Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Masai Mara: Day 3 PM

We set off in search of larger herds of wildebeest, going up to the top of a hill called Lookout Point to get a panoramic view. We didn't find wildebeest there, but we did find trash. Two overflowing barrels of trash with mountains of trash beside each one. Not only that, but driving through this whole section we saw plastic bottles and bags littering the landscape. We stopped and picked up where we could, but it wasn't always safe, and it would have taken all day. Not cool, not cool at all.

Joseph took us in a new direction, determined to find the herds. We continued to see small herds but no big ones. We saw a few way in the distance, but no photos could capture those. I estimate that, all told, we saw at least 50,000 wildebeest today. Not bad at all.

We decided to start driving back; it was already 4:30, and we were 75 km away from our gate with only two hours to get there. So we went at a decent clip. I was surveying the landscape when all of a sudden I saw a huge male lion lying next to a tree. I shouted for Joseph to stop, and we got a bit closer. Said gorgeous male had not one but two wildebeest kills next to him. He'd eaten the eyes and part of the legs/hide of each one and laid them head to head where he could keep an eye on them. They were fresh kills, likely from the morning. This is times of plenty - a sole lion can kill two wildebeest, hide them in plain sight, and not have to try too hard to fend off other predators and scavengers. Amazing.

We drove on, this time on a relatively 'main' road and soon encountered one of my favorite sights of the day - a 300 strong herd of wildebeest being led by a smaller herd of topi away from the Mara and back toward the Serengeti. The topi were the leaders, scattered throughout to keep them in line, and made up the rear. I called them the border control, deporting the wildebeest. We watched as this massive herd crossed the road behind us, the line seeming not to end. Add some water and a few crocs, and this is what I imagine the Mara River crossings to look like. It was hilarious with my own backstory but also truly amazing to watch. It took several minutes for them all to cross the road. And that answered the question of where are all the wildebeest.

Again, we drove on. We passed a long-haul truck, who beckoned for us to stop. Lions, they told us. Two males on the side of the road, just ahead. We drove on, wondering what 'just ahead' and 'on the side of the road' meant since we didn't see anything. And then we did. One male lion lying RIGHT on the side of the road, the other one a few feet away. They were young males, with small manes, probably not long out of the pride. As we watched the one on the side of the road saw something and walked a few feet away. He found a small piece of metal pipe and dug it out of the ground and then triumphantly took it into the bush to play with. Lion #2 decided he wanted to play too, so he tried to grab it, but the owner wasn't budging. We drove on.

At this point we took a quick detour and crossed the border into Tanzania and the Serengeti, to avoid a muddy spot. The border control was nonexistent. Excited for Serengeti later this summer!

We covered a good chunk of mileage, crossing back to the Mara Triangle side, and were only about 16km from the gate when we saw a car stopped for something. Lions! We got closer and saw five females and five cubs. Three of the females were in full view; the cubs romped around the other two in and out of hiding. So incredibly cute! We watched for as long as we could, but it was 6:07 with 16 km to go. No more stopping.

At about 6:26 the gate was in sight, and we had to stop to let some elephants cross. No worries there. It was really getting dark as we headed back to camp, but we did stop to watch a herd of 30 elephants crossing a stream. We watched until it was so dark we could no longer make out the elephant shapes and then headed back in.

What we didn't realize until then was that usually on full day safaris the group is back in the mid-afternoon. We pulled in to camp at 7:14 (okay, maybe we watched the elephants for longer than we realized), and met a frantic Maurice who had been worrying about us for hours! Joseph had been on the radio all afternoon but apparently wasn't on the camp channel that far out. Joseph later told us he'd never been back past 4:00 on a full day. We are just that eager to see animals.

The day's tally was 22 lions - pretty darn impressive, in my opinion. Definitely the best predator day I've ever had. And almost all of them were very good sightings from close up. Wow. Not to mention the wildebeest!

We were pretty tired and had a 6:15 am departure planned, so dinner was a fairly quick affair, and we headed to our tents. I showered, read my folk tale, and then fell asleep. Another awesome safari adventure in the books.

Such a gorgeous boy!

That mane!

Wildebeest for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Notice how he arranged them and ate them in identical ways.

Graphic, but I found this fascinating. Esp all the organs in the sac.

Wildebeest everywhere.
Side-of-the-road lions.

Finding his metal pipe piece.

Almost got it!

All mine.

Topi and wildebeest.

The only crossing we saw that day...

Wildebeest deportation by topi (the lighter-colored antelope here)
Tanzania-Kenya border. Seriously.

More lions!

Lion baby tails - squee!
Not currently on cub duty.
Peeking out to see who's there.

Laughing lioness.

Serene lioness.

Lip-licking lioness.

Bed felt so good!

1 comment:

Nomads By Nature said...

TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!