Our day started pretty early (for a vacation), by waking up at 6am as the van that was going to take us to the safari was going to arrive at 7am. As we piled our stuff in, the day was already breaking over Kijabe.
The first 30 minutes of our trip was getting to the highway across unpaved road. All the rattling about reminded me of India, with the precarious slopes and hoping that the vehicle wouldn’t get stuck. Once we got to the highway, it was pretty smooth sailing for the next 2.5 hours. But then we hit gravel road again for another 90 minutes on our way into the Mara, shaken within an inch of my life.
Maybe the skulls were meant to be ominous but to me, they just made me more excited about seeing animals in the wild!
Once we entered the gate to pay our park fee, things got noticeably smoother. And definitely got to see animals right away. As the wildebeest had already migrated to the Tanzania side (ie. Serengeti National Park), most of the herbivores that we saw were zebras. But I didn’t know what (yet). Which is why I got excited over every zebra we saw!
We also saw a bunch of topi and gazelles (though the gazelles were too far/quick for me to take clear pictures). We even saw crocodiles and hippos sunning their backs, though they didn’t surface. I couldn’t blame them- it was getting super hot as the sun was in its zenith.
After lunch and a short nap, we left at 4pm for our afternoon game drive. Though it was still hot, I would be surprised by how quickly it would cool down. The wide open plains meant that light and heat dissipated quickly- even the sunrises seemed to happen within a matter of minutes, day breaking victoriously in the time it took you to get changed.
But yes, back to the afternoon game drive. It was cool to stand in the van and feel the wind and the sunshine in your face. Even cooler to see more animals!
When you’re driving around, you realize just how truly large the national park, as it should be for an ecosystem this diverse. So how do you ensure that you see cool animals (particularly the Big Five – so named as it’s the five that can kill you) without leaving it to serendipity and fate? Well, your guide is listing to a CB radio that all the other guides are on, using it to guide you to various animals. Also, when you see a safari van stopped, you know they’re looking at something good.
Which is how we came to see a cheetah mama and her cubs sunning themselves on a grassy mound.
Everything that lives in the grasslands seems to have been built for camouflage. Every rock looks like an animal and every animal is capable of melting into the landscape. Which is why I was pretty excited that we got a chance to see the cheetah and spent almost 20 minutes watching it up close and see it interact with its cubs. Apparently these ones were almost ready to be left behind by their mom. The mother makes one last kill and while the cubs are eating, it runs away. The cubs stay together (particularly the males) and they recognize their mother or the rest of their litter if they meet again.
As the sun was starting to set, we set course to the lodge. On our way back, we heard the radio squawk. It must be something good!
A pride of lions lounging in the shade. How unreal! There were five of them, and they looked like they were getting ready for the hunt. One by one, they slowly got up, with a young male that was the last to get up (typical).
They were watching these two giraffes that were way off in the distance when we got there. Though there was a wind blowing, the giraffes seemed oblivious to the fact that there were freakin’ lions coming towards them.
Slowly, the lions started to create a semi circle, their gaze never leaving the giraffes and eventually three of them broke into a chase. It’s amazing the teamwork and strategy that it takes to bring a large animal like that down. And boy, could those giraffes run!
The giraffes evaded the lions, but they still continued to stalk them, moving in formation. Eventually, we had to start getting back. Our guide told us that this hunt would probably go on for another few hours, as the giraffes would be effectively blind during the night and the lions clearly had the advantage at that time.
Two large predators and the start of a hunt covered in a 2.5 hour drive? Pretty awesome if you ask me!