It was great to have the luxury of a hotel bed again in Nairobi but unfortunately these comforts would be short lived. It would be tents for pretty much the next 43 nights. We had quite the mix up in nairobi and were taken with the wrong tour group to Masai Mara by a tour leader. This was a good thing because this group were great crack (apart from the stalker guy from australia, definately could have done without that psycho on the trip) . We managed to stay with them all the way down to Victoria falls - it pays to stick up for yourself in these situations!
The usual animal suspects lined the road to Masai mara and we were not even in the park. Everywhere brightly clothed tall slender ebony Masai watched their huge herds . Vibrant new greens were everywhere with lone Acacia trees on every horizon. We put our tents up as the monkeys watched on and headed into the park around 4pm. Gazelles elephants and giraffes all kept an close eye on their young as 2 Jackals jogged round. The highlight was an old battle scarred lion sleeping in the grass within 3 metres of the truck looking at us through a lazy yellow eye and dusty mane. It was only a taster of the park the real big day would be tomorrow.
We rose early, driving past meer cats who popped their heads up to have a luck at our vehicle past the usual safari characters straight into a pride of lionness on the hunt. We were there only two minutes when the lead lionness flew itself at two wildebeast seperating the calf from its mother immiediately. The acceleration of the lion was exceptional for such a large animal but the young wildebeast jinked his way to safety. The lionness sauntered past us and you could see the sheer power in its front legs and paws - there would be no one getting out of this vehicle to save a wildebeast i could assure you (happened in the Mara a month ago) - I for one wanted to see her catch it.
The huge herd of wildebeast stood watching the pride. they are thought to be one of the stupidest animals and the fact that they all didn't run elsewhere to safety as a group was baffling - it was almost like they were waiting for the lions to regain their energy. The lionnesses simply lazily looked at the ehrd some of the younger ones pretended to stalk them still learning their craft which sent 100s of wildebeast running round in circles - it was hilarious but also a wonderful moment. The lead lionness then returned back to the pride and seeing 5 lions running up and uttering little roars and whimpers of welcome to her beside our van was amazing. The whole thing was just so affectionate from the so called king of the food chain. We watched for half an hour but it was time to move on to see if any of the other big 5 were around.
Next we were off to see a destroyed carcass with a young male lion, his huge head with a mane clearly work in progree, with his sister close by resting from their exertions. All the predators were eating in the park and the vultures were ensuring they got their fair share of all kills. They were gigantic the vultures every bit as evil looking as I imagined watching, swooping and squabbling over a carcass while a hyena skulked away in the distance and then it was off to another carcass where the vultures fought tooth and claw for their fill of a zebra. nearby a pride of lions took shade in the bushes. Their yellow eyes so beautiful but so full of menace 3 metres away staring at us - giant shoulders and paws so broad - it was so close it was too close and it had me wondering for a brief moment why they didn't jump in and eat us all on the truck - zebra probably tasted better though...
A bloody chinned cheetah nearby had chosen a wildebeast instead. The lean animal rested after its pursuit panting in the shade two canines protruding from its gumline. We were off to the mara river on the off chance we might see the wildebeast cross the crocodile infested river. Our guide had not witnessed it for the last 3 years of coming to the park so expectations were low. On arrival the far bank was full of fat noisy hippos wallowing in the river, on the near bank were 100's of corposes of wildebeast floating in the river, in the middle well fed crocs lurked.
We went on foot along the bank with an armed ranger taking the river in and listening to the 1000s of wildebeast on the far side, the bushes blocking our view. We heard a sudden movement and cacophany of wildebeast sounds - the ranger shouted they are crossing - I almost didn't believe it as I never expected to actually see them cross. The sound of 1000 hooves on the move was heard and then we saw the first few cross the river leaping into the air in case of crocodiles underneath. They were followed by 1000s through the narrow crossing. As they leaped they were trampling eachother under the water and bodies started to drift downriver where the gorged crocs played with their bodies , nudging it in different directions. For about 15 minutes the crossing continued, we wathced it all in amazement how if one turned back the others would hesitate and if one went they all would. Eventually the numbers trickled hesitated then stopped. A wildebeast with a broken leg collapsed on the far side of the bank trying and failing to get up several times. Hippos merged and then submerged amongst all the chaos. We then had lunch eating our hand sandwiches as wildebeast carcasses floated past. The circle of life indeed!
We dragged ourselves away form natures greatest spectacle the migration, the cros, the coloured lizards and the carcasses killed by lions we had seen earlier were now nearly bones. The plains of the Mara were now covered in wildebeast as far as the eye could see - the successful ones had made it into the lush grren Mara plains. There were so many animals and their young on show, so many strange birds, so much action, so much hunting I could have stayed for days (and next time I'm back I will) but it was time to go. We had spent close to 8 hours and dinner was calling. Back at camp the mischevous monkeys were in force even with a newborn monkey in toe....At one stage they surrounded Anna and looked as if they might try rob her. There were messing with the wrong Mzungus girlfriend and I bravely threw stones and made growling noises at the 1 foot high monkeys - (if they were baboons I would have ran a mile). We left the Mara travelling in dust choking winds the following day, tired from the heat, early mornings and lack of sleep, tired of sweating in the humidity of the night, tired of putting up and taking down tents and bouncing rounds roads. It was only day 3 of the 43 day trip - we would have to toughen up and acclimatise! But was th last week of travelling to get to the Mara for 2 days worth it - absolutely - I think we knew leaving the Mara that we had probably has the best safari of our lives - we'll be back!