Thursday 28th July 2011
As dawn was breaking we made our way out for our game drive. We hadn’t gone too far when we met some vehicles coming in the opposite direction, which Nicholas advised us had been the ones that got stuck in the mud during yesterday’s downpour. They had apparently spent the night out in the bush, returning to their lodges at first light.
Our first wildlife spot was a pride of Lions with the remains of a kill; mostly bones with some scraps of skin remaining, but enough to tell us that this had been a Zebra. Again this sighting gave us the opportunity to observe animal behaviour as the Lions greeted one another, rubbing heads and faces, before relaxing; most of which involved rolling around on their backs! Lions are sociable animals living in prides that can number as many 40, although you will rarely see all of them together in one place. Prides consist of related females, the female being the dominant sex, with adult males being limited to one! In the main, it will be the females that will undertake the hunting; while the male will be ever alert to the threat of a takeover by younger males.
A herd of giraffes, including a youngster, ambled past us a short distance further on; and a short while later we came across a lone female Elephant with her young calf. The calf nuzzled up to its mother, wanting the safety and security of her bulk, as we watched from a respectable distance.
Herds of Wildebeest were wandering across the savannah, the migration from Tanzania, northwards into the lush grass of the Mara, now being in full swing. Nicholas then informed us that we were in actual fact now in Tanzania! We had driven across the unmarked border, the only indication being a concrete marker defining the boundary between two countries!
Safely back in Kenya, we drove on heading for the Mara River in search of more wildlife. As we expected the river was alive with Hippos, while some sizeable Crocodiles lay on the banks, always with an eye on any opportunity to snap up a tasty snack!
Stopping at Mara Bridge, Nicholas spoke to the rangers and then turned off the main track. We hadn’t gone far when we stopped – there, hanging in the tree was the carcass of an antelope. As antelopes are not renowned for their tree climbing prowess, there was only one way it could have got there – a sure sign of a stashed Leopard kill! sure enough, at the base of the tree lying in the undergrowth was a Leopard, fast asleep. As Nicholas switched off the engine, it opened its eyes, looked up at us, and then resumed its slumbers. Sandra always asks our drivers to find her a “Leopard up a tree with its kill”… …well I think this is close enough!
Leopards are the embodiment of feline beauty, power, and stealth. Solitary creatures, you will rarely find two together in the same territory unless you are lucky enough to come across a breeding pair, or a female with cubs – both rare sightings indeed. They tend to lie up by day and during the early part of the night, in trees and dense undergrowth. It is often advisable to scan the undergrowth at the base of trees, or in amongst the foliage where the branches branch out from the top of the trunk, for a chance to spot a Leopard during the day.
Early in the morning, you may come across a Leopard as it returns to one of the spots it uses to lie up, after a night hunting.
As we made our way back to Keekorok for breakfast, we came across a Cheetah, sat on a low mound, looking out across the savannah, and posing for photographs.
After relaxing in the lodge grounds, at 4pm it was time to head out again on our afternoon game drive. The Savannah was teeming with herbivores of all description, a feast of temptation for the cats later on this evening and through the night, as the circle of life revolved across the Kenyan grasslands.
Lions were present in numbers, but the highlight of the afternoon was another pair of Cheetahs. These are beautiful cats and Sandra’s favourites amongst the big cats.
Cheetahs are mostly diurnal; seldom active at night, but usually rest during the heat of the day, hunting in the cool of the dawn and dusk. Cheetahs are of course renowned for their speed, although they are only able to sustain this over fairly short distances. If they haven’t caught their prey within 600 yards they will generally give up the chase.
Friday 29th July 2011
Sadly today we were scheduled to return to Nairobi, so breakfast was taken at a more normal time, no game drive today. The journey from the Mara was over all too quickly and arriving at the Southern Sun Mayfair we very reluctantly said goodbye to Nicholas. Nicholas summed up our two weeks together when he said to us, “we started out as strangers and finished up as family”. The family is very important to the Kenyan people and their culture, so we took this as the highest possible compliment, that he felt this way about us after two weeks together.
One final thing though was to give him his tip as a reward for his hard work in finding and showing us the wildlife of his fabulous country. We also presented him with his own copy of Helm’s Field Guide to the Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania, as a thank you for his friendship and for sharing his country and wildlife with us. We had noted his frustration with the field guide that Private Safaris had equipped him with earlier in our travels. To say that he was delighted with this gift is perhaps a gross understatement.
Having checked in to our day room, we dropped our bags off and had a stroll along Parklands Road to the Sarit Centre for some last minute shopping. As we strolled, ordinary Kenyans displayed to us just how friendly the Kenyan people are, and cemented our love for this wonderful country. They were returning from work or from shopping, but as they met these two white, total strangers bright smiles appeared on their faces as they greeted us, “Jambo Jambo”!
Returning to the hotel it was time to get our cases packed ready for the drive to the airport for our overnight flight home.
Farewell Kenya – we are sure that this is not the last that we will see of you! We have fallen in love with you and we will return.