The ground ran red as the rain mixed with the dust that had stained our feet only hours earlier forming a rich paste matching the Masai’s clothes. It was a bumpy ride to the Masai Mara, down dirt roads, littered with rocks and holes. Grazing lands rolled out, as far as the eye could see with herds of cattle and goats dotted across the horizon, tended to by the tall and graceful men, carrying their staffs.
The atmosphere in the van was electric. There was not much of a drive to go. Soon we would be at our campsite and shortly after that, on a game drive, in to the famous Masai Mara Nature Reserve.
Rolling in to the campsite, we were struck by the beauty and stillness of it. Mosquito nets hung over the beds dressed with Masai blankets inside the permanent tents that were to be our home for the next two nights. Behind the tents, en suite bathrooms with hot showers, all of which were described as luxury by some of the travellers who had been camping long term up until this point.
There was not much time to enjoy the comforts. A quick splash of water on our faces and a cup of coffee and we were back in to the vans, ready to see what the great Masai Mara had to offer.
With cameras in hand, we stood up in the van, heads peering out of the roof, the moment we entered the park. Wildebeest and zebra surrounded the truck, not perturbed by the vehicle cruising down the bumping roads towards whatever awaits. In the distance a dark smudge could be seen, “a big herd of elephants” our guide said. As we got closer, “a very big herd of elephants”. It wasn’t long before the very big herd of elephants disappeared from sight. They walked into the distance like prehistoric creatures, packed together for protection from predators. Babies could be seen at their mother’s feet, struggling with their trunks while the matriarch leads the way.
We drove on, anxious to tick off more of the Masai Mara’s infamous ‘Big Five’. It wasn’t long before we saw a buffalo positioned right next to the truck. Yellow-billed oxpeckers picked at their ears, fluttering around and feeding on the parasites nesting on the buffalo. With a mild irritation, it bucks its head and the oxpecker flees, only to return and resume its feeding.
“Two out of five” the guide says with pride as we continue our drive on. He reassures us that the buffalo are the least exciting of the big five. In the distance, great storm clouds gather and through clear skies we can see the rain fall with a dramatic effect. We wind our way across streams and great plains, up into the hills and down into the valley. We stop occasionally when a new species of gazelle is spotted.
He rounds a corner and stops and turns off the engine. There in the distance is a male lion, its beautiful mane radiating under the setting sun. His female companion sits next to him. They are honeymooners, he tells us, and we watch as they walk up to our truck and off into the distance.
By now, an orange glow has tinged the landscape and dusk was fast approaching. At dark, the park shuts and dinner would be served at our campsite. We kept trying to convince the guide to wait a little longer for that perfect photo but eventually we began our journey back in the direction from which we came.
Rounding a corner we stopped with a jolt. There, next to the jeep was a lion cub. It was a few years old, licking the fur of the zebra killed earlier that day. The zebra’s belly was swollen with the gases and ready to explode. With fascination we watched as he played with his food until it was too dark to take that last photo. It really was time to go.
We would be back tomorrow for an even longer game drive and couldn’t wait for what the day would bring.
About the Author: Jess is Digital Marketing Executive for Tucan Travel. She has travelled independently and on group tours through Latin America, Africa, North America, Israel and Europe. You can find her on Google+ or read her other contributions here.