Thursday, February 21, 2013

Maasai Mara, part 1 - Feb 2013

On Sunday, February 10, I rolled out at 3:00 am to get the senior to the school by 4:00 am.  She was leaving with the rest of the 20ish kids traveling to Romania to work with orphans and disabled teens for the week.  All juniors and seniors at her school are required to accrue a minimum of 20 volunteer hours during the school year and document it with an essay, so this was her opportunity to get it all in one fell swoop.

Later that morning, the 6th grader and I flew to Nairobi.  The husband was supposed to join us, but had work commitments and thus couldn't make it.  Since we had opted for an accompanied photo safari, I decided the younger daughter and I would be safe without a man in tow. We arrived in Nairobi on time, got through a long but rather sloppy border control line (didn't even check our yellow fever certificates) and were met by David, our guide for the week.  We got checked into our hotel around 11:30 that evening and conked out.  Why is sitting on an airplane, doing nothing for 8 hours, so very tiring?

The next morning, we had breakfast and embarked on our trip to the Maasai Mara, a mere 300 km drive in our Toyota safari mobile.  We stopped at a scenic lookout for a photo opp and some great views of the Rift Valley.

We stayed on pavement/asphalt for about the first half of our drive, but spent the last three hours on dirt roads that rattled and bounced us all over our seats.  Along the way, we passed local houses (I use that term loosely since most appeared to be one room huts) as well as the natives herding goats, sheep, cattle and even donkeys.  It seems donkeys are used to pull carts for folks without access to a car or motorbike.  

As we drove closer to our accommodations, we started seeing African wildlife.  

The hoofed topi, two separate ones seen above and below, were big head scratchers.  No different from their brethren in zoos, there were lots of flies and mosquitos on hand to plague them.

We reached the Mara Fig Tree around 2:00, which gave us just enough time to eat a quick lunch before the buffet ended.  We got settled in for our first glamping experience and had time to snap some pics before we headed out on our first game drive.

This was the view from the front porch of our fancy tent. By the time we departed a few days later, I would have gladly traded a non-water view to get away from the snorting and splashing of hippos at night. I swear it sounded as if they were right outside our zipped entrance flap, ready to shuffle on in and say hello.  That's just a bit too close to nature for me.

We saw lots of native animals on our game drive that afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00.  Our personal favorites were the warthogs. Our safari guide told us the Swahili word pumba means stupid. According to David, the warthogs have very short memories.  They're so ugly they're cute, right?  The 6th grader said she wanted to pet one, but I don't think they would take too kindly to that.

In the pic above, you can just make out an elusive mongoose standing on its hind legs.  Our guide spotted it down near the river as we were riding along on the lookout for hippos, my night time nemesis and sleep interrupter.  

And last, but not least, we spotted the king of the beasts taking a little afternoon siesta near the end of our drive.  It was humorous because at least eight safari vehicles quickly surrounded the lion with shutters busy snapping and he just ignored all of the attention.  Critter paparazzi.

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