Kenya - Masai Mara NP - Goin Safari!
Trip Start Jan 27, 2012
6Trip End Feb 27, 2012
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Our safari vehicle bumped and swayed along the dirt track, gaining a slight rise in elevation as we rounded the large boulder outcropping. The late afternoon sun's rays bathed the savanna grass and outlying rocks in a golden light. Collectively we anticipated something special was lurking here in the grass judging by the earnest way our driver had driven to this location. Our anticipation proved well rewarded for sitting majestically in the tall grass were a pride of lions, six or seven easy, while the old king of the jungle, the male lion king, sat under shaded coverage several yards away. We gasped in awe! Now we were definitely in Africa!
My journey to get here, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Africa, began the usual way for a Western traveler; many hours, many sky miles and several planes flights, traveling nearly half way around the world before I reached ground in Nairobi
That first night in Nairobi my mind dreamt of iconic East Africa images; images created by writers, like Hemingway and Karen Blixen, and movies such as Out of Africa, Born Free, and The African Queen. These images depicted jungles, Lake Victoria, vast grasslands and desert plains, abundant wildlife, snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro and colorful Maasai warriors. My thoughts continued now rummaging through history book passages that told tales of famous British explorers; names like Burton, Stanley and Livingstone, and their quests for the Nile’s source. Still the mind wandered further recalling the story pertaining to the Leakeys’ anthropological discoveries within East Africa’s Cradle of Man, the Rift Valley’s Olduval Gorge. My first international travels to Europe partly signified for me a return to my ancestral roots. Would I feel a similar, even more profound connection here in East Africa, the genealogical origin for all Mankind?
Well… unfortunately I felt no profound connection on my first full day at least not on the streets of Nairobi
During my brief downtown Nairobi exploration, I did visit the namesake for Lonely Planet’s social forum, the Thorn Tree restaurant for a relaxing morning coffee. The Thorn Tree was the original travelers meeting place in East Africa, if not the world. The Kilroy of adventure, Ernest Hemingway, frequented here. Fortunately, the best social meeting place in Nairobi was within crawling distance… my backpacker’s shaded restaurant patio.
Situated a mere several blocks past the Thorn Tree is the beginning of one of Nairobi’s largest slums; the gateway to Nairobi’s numerous less fortunate
I’d already met several travelers at MIliwani that had volunteered to work in Southern Sudan: an American couple, retired teachers who were bringing dozens of books in their suitcases to help in their endeavor to establish a school. Southern Sudan had very recently become a new sovereign country. There was also an American medical student who was volunteering his services in southern Sudan at a modified hospital, not far from the danger zone where battles were still being waged. My transportation difficulties seemed quite petty in comparison.
Eventually, by the fourth day, I was able to arrange a safari trip to Masai Mara National Park
Nearing Masai Mara, the road becomes the road from hell; a dirt line constructed by grooves, bumps, rivulets, potholes, boulders, and dust. Here, you see the elongated, red-cloaked Maasai men walking with their cattle herds, undoubtedly thinking what silly fools we were bouncing along in that metal contraption.
The end of the “road from hell” lay at our lodging compound; the compound situated at the outskirts of a Maasai village, just outside the Masai Mara National Park. This was no Disney-esque Maasai village either; this was the real deal… cows, sheep, traditional clothing, traditional dung-covered huts, tons of flies, etc. We quickly settled in to our new tent enclosure homes, for that evening, we would enter the Masai Mara.
Besides the sheer joy one experiences wandering among the majestic wildlife, an additional key ingredient to an enjoyable safari adventure is to have a fun group of people to share the experience
Joining me on the safari was Claire, an intrepid British girl who had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Claire had also done some volunteer work at a lion rehabilitation facility in Zimbabwe. My additional companions was a young London couple, he of Polish descent and she originally from Kenya.
Masai Mara is a tranquil setting; expansive grasslands and rolling hills, open stretches and forested sections, a large area providing lots of space for wildlife to roam. Though this region is protected by the Kenyan government today, undoubtedly in part for its financial benefits derived through tourism, I fear for its continued existence. The rapidly growing city populations in Nairobi and Tanzania’s Dar Salaam, with their rapidly growing abject poverty slums, will eventually reach a boiling point; either the wildlife land preservation practice will continue or the growing populace will begin an encroaching migratory expansion to preserved lands.
For now, and forever, that first evening, I knew that we, the human travelers, were the interlopers in this region.
Some straggler wildebeests greet us near the gate. They apparently didn’t receive the memo to migrate south toward the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania. After passing several graceful moving giraffes and elephants, we would soon draw our vehicle ever so close to those majestic lions we discovered perched on the rocks. A short distance below them sat a large Cape buffalo herd grazing amidst the thick marsh grass. We learned from our knowledgeable guide Lowry, the lions would not move in for the hunt until under the cover of darkness. At first light the next morning, we would find the results of their hunt.
To be continued in next entry…
Here's also a few pictures from my safari in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park. Much more writings to come!
To see more of my photography, please visit www.michaelmcguerty.com
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To view my Africa video, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7Sb2ncvmzw