. The view from the ground is amazing. The area is flat so you can see animals for miles but it is when you are up close that it is really amazing. If you are in a balloon you are only putting more distance between you and the animals. Not to mention there is something truly beautiful about being able to see the balloons come up over the horizon with the animals in front of them. This is view that you would not be able to photograph if you were in the balloon. Actually I guess I am thankful that people have different desires and I am glad that there are people that wanted to do the balloon because they have given us an amazing view. Nick had discussed riding in one of the other vans that now had more seats but we insisted he stayed with us. This was our last day and we were going to stay together.
OMG just when we thought it was not going to happen it did. It wasn't because we were looking for it and it wasn't where we thought it would be but we finally saw it. The very last day and there it was in the grasses. Its rosette dotted skin was unmistakable. It was the elusive leopard. We were all mesmerized. At first it was in the distance. We didn't care. It was a leopard and we were seeing it. Now I am really thankful I am not up in that balloon. We were in no hurry to go anywhere. We sit for hours just mesmerized by every moment. Oh look he is yawning. Oh look he is scratching. Everything was amazing. Suddenly he got up and started walking. As he headed over the berm we thought that was it but Nicholas took the road around to the other side. There he was checking out a den. We sat there watching him until he headed back over the berm. We went back to where we were before and he came right toward us. He kept coming, closer and closer until he was crossing the road right in front of our van. He was within 3 feet of our van. Our hearts were pounding, our breath was short and our bodies were shaking. Amazing. Then he sauntered right back into the bush and out of our lives.
We had all afternoon to enjoy the Sarova Mara Camp. We started off with exploring the main buildings.
We headed out to the bridge. I had thought that it only led to more tents but as we continued out we found the edge of the camp surrounded by a game proof fence. On the other side were zebra and gazelle. We even spotted a wart hog in the distance. It is hard to believe that our tents are this close to the wild animals. I thought our tent was luxurious but the tents on the outer edge of the camp, the ones that face right on to the Mara are amazing. They have french doors in place of the zippered front and the porch isn't just the slab that the tent is sitting on it is a real porch with timbered railing but it is the view that I envy. They look out on the Mara. I could imagine sitting for hours just looking out on the Mara waiting for the animals to come to you.
The property has several public areas. They have a salt lick set up on the other side of the game proof fence so you can sit in camp and watch the animals come up on the other side. The convention area is cool There is a huge fire pit set up. How amazing would it be to have a team building around a big camp fire in the middle of Kenya.
I am so amused by the bathroom signs. They are carved figures of tribes people but if you are looking for the ladies restroom you better look for the boobs. Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to end up in the right bathroom.
Cory and I were checking out everything from the smallest of ants and millipedes to the beautiful flowers and plants. We were even checking out the rocks. Right now our project that we are working on at home is making landscaping rocks for the flower beds. The rocks here in Kenya are exactly the look that we are trying to recreate. We are getting lots of ideas.
There were all kinds of birds flying through the trees and I spotted a blue and red bird. It was so beautiful and its tail was more like a streamer. It had shoved itself into this tiny little nest and it sat perched there like a stuffed mushroom cap.
It was time for lunch. I still can't believe the quality and amount of food we have had on this trip. It is almost as bad as a cruise. I am hoping that the bumpy roads are going to work as a sort of Pilate's type exercise. I know my gluts are hurting from clinching so tightly to the seats trying to keep my balance on some of the most bumpy roads I have ever ridden on. The excitement of seeing the animals has certainly gotten my heart rate up but I don't think that is going to count as aerobic exercise. I guess I have one more thing I am going to have to work on when I get home.
After lunch we decide to spend a little time in our tent. We just opened it up and sat for a while out front. As we sat on the front porch I decided to throw out the leftover crushed salt and vinegar chips from our stash of snacks. On one of the long drives Cory had gone into the gas station and purchased some snacks. I thought it might bring in the birds. It was only moments after throwing out the chips and sitting back in our chairs that a dik-dik walked right out of the woods. He started greedily sucking up every chip he could find. I felt pretty guilty. I know better than to feed the animals but I didn't think a few chips for the birds would be a disaster. Oops. Still it was amazing to be this close to the one animal at the beginning of this trip that I was sure I would never see again. It is only fitting that the pun of all of our jokes came right to the door of our tent.
So it is with mixed emotions that we head out on our very last game drive. It is hard to believe that it is really over. As we are getting on the van I ask Nicholas what the little red and blue bird I found was and showed him the photos. He got very excited and said it was a Paradise Flycatcher. He seemed sincerely excited and asked where its nest was. I explained it was over the water where the bridge crosses. I don't really know if it is a bird not normally spotted or just one of his favorites but it made me feel good to think I had something very unique.
We head out and it isn't long until we are caught up in a traffic jam caused by a herd of elephants. We took a path around them saw some Egyptian geese some Ruppell's vultures, some topi one with a newborn until finally finding a tribe of lions.
We were closer than ever to this tribe and they were very active. If there were just a way to bottle the way I feel right now. Excited, anxious, satisfied, at one with nature and in opposition with it all at once, feeling like a part of nature and feeling like an observer, feeling as if you are the only person seeing this even though you are in the midst of other people and other vans. You feel this indescribable hum or energy going through you. I don't know how long we watched the lions but eventually they got to a point where all we were seeing was their backs silhouetted against the sky so we moved on.
There was a group of safari vehicles in the distance. You could always tell there was something good when you saw them piled up like that. We headed across the Mara and found out that there were cheetah and hyena. They were all just laying around. We watched for a while and suddenly two of the Range Rovers lunged forward straight toward the hyena. I understood that the drivers were trying to please their tourists but I hated seeing it. It scared the hyena. Yes it did cause the hyena to jump up and move on. I am sure they got great photos of the hyena running but I hated it.
I had to wonder what tourism had done to the lives of all of these animals. There are always two sides to everything. Tourism dollars keep people employed which pays extra rangers and keeps down the poaching. Without tourism the reserves would probably be whittled down until there was no land at all for these free ranging animals. Yet seeing two cheetah surrounded by 5 or 6 vehicles, trucks in between the lion and their prey you can't help but believe we are an interference. I am grateful to be here and if tourism wasn't so popular there wouldn't be affordable deals for someone middle class to be able to travel like this. It would be like it was in the past where only the Roosevelt's could afford this but because the middle class can afford this the savannas are full of safari vehicles.
I keep feeling thankful that this is the off season. I can only imagine the number of safari vehicles during the height of the Great Migration. If there are 4 vehicles surrounding a cheetah today there must be 20 during the great migration and how do they manage to hunt in that?
We made it back to the camp without getting stopped and we insisted that Nicholas join us for "elephant soup" the affectionate name of Tusker beer. Simba one sat in the bar and had some Tuskers talking about our lives and the trip. During our drinks a Masai tribe came in and performed in the lobby area. Leo picked up the tab and I told him that he is now going to be known as Uncle Leo. We had our last dinner together and headed to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day and sad day.