Continuing on from Lake Nakuru we took the long bumpy road into the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Located along the border of southwestern Kenya, the Mara is actually the Kenyan portion of what is the Serengeti in Tanzania to the south. As the animals aren’t required to be groped by the TSA nor is there a $1 billion dollar invisible fence along the border (or IS there? raises one eyebrow), they are free to move back and forth between the two countries. And boy do they ever. The great migration takes place around the beginning of July — yep, just about a month or so after we visited. Over a million wildebeests, hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras, and the lions who love them, all hiking north into Kenya until October when they head south like Florida snowbirds. Am I disappointed? Well, yes. Consolation, however, is that in May we went most of the days without running into hardly any other safari vans. Herds were several hundred rather than thousands. But during the migration, human herds occupy the camps and the park roads offer traffic jams. While that would surely be overshadowed by a million wildebeests pounding the earth, I do also value not having people around. Call me misanthropic.
And furthering my misanthropy is the intended tarmac highway which would cut right through the park and have serious negative effects on that migration. As of June 2011, those plans have allegedly been changed due to “global outcry.” Nothing a government fears more than a Facebook campaign, I suppose. (“Whoa, a latte drinker at a fair-trade coffeeshop in Madison clicked Like on a page that doesn’t Like what I’m doing??? I fold!”) But the folks over at National Geographic don’t see the announcement as a promise to find an alternative yet, and it may just be a strategy to wait until no one is looking. (“OMG! Facebook: Protest against MERALCO electricity price hike?? Like! Like!”)
[Seriously, if the fate of the Serengeti and Mara concerns you, and it should, keep up to date with Serengeti Watch.]
Enough talk. On to the photos! Steve was still our driver and we were on game drives throughout the massive park. Steve was tireless in searching for the Big Cats, and thanks to his persistence and the constant chatter among drivers on the radio, we saw us some very very cool cats.
Of course, the danger is getting obsessed with the CATS! There are loads of other great sights to see on safari. Take the prancing wildebeest, example.
And the high leaping impalas are highly entertaining.
Plus an ostrich treated us to a pretty crazy, wing-flailing, spinning-in-place dance. And paused for a What are YOU looking at? moment with a warthog before continuing. And then the call came in and Steve spun the van around like a storm- or ambulance chaser…
Lions! We found them lying in the grass, apparently having gorged themselves on last night’s kill. We paused for photos of course but Steve put it in gear and started to move to our premature protests. Someone was counting… one, two, three… wait a moment…
Around the bush were the three males. Handsome devils, no? Apparently, he didn’t find it too exciting.
We counted 14 in all.
All of them a little yawny from a night out on the Mara. While we celebrated the sight of them, and some clean picked bones not far away, we were merely pushed to the next cat on the list…
…which Steve found lounging in a tree. We came back the next day and found the same leopard? a different one? with a kill dragged up into another tree…
Is that water buck tartar or eland carpaccio?
Of all of us waiting for the leopard to leap to the ground, poised with our cameras, Peung was the only one to nail the shot. Very cool.
And off went the leopard for a drink.
Still more to come from the Samburu safari, and for the birders, a couple galleries to include hornbills!
This is post 200! Yay!
(Read/see more about our Kenya safari accommodations.)