Kenya | Big Kitties in the Masai Mara
Back to my adventure in Kenya and a new bolt hole in the bush… Pun intended.
From Samburu we flew to the Masai Mara for the mother of all safaris. The Mara is totally different to the dry, sparse lands of Samburu. It’s vast, sprawling and rather than spotting the odd giraffe, you’ll see dozens of them, along with herds of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo all grazing together across the wide sweeping savannah. Our base camp was Sala’s Camp, a collection of beautiful tented rooms nestled next to the Sand River with views over towards Tanzania’s Serengeti…. You can literally have lunch and dinner with zebras and wildebeest for company and go to sleep listening to the sounds of the whooping Hyenas and hear lions roaring from your bed (not nearly as scary as it sounds I promise). I was last in the Masai Mara fresh out of school 10 years ago for a safari before I embarked on being a primary school teacher in Uganda for six months. Back then I was lucky enough to see the migration but was going round in a massive truck of 20 people and camping in proper canvas tents every night so this was totally different experience.
The camp is right in the thick of the reserve so anything with four legs can stroll on in; one night I heard something splashing around in the river only to hear the next morning a buffalo had been down there and come all the way up to my pathway. Needless to say wandering around after dark and in the day are a no-no; there’s strict rules when you’re going to and from your room (no tech neck round here please) and you’re always escorted back and forth after dark which only makes the whole thing feel more exciting.
Safari in the Mara was pretty amazing. The first hyena we spotted we all got super excited but out guide Stephen promised us we’d see a tonne of the things over the next few days and he wasn’t wrong… Game (side note, I hate using that word as it’s basically hunting lingo but it’s just used to describe wildlife these days) is abundant and if you’re lucky like we were, you often feel like in you’re in a live episode of Big Cats Diaries. Sala’s Camp has its own (figuratively of course) pride of resident lions too so its prime territory for spotting these beautiful big kitties.
Those faces though… As much as you’re aware they are wild animals with very big teeth and appetites, half the time you just want to get down them and spoon them, especially when they start yawning and rolling around like any other moggy. The lions are really chilled and unthreatened by the cars so as long as you stay firmly inside the car and don’t make lots of noise, everyone’s happy. I think you can tell from these pictures they’re pretty relaxed… Leopards are the scaredy cats of the bunch and far more elusive whereas and lions and cheetahs are used to hanging out with the safari trucks as long as you’re not getting in the way of their food or babies.
In the afternoons, we’d fuel up on lunch and then get a few hours to intermittently fry in the sun and ice down in our plunge pool overlooking the wild plains before it was time for another venture out in our trusty 4×4.
We were treated to more sightings of sleepy cheethas and a leopard from afar with a grisly half eaten zebra hauled up into the tree with her. August and September is migration season when all the hoards of wildebeest follow the rains north from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara, hoping not to get snapped up by crocs on their way across the river. We were a little too late in the season to see the main event but we still saw teams of them hanging around, hilariously following each other around single file like sheep. The legend goes that when God made the animals in Africa, he created the wildebeest out of all the leftovers; the legs of an antelope, the tail of a horse, the face of a cow and the hump of a camel. And you can kind of see why?
Our first day in the Mara couldn’t have been better and we still had a couple of days to spot even more… Rhinos were top of my list so I was keeping my fingers firmly crossed for a glimpse of one before it was time to head home.
Ph. by myself and Liv Purvis