Masai Mara National Reserve
We travel to Masai Mara through some beautiful scenery. Do not be fooled - the seven year drought has left this area parched. Although you will see some greenery, it is early in the drive. The further north we go we enter an area of elevated volcanic activity in the far past. The ground is covered with pumice-like stone of volcanic origin and the soil is as much pebbles and sand as dirt. There is little vegetation and virtually no crops. The primary vegetation, other than dry grass is the Mara tree. The name Masai Mara means "spotted plain" - the Mara (plain) is spotted with the Moro trees.
The pictures below are not mountains, they are calderas. I counted as many as 13 of the old volcanic sites within sight along one section of straight road.
This is the central communications center for Kenya. This is where they receive and distribute satellite information.
And again we pass road side businesses
This gas station is not one-of-a-kind
Fencing around a couple huts
A teenager herding his sheep. There were quite a few on all the roads and Hodge did a good job the entire trip in avoiding them .
This is a Maasai - notice the red shirt and the cloth that ties at the shoulder? Additionally, I never saw a male Maasai without a stick, and on several occasions, they were carrying their spears.
On one hand we see abandoned buildings here on the plain
And on the other hand
We see this fancy restaurant, with a large welcome sign, out in the middle of nowhere.
But more often we only see acres of parched, rocky, sandy land - as far as the eye can see
Here we have Maasai women washing the robes and hanging them on thorn bushes to dry.
The cows and sheep wander
The men stand in the shade a distance away.
Just where would the cattle and sheep go anyway?
We arrive at the Masai Mara National Reserve
We had no idea how much we would love the Reserve and the Keekerok Lodge
Take a look at the grounds
And our cabins
And our rooms
And best of all, the lodge had a small lake full of Hippos just down the way a bit.
(More - very much more - on the Hippos)
Go past the birds,
Past the macabre pile of animal skulls at the entrance to the board walk
And there are hippopotamuses!
And very ugly _________ Catfish - see the mouth?
See it now?
Maybe they're so ugly because their primary
diet is hippopotamus poo!
Birds gather at places around the pool
But we are entranced by the Hippos
The beautiful pool, reflecting the sky. See the hippo noses and ears?
Out on safari - our first find is a Wart Hog - notice how they get on their knees to feed.
As we go out into the field, we pass the Airport.
As luck would have it, an aircraft landed as we passed. It landed, dropped passengers unloaded luggage, packed up and left within 20 minutes. At many of these more remote locations, driving would take too long and be too uncomfortable (tell us about it!) so tourists are encouraged to fly in and be picked up by a van from their lodge.
A Secretary Bird -
The heaviest bird that can still fly. They weigh around 25 pounds. They actually walk most of the time, hunting for
small animals and snakes. When they find them they jump high in the air, flapping their wings. We saw one doing just that and it was both surprising and a bit frightening. I don't think the bird caught anything this one time.
Our first cheetah on his reserve. It was feeding on a kill. We couldn't really see what was being eaten
It might be a deer of some type.
You can see the kill low on the ground and blood on the cheetah's lips and chin.
Yes, there were a few vans watching this cheetah.
We catch sight of a lion butt, nothing else
Wildebeest are everywhere
I found it almost impossible to catch a good shot of a bird. But as Pam is a bee keeper
I tried extra hard to get a picture of this Lilac-Breasted Roller. Not bad, huh?
A Common Eland
A Lappet-Faced Vulture
Sunset on the Masai Mara as we go home for diner and sleep
The next morning the Lapped Faced Vultures are waiting for an easy early meal
Most of the group had left in the wee hours to take a balloon ride over the Masai Mara. From what they later told us, it was a wonderful time. Consequently, this morning's safari consisted of very few of us.
As luck would have it, about 15 minutes out, I looked up and told Hodge I saw a feline head. He looked, didn't see anything, but backed up anyway. This resulted in some of the best pictures from the Africa trip in my opinion.
He, I assume its a "he", was stunningly beautiful. He sat an posed for us for the longest while. Took my breath away
Even his back and sides are stunning
Magnificent ! Simply Magnificent !
