Our stay at J-J’s was short the second time round and the car was quite simple to fix once Chris and Alan had found the problem. When we got back the Van Heerdens were still there but the rest were new faces. Such is life at these places. The sun shone which proved that it exists in Nairobi and I had recovered completely from the tummy bug, so all in all it wasn’t a bad stop.
Having tried to go north we decided that it was time to go south to the Masai Mara so we set off on a beautiful clear Thursday, firstly to Narok which is the closest biggest town before the Mara. Leaving Nairobi you leave the escarpment behind and there is a dramatic drop to the plains that take you to the Mara, it stretches out for kilometers before you reach a few undulating hills. The closer we got to the Mara the more red clad people (the Masai) we saw, the most in one place were at what looked like a cattle auction.
The landscape is quite dry and barren yet the cattle and sheep still find sufficient grass on which to feed. We couldn’t work out if it was really bad soil erosion due to over grazing or just dry due to lack of rain! We arrived at our campsite Mara Explorers back-packers camp which is run by a Kenyan, Moses and his wife Laura. This is the first time we have come across a local owning a campsite!
Moses is well traveled having spent many many years on overland trucks, he saw a gap in the market for budget accommodation in the Mara and is doing really well. It is a pleasure to talk with him and we would recommend this little site to anyone looking for budget accommodation. Both he and Laura are also a font of information having traveled the area themselves.
We decided to take a game drive with the camp and shared the cost of a vehicle with a young Canadian couple, Ross and Alyce who have been travelling the world for about 3 years now.
Our guide was Joffrey and driver Erikson and the drive was for the whole day. What a marvelous day we had. We found the migration! Firstly to see the vast numbers of Zebra and wildebeest is incredible and as the day progressed the plains got thicker with them. There were thousands of zebra, and tens of thousands of wildebeest who are very noisy, at times when the engine was off you’re surrounded by these grunting creatures with the Zebra whinnying too. Al and I had to pinch ourselves that we were actually here. According to the guide book about 2 million ungulates take part in the migration annually.
We had great sightings of lion. Al spotted a group of four young lions dragging their wildebeest kill into the shade where we found them relaxing having eaten their full. Then another group of lion were at the side of a ravine also just chilling.
The male headed for some shade whilst the female just lay watching us.
The great excitement of the day were the cheetah, they had just eaten a wildebeest and their tummies were so full and round. They were just lying in the shade of a tree but clearly visible along with their catch which the vultures were digging into!
That was our first experience of the highway of the Mara, as shortly afterwards all these game driving vehicles came rushing in to see informed by bush telegraph about the kill.
To add to the excitement, we got stuck!
The driver attempted to cross a mud filled ditch in 2 wheel drive and we ended up bogged down to the axle. Unfortunately we failed in our attempts to dig ourselves out and were eventually (after 2 hours) pulled out by another game drive vehicle. Spirits were not dampened as we continued our excursion.
There were also sightings of elephants, eland, impala, Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, warthogs, black backed jackals, crocodile, hippos, Masai giraffe, buffalos and lots of bird life.
We learnt where the strangely named ‘Topi’ derived its designation. Apparently the males frequently position themselves on top of an ant hill, standing watch over the terrain, ready to sound the alarm in the event of predators being sighted.
Then a bonus as were leaving the park at the end of the day a leopard in a tree!!!! Followed by a lone male lion, lying against a majestic backdrop. What a day!
The next day we just enjoyed being in the African bush at the campsite and made plans for the trip into Tanzania. Originally we decided that we would cross the Mara into the Mara triangle and camp in the park to make the most of the park fees. What we hadn’t realized is that you can transit the park at no cost and since we had had such a marvelous day there before we decided just to transit. Before we left the Mara conservancy we came across some cheetah lying on the side of the road. We stopped to watch and were thrilled when we realized there were five of them just finishing eating a kill. They all got up and crossed the road about 15m in front of us. To see them moving was wonderful! Joffrey the guide had told us that there was a mum with her 4 cubs in this area so we assumed this was them.
Crossing the Mara River we saw loads of Maribu Storks feeding in the carcasses of wildebeest who hadn’t made it. The carcasses were caught amongst the rocks in the river around the Mara Bridge.
On the other side we into the landscape that the Masai Mara is so famous for, with giraffes silhouetted against the skyline. It was unusual to see Giraffe grazing!
Herds of buffalo, elephant, impala, gazelles and much to our delight more lion! I don’t think we have ever had so many cat sightings before.
We stopped outside the park for lunch grateful for more wonderful sightings.
We hunted around for a campsite and the next thing we knew we were at the border with Tanzania without having found anywhere to stay the night. So across we went at Isabania which was uneventful, and found ourselves back in Tanzania where we headed to Musoma on Lake Victoria to Matvilla Lodge recommended by the Van Heerdens.