My plan was to spend the weekend in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. My home, the tented Kimana Mara Camp. This was not my first time to be in the reserve.
I had been here before during the great migration period and wanted to go back with a better camera and capture all those spectacular images that I had recorded in my mind but did not freeze in time through my camera.
Maasai Mara is the most well-known park in Kenya and corresponds to the Kenyan side of the famous Serengeti Park. The 2 parks are separated by the Mara River that is one of the main actors in the big migration, when the crossing of the river by hordes of wildebeests, eager to reach the grasslands of the Maasai Mara, present a good opportunity for the crocodiles to hunt for food.
We arrived at the park around lunchtime and after a quick meal, we set-off for our first game drive until sunset. With all fairness, I was a bit disappointed with my first day of this return trip because, beside the zebras and gazelles, we only saw a pride of lions at around 12 noon.
The little success we had on that Saturday somehow reduced my expectations for the following day. After a good meal and some chit chat by the campfire, we went to bed a bit disappointed but still hopeful.
On Sunday, we had a very early start – breakfast before 6:00 AM – so we could be in the park by sunrise, which was a good plan because no sooner had we entered the park than we saw a black rhino at a distance! What an impressive site as the huge figure interrupted the dark-golden yellow colours of the Savannah – black and impressive was the summary.
The black rhino is one of the most endangered species and on the verge of extinction in Kenya. They say there are less than 1,000 remaining but the good news is that it seems, in some parks, the numbers are increasing.
At the Nairobi National Park, for instance, one can spot these impressive animals with reasonable ease. Continuing our journey, we came close to a group of elephants, around a dozen of them, some females with their calves and a big male.
Not far ahead, some 2 young males were having a small fight in the middle of the road blocking our path for a while. The clashing of the tusks and the entwining trunks provided a great chance to get some nice action shots of these big fellows.
But the best moments were still to come. While driving around, we saw a lioness crossing the road and walking towards a small depression in the terrain.
As she approached the depression, 2 cubs excitedly reached out to her with playful kisses. It was a memorable site as the 2 ‘Simbas’ played with their mum.
They were so cute that I could not resist using my cell phone to send a photo to my daughter and her comment was, “why can you not just put one of them in your backpack and bring it home?”
Meanwhile, the lioness had sat down and was surveying the Savannah surrounded by her cubs, almost as if she and her family were posing for my camera – a queen of the Savannah waiting to get her portrait.
To close our great tour, we saw the last 2 members of the Big Five team – a pair of cheetahs! Well, I know the cheetah is not considered among this famous group but just to console myself, I imagine it to be even though cheetahs are really my favourite animals.
Technically, cheetahs are almost identical to leopards, with the most obvious difference being the tear drop on the cheetah and the larger body size of the leopard. We also did see buffaloes.
As we were driving back, we had time to watch some giraffe drinking water in a small nearby river. It was especially interesting to see how they spread wide their front legs to manage to reach the water with those long necks.
It would be unfair to the Maasai Mara to finish this story without mentioning the numerous bird species that presented a great opportunity for some very colourful photos with the deep blues, strong yellows, light greens and bold blacks.
At the end of my second trip in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, I had just one big question in my mind – when will I get the chance to return? That occupied my mind on our trip back to Nairobi.
There are still so many things to do and see and photos to take. That balloon safari over the golden Savannah, as you watch the sunrise from above, will definitely be in my to-do list next time. Until then, so long Maasai Mara.