You ought to see the leopard pictures on our Christmas present to each other - a 50" HD TV. You can count the whiskers and eye lashes !! Down right awe-inspiring.
All these mongooses were almost a let-down.
A pride of lions in the distance
A Black-Backed Jackal
Very fortunate to see him. The deer appears interested, but not afraid, as he crosses the trail in front of us.
Coke's Hartebeest graze
Topi also share the Masi Mara
Again, we see Secretary Birds
We pass a small stream - pretty dried up.
And we come upon two lions - a male and female. Hodge tells us they are on their "honeymoon".
A male and female will pair off for mating. They will stay by themselves, mating as many as 150 times an hour (?). Afterwards, a pregnant female will go off by herself to deliver. With her cubs, she will hide until they have grown large enough that a male in her pride will not kill them. They are therefore on their honeymoon at this point.
I think he's saying, "Pay attention to me, damn it!"
He looks up as if to tell us to mind our own business.
She is playing hard to get.
She's not too attentive
And they slowly walk away.
Yes, there are people that close - better stay in the vehicle.
Just a view of us watching the vans, watching the lions.
OK, believe me now? These roads are bad.
Completely sheared an axle.
The driver radioed for assistance for his passenger,
and then stayed with the van all night and until help arrived.
Those pesky Vervet monkeys were all over the grounds. A young Maasai warrior was assigned to keep them away, using his stick, club and stones. Well, he actually spend most of his time flirting with all the young ladies and sitting with them on a bench far down the grounds, in the shade.
Babies are cute - and a bit of bother to the mom.
They seem to cling and ride - never more than an arm's length away.
Oh, I forgot, nursing is also a high priority.
There's a story behind this next series of four terribly out of focus pictures. We had just been seated for breakfast when we saw this monkey come down from the roof to the top of a short interior wall in the dining room. You'll barely see the baby clinging to her front. Mom's looking a the next table over - which is empty of people, but not possibilities.
She jumps to the table and as quickly as she could, she takes all the sugar packets
from the sugar bowl and jumps back to the ledge.
I'm trying to take picture of this theft, but she moves too quickly.
She jumps from the short wall to a support, and from there the edge of the roof.
Once there she tears open sugar packets, spits out the paper, and eats the sugar.
Poor baby can only watch - but I'm certain it learned......
Out to the Hippo Pool. I am certain everyone was entranced by this pool. Jackie and I were not the only ones who walked the elevated boardwalk to the large building at its end, overlooking the pool. It was both amusing and relaxing to sit and watch these huge creatures bob up and down, wiggle their ears to clear them of water, and occasionally let out a bellow.
Of course the birds watched.
There were only two or three,
but they were always there.
Of course, with that many hippos, there is bound to be great expanses of hippo poo
The Hippo Pool had many zebras that wandered in and around the observation deck.
As you see, birds enjoyed a free ride.
As we walked back the long boardwalk to the main grounds,
we had to go through a troop of our favorite monkeys.
They watched and lay in wait, acting sooo very innocent.
We're just watching, relaxing in the sun, doing a little grooming......
And about that time, several made a sneak attack on Jackie's purse and a plastic gift bag from the gift store.
I didn't get pictures of this short battle, as I was trying to shoo them away. ( OK, I was actually laughing so hard I couldn't take pictures. ) Jackie was not frightened so much as she was angry.
I perhaps mentioned that monkeys and baboon were exceptionally adept at getting into and taking items from your luggage or your room. I forgot to tell you about the warning we got specific to baboons. We were told they were particularly attracted to people carrying something with two hands. They would casually walk by or sneak up, and slap you sharply on your behind. This sharp slap would cause many people to drop what ever they had in two hands and the baboon, or his partner, would make off with the plunder.
The next morning we're out on safari
See the animals spread throughout the plain?
What beautiful country.
As I said before, these trees are iconic - this one all by itself, out on the plain, was stunning
We come across a large pride of lions - at least nine (there's a female out of frame to the left)
We have a dominate male, several male and female cubs, and three mature females
I love these next two pictures. A female is napping and a cub starts to wander.
