Morning Game Drive
On our third day in the Masai Mara National Reserve, we arose for another sunrise game drive with breakfast scheduled upon our return. Always in need of food, I grabbed a hard-boiled egg for the 2-hour ride which could be longer if we stumbled across something cool.
We started out the morning watching four lion cubs hanging out near a mound. They were being as lazy as their parents who were resting in the distant bushes. The impaired views and the arrival of a ranger encouraged us to keep moving. With nothing specific, we bounced across the savannah spotting elephants, antelope, Thomson’s gazelles sparring, and a variety of birds, including ostriches mating.
Nothing grabbed our attention for too long, so during a short stop, I cracked open my egg. Much to my surprise, it was raw! I stupidly grabbed it from a bowl by the omelette station. That might have been the most entertaining event for the morning until we came upon a tower of giraffes near camp.
Unusually, many were resting on the ground. Soon, however, the babies got to their feet, and two of them beckoned the same mom. A giraffe with twins is another rare sight. Soon they started kissing and licking each other. Though we saw the same behavior briefly on our second day in the Masai Mara, this is also very uncommon behavior, and it was very special to see.
The sighting delayed our return to camp well past the end of breakfast at 9am. Thankfully, the amazing staff patiently awaited us. We ate breakfast so late, however, that we wanted lunch as late as possible too. As a result, in between the meals, we arranged a nature walk with Joel. He was a very good naturalist. He showed us the sandpaper tree that the Maasai use for sanding their spears. We also learned the orange leafed croton is soft enough for toilet paper in the bush.
As we continued walking by the river, we found hippo poop which is heavily relied upon by fish. Joel also pointed out elephant poo which the Maasai feed fresh to their babies to build their immune system. We also learned that pairs of dik dik, the only monogamous antelope, poop in the same pile and stick close to their surroundings as they are so small.
It was quite an enjoyable walk except for the ants, that we learned have a symbiotic relationship with acacia trees. They do not have a symbiotic relationship with people, and I now understand the true meaning of the phrase “you have ants in your pants.” I was literally squirming as I tried shaking them out. My six ant bites felt like wasp stings, much worse than any bites from home.
Eventually, I managed to sit still long enough for our spear throwing lesson. Mike took a try first and threw it perfectly into the ground. Not all of us were successful on our first attempt, but we were by our second. Very fun!
Evening Game Drive
After our walk and lunch, we went for our final game drive. We endeavored to find the five cheetah brothers. Along the way, we stopped to see some hippos, though with the river so high, we mostly saw the tops of the hippos’ heads. At least a few played along for a photo, partially lifting out of the water and bellowing.
We saw some more birds, including baby goslings, and we finally stopped to snap some photos of water buffalo, impala, and zebra that we regularly passed in route to cats. While we, along with many other vehicles didn’t find the cheetah brothers, we did find three lionesses resting in the grass.
Upon our arrival, they sauntered off after stopping for a drink of rainwater in a tire track. Nearby, resting in the brush, was a lion honeymoon couple. Lions on a “honeymoon” stay together for about a week and mate 22 times a day!
The lackadaisical pair showed no interest in mating while we were there, so we proceeded to another spot where we saw two more lioness. Just as soon as we reached them, the black cloud above us dumped rain.
As a result, we raced from the cover of black clouds back to the honeymoon couple. The pair was more active. They abandoned the cover of the bush, and the female teased her partner as she rolled over and exposed her belly. Perhaps they were at the end of their honeymoon stage or he had performance anxiety around us, as he passed on her advances.
Instead, the two of them strolled to the other side of the brush. In another tease, the female sprayed the thicket, after which the male smelled it, crinkled his nose, and raised his gaping mouth in the air. We waited in anticipation as she settled down and her partner licked his lips upon circling her. Ultimately, however, he plopped down next to her, and she called for her friends. Oh well, another tease for us too! At least I saw honeymoon couples mate several times on my first safari.
With dark approaching and time running out, we made the long drive back to camp. While Ilkeliani is a very nice camp, it isn’t quite as convenient as its sister camp Entim, our first choice for lodging. Unfortunately, we arranged our trip too late to get space there during high season.
Upon our return to camp, we enjoyed another tasty meal while watching yet another rainstorm. The rains came unseasonably early this year and the otherwise dry savannah was covered in green grass. The storms definitely had an impact on the quantity of animals we were seeing. The plains were sparse compared to my first safari in the Serengeti.
Having said that, the rains certainly didn’t affect the quality of our sightings. Lion cubs, twin giraffes, and a baby leopard…need I say more? While I could compare my two safaris for better or worse, the best way to describe them is simply different. With everything on my first safari being a “first”, my curiosity to see everything was insatiable. On my second safari, however, my desire to see the cats trumped all else. As a result, even our drives were different. As passengers on our first safari, we aimlessly drove around with the guide surprising us. By the second, we requested certain destinations.
The only thing that remained the same between the safaris is my desire to stay longer. I wasn’t ready to leave for the airport in the morning. While we were supposed to enjoy a short game drive on the way to the airport, an impassable river due to the rain detoured our course through town for much of the way. While I was sad to say good-bye, we already have Zambia in the works for next year! ETB
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- Safari in the Masai Mara – Day 1
- Safari in the Masai Mara – Day 2