November 8, 2012, Thursday
An opportunity to enjoy an early morning game drive followed by breakfast at the lodge. A second game drive will take place in the afternoon.
Got up at 5:45 so that we could get some tea and small snacks before heading out on our safari at 6:30 am. This is a beautiful lodge built on a hillside. The rooms are like little stylized Masai huts, concrete but colored to match the surroundings so you hardly could see them from a distance. You might find it on the net. Masai Mara Serena.
Our morning Game Drive started off rather quiet (although that still means we are seeing many many different varieties of animals, just nothing "in the spectacular category")
. Drove around a bit and saw lots of zebra grazing as a herd. I looked one time and they completed a 270 degree circle around us! We stopped at another place where, from just one position, we saw lions, an elephant, wart hog, giraffe, and a black rhino….without moving our van. Fantastic!! Continuing driving around all of a sudden Adoyo starts speeding up while he is jabbering in Swahili a mile a minute on the radio with other guides. We don't know what we are heading for but we are going really fast and by-passing some other animals like nice giraffes. Normally the vans are to stay on the roads, but we suddenly veer off the road and we are going cross country moving fast. In a minute he says to look left and there is a cheetah running towards one of our 3 vans! Fortunately, he decides to climb up on top of a termite hill and sits down, as if he is posing for us and giving us all an opportunity to get some great pictures. Shortly, he tires of us and walks down the side of the termite hill and goes walking in front of our van down towards the river. I think we got some good shots of him, and Adoyo confirmed it was a male cheetah. He said they are often difficult to find and even he gets pretty excited when he finds one. That was another highlight to be sure. We also saw some hot air balloonists cruising the Mara. That would probably be a really amazing way to see the country here, but neither one of us was willing to do so. It was an additional $500 each and I’m (K) still not convinced that hot air ballooning is for me
By now it is about 9 am and we almost feel like we’ve put in a full day with all the excitement! But we start heading towards the river a ways away. We pull up into a small area and all get out of the vans. We are met by another Masai Warrior (again dressed in traditional attire) and follow him along a dirt path winding through the shrubs. Soon we come out in a little clearing to another outdoor meal with the white linens, china and this time…champagne. A large breakfast buffet is sitting in front of us…juices, fruit, bacon, sausage, baked beans, potato slices, and some other main type dishes. Then you could have a custom made omelet prepared for you. It turns out that we are again on the banks of the Mara River at a place called the Hippo Hole. At one time I counted at least 12, but they keep bobbing up and going down so it is hard to know how many there were. Several more I’m sure than 12. Also on the river bank we saw several crocodiles, again a good 20 feet long with one being possible 25ft. It is just hard to imagine them being so big! After breakfast we came back to the lodge and have free time until lunch and another game drive at 4 pm today. I don’t know how we could see any more impressive animals than we have already seen, but we will try I guess.
Before leaving the lodge on our afternoon game drive, we were treated to a genuine Masai Mara thunderstorm with a deluge of rain, some lightning, and some serious thunder
. As the rain clouds cleared, Jack and I looked out our 2nd
floor balcony and below us were two warthogs, maybe 15 ft down below from us. They were rooting around in the grass and gradually making their way up the hill until they were directly in front of us. Nasty looking dudes. Then off in the field below us we saw a troop of baboons scampering out of the brush and down the hill. There was a little baby hanging on to its mommy for dear life right through a herd of Thompsons Gazelles who paid no attention to them. After a short nap, we met our group of 15 for the final game drive of our safari. The grasslands seemed unusually quiet as we slowly made our way along the roads through herds of zebras, gazelles, topis and more. I told our driver that although we had already seen some, if he could arrange it, I would really like to see more elephants and lions before we end the evening’s drive. And what do you suppose we saw as we came over the crest of a hill…a beautiful herd of elephants. They were magnificently silhouetted in the evening light. Momma, Daddy, brother and baby sister who was still nursing. How lucky we are! Suddenly the radio crackled and we heard lots of Swahili jabbering. Here we go again…pedal to the metal, jostling cross country, traveling very fast to some unknown sighting. Our guide does not tell us what we are heading for until we get there. I think he doesn’t want to disappoint us if the animal disappears before we arrive on scene
. And there before us on a rocky hillside, nestled in some grass and rocks, about 75 ft away is a momma cheetah and 2 adorable baby cubs/kittens that our driver estimated were only about 3 days old. They were all fairly well hidden in the grass but we did get some pretty good looks and photos. Just as we were leaving, momma cheetah decided to get up and walk down the hill eventually getting to a kill from earlier in the day. She sat down and enjoyed her dinner as we watched from a distance. At that point, the evening light was really diminishing so we headed for the lodge but “of course” along the way, we saw a pride of lions (1 male and 4 females), a momma and daddy ostrich and four week-old chicks trotting across the grasslands, and another small herd of elephants not to mention hundreds of cape buffalo, wildebeests, gazelles, topis, and more. A beautiful sunset and even a Masai Mara rainbow peeked through the clouds as we pulled into the lodge on our last night on the Mara. What a day. Back to the lodge for another late dinner. Tomorrow it is up at 5:30 to leave for the very long drive to Nairobi at 7 am. From Nairobi we will fly (hurrah) to the beachside city of Mombasa for the final 3 days of this amazing trip. Oh yes, today we learned the Swahili words for Leopard=chui, cheetah=duma, and of course we know lion=simba.