As he gets a bit further, she slowly turns her head, and opens one eye.
Just as any mother would, she's keeping an eye on her child.
Haven't you seen a house cat posed just like this?
No, this cub isn't looking for trouble..... Sure!
I think all cats, wild or domestic act and look alike.
Here's our lion,
And here's our Suzie,
And here's a young lion,
And here's our Sophie
Ah, a nap
Just a big yawn
And here's the dinner table - we were told that Wildebeest are often led or around zebras.
This because the Wildebeest has very poor eyesight, while the zebra has excellent sight and smell.
The zebra therefore end up protecting the wildebeests inadvertently.
This lovely tree is called the Sausage Tree. You'll see the reason more clearly in the next picture.
The fruit of this tree looks quite like large sausages hanging down. We only saw one in Kenya.
Hodge told us that no animal will eat the fruit, nor do the natives. We saw a second such tree in Tanzania.
There Samuel confirmed what Hodge said, but I think he told us that there was some way natives used the
fruit by cutting them lengthwise and through a fermenting process, got some liquid from them. Just can't remember.
And there were ostriches
And we ran across a lone female lion
And we can't have enough elephants
Notice he has a rider
We found another baby in this group
Did you know that elephants are either right or left handed?
You can tell by looking at their tusks. The shorter, most used one
is which "handed" he or she is.
The baby, as usual, is the show stopper
We got the nicest pictures of it staying almost too close to Mom
Yes, they were that close - and we we didn't seem to bother them as they ate and walked around - the large males and the mother with babies did keep an eye on us, and the babies were almost always on the far side of and adult, or in the middle of the group.
A pretty blurry long distance picture of a migrating herd of Wildebeest
Apropos of nothing, I just thought this a pretty bush.
unfortunately, the variety of colors really didn't come through
We came upon a Maasai giraffe, and got a couple good shots.
I wanted to go down to the hippo pool in the evening, as that is when they come out of the pool to wander around and eat. This is also the prime time to get a "yawn shot." None of my yawn shots really came out - there were over 25 such shots and these terrible ones are the "best".
Ken was also attempting to get the yawn shot and I hope he did better.
The problem is that you had to get a close up and you never knew which one, or where, would yawn. If you spotted one, you had to swing the camera, hope it would immediately focus, and you could get the lapse between punching the button and the shutter clicking down to a very minimum. An then it was dusk, on top of every thing else.
Are these enough excuses ?
And then it was too dark for me to gat any pictures - I really didn't see them leave the pool.
- BUT -
Hippos are very dangerous. And, as we said earlier, we were always escorted to our cabins at night. This night the escorts were careful not to lets us get more than about ten feet behind them - hippos were wandering the grounds - weren't they Allison?
We started down the path to the cabins and at one point, as the hippos got within about 30 feet of us, we dragged our feet to make noise so the hippos would know where we were and we wouldn't startle them. We even left the path for a while as they drew too close. As we got near our cabin, Allison was pleased to run to her cabin and tightly close the door.
I asked our escort, as they wandered away from us, if I could try a picture. Several others nearer the main building were using flash cameras. . Sure, I know that a flash from my camera is good for maybe ten feet, but I had to try. The result is below. beyond the tree you may be able to see two shapes. There are actually three hippos there. This is the best I could do. I'm pretty certain others there got some good pictures.
The next morning we're again out on the Mara, on the way out to our next lodge.
Do you see something behind the termite mound?
We thought we did.
And we were correct - a lion.
We thought this a great way to close this trip.
BUT The best was yet to come!
As we were about to leave, we saw the very rare, very endangered Black Rhino!
He was on the run, not stopping for even a moment
What a treat! What a way to end this safari!!
And with that Black Rhino excitement just behind us, we leave Masai Mara.
I may be wrong, but I think this was by far and away, the best stop on the entire trip!
On to either Nairobi and the airport to leave for the States
On to the airport to catch a plane to Tanzania.
We were very sad to see some of the group leave us. Very fine people & great companions.
Our original group of 15 was now pared down to eleven.
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