Safari Time – Masai Mara, Kenya

I spent some quality time with my friends fire twirling under the full moon and dining on sumptuous seafood. We speculated where in the world we would meet up again. I donned Indian garb (saari) and attended a Indian wedding with Nirali`s family where I learned that these things can take days! We sat for hours while the man conducting it kept throwing spices into a fire and singing and stuff. Also they had to hold up a huge sheet while they held hands under it for part of the ceremony. Apparently it is forbidden to show public affection but then why was it required that they hold hands?

We decided that I must have been so unlucky to have chomped on the spicy pepper that would have been to flavor the entire mass dish when my face went crimson and my eyes and nose started leaking profusely. It was an interesting experience but probably one that I don`t need to repeat for a very long time. I thanked my new friends and bid them farewell (for now) as bleary eyed I set off for my safari to the Masai Mara.

I hopped on the 8 seater mini bus and braced myself for the very bumpy 5 hour drive silently relieved that I hadn`t given in to the party the night before. The lodge was set in the Oloolaimutia valley on a hillside overlooking the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The heat rippled over the horizon as we set off after lunch on our first game drive. I could hear the thunder rumbling in the far off distance as I inhaled the earthy grassy aroma wafting through the raised roof of the minivan.

Through a sky of dense blue clouds the sun breaks through casting a shadow of light over the rolling brown hills dotted with acacia trees. Gentle bobbing of their necks lead the giraffes in a forward motion as they amble past. Long dark eyelashes and antenna like horns protruding out of their heads give these remarkable creatures a certain cuteness. This combined with their dinosaur-like presence make them one of my favorites. Little birds reciprocated the favor for the ride on his sloped back by singing dinner music for Gerry the Giraffe as his long spotted neck bent down lassoing some leaves with his long tongue.

We followed a lioness on the hunt watching her fuzzy ears perking up at the gazelles over the field of tall wispy wheat-like grass. We were a convoy of almost 15 white minivans with humans spilling out over the open roofs before we all split up onto different paths. It was a bit weird when I got the flashbulbs confused with lightning in the distance.

Zebras, optical illusion of the African grasslands, intermingled with the wildebeast (gnu) formed a blanket of grazing animals in the great migration. We saw a pink fuzzy neck popping out of the ground and when we got closer discovered a male ostrich sitting on a hole nest of about 20 eggs. Behold the cheetah, the fastest animal in the world, with her confident eyes on a neck held low, muscles rippling through her perfectly spotted fur. We saw a pair creeping through the grass on the trail of something tasty, I`m sure.

I made it an early night so as to be fresh for the early morning drive we would embark on the next morning. Refreshed and wide eyed our small group waved at the long legged Masai tribesmen who were draped in red blankets and armed with spears. Instead of asking for sweets, the young children cried out for pens which was hard for someone like me who writes to resist. The barely there clouds in the sky rippled like the grey skin on an elephants legs.

We came upon a lion and lioness basking in the morning sun. The thick woolly mane framing his handsome proud face commanded respect. In one swift movement they both rose to their feet simultaneously walking side by side. Leo gives her a suggestive nudge prompting her to lower her sleek lithe body as she hugs the grassy floor in submission. We all watched the natural innocence of the act in a dazed silence. She ended the 10 second lovefest with a throaty growl and a swift swat to his head as she rolled over signalling she has had enough. They both collapse into a satisfied heap lolling in the peaceful afterglow, his eyes protectively watching her stretch out.

We saw a black rhino shy into the bushes which border the Mara from the Serengeti. Big, bigger and biggest – an elephant family pass by their big floppy ears flapping about as they rip up tufts of grass stuffing them into their hungry mouths. We saw hungry hungry hippos spurting water out of the Mara river being observed by the giant menacing crocodiles laying on the nearby shore opposite to us. We came upon a mother cheetah and her three babies feasting upon a freshly killed Thompson gazelle. She was more or less oblivious to us oogling her squeaky clumsy cubs as she chomped down crunching on the ribs.

On our last drive we were in the midst of a heavy rain and I think that is why we didn`t see much of anything. I played with 5 year old Christopher who reminded me so much of my nephews which was like having them along with me, in a way. We talked Thomas train and had tickle time before we saw our last of the big five.

I was thrilled to be able to see a luxurious leopard lounging lazily in a sausage tree. So we didn`t see anything else that last drive but what we did see was king (in Nirali`s terms) as they are very very rare to be spotted (excuse the pun). All in all, I am very pleased with my safari and just want you to know that my words are nowhere near enough. This is something you must do to experience.

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