We are half way through day 4 and this is the first moment I’ve had to sit & write! As expected we are having an amazing time seeing amazing things in amazing places. As I write this I am sitting on the verandah at our lodge (Mara Ngenche Camp) looking over the Mara River. I can hear countless birds in the surrounding bush, and there are around 20 hippos basking on a sandbank in the river. This morning I was woken early by the sound of an elephant feeding just outside our tent (it sounds like tearing grass, in case you are wondering). This is Kenya!
We are spending the first 5 days in the Maasai Mara. The trip is timed to coincide with the annual wildebeest migration. The whole area is teeming with wildlife. We’ve seen wildebeest (of course), zebra, gazelles, hippos, lions, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, eland, impala, topi, crocodiles, eagles, vultures and more. We’ve watched a lioness tending the cutest cubs imaginable, around 1 month old. We saw a cheetah kill a small gazelle and drag it to a safe place for her 3 cubs to feed on. We waited a long time peering into a gully because we heard a rumour that there was a leopard in there, and we rewarded by a close encounter with that most magnificent animal. We watched hippos basking in mud and fighing one another.
But this is the Migration Safari and the sheer numbers of wildebeest and zebra is mind boggling. We drive through plains covered with animals stretching to the horizon in every direction. Impossible to count, for the most part they are quietly grazing in the long grass, and we all are just gob-smacked to be here and in the midst of it all. The money shot, the holy grail is to see a “crossing” – the spectacle of massive numbers of wildebeest and zebra crossing the river, hoping to escape the jaws of the hungry crocodile who lie in wait. From watching the National Geographic Channel I imagined there was a steady stream of animals crossing the river untill they all reached the other side, but in fact most of the time they just mill about. While they are in this area they can cross back and forth several times, or not at all. Eventually they do all get across, but you need some good fortune to be in the right place at the right time for a crossing.
Fortune did indeed smile upon us and on our first day no less. We sat by the river for some time watching animals come down to the river to drink and think about crossing only to pull back at the last minute. We could see at least a dozen crocs on the river banks. Large numbers of animals were gathering, when suddenly one took the plunge and jumped in, That was all it took, and soon hundreds were following and we had pole position. It was an awe-inspiring sight!! We saw a couple of large crocs take out an unfortunate wildebeest or two, and though we felt sorry for the animal we got great photos!
If all that wasn’t enough, we were up at 4 yesterday morning to take a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the Mara!!
Gotta go, I’m being called for lunch. The food here is gourmet and another of the highlights!
PS. The internet here is pretty patchy and slow. I will post this (when I can get online) without any photos but will try to get some images up as soon as I can.