|Elizabeth, me, Jambo and Willy|
I am traveling with three friends from Homer, Jambo, Willy and Elizabeth, and in the photo above you see us formed up in front of our vehicle, an all-wheel drive, heavy-duty Mercedes diesel truck set up for off road touring.
The first 250 km out of Nairobi are over normal roads, if a bit rough and crowded by most measures. The last 100 or so are rough, very rough. Especially when you're traveling in a big truck, far above the pavement and the truck's center of balance. The driver would get our truck up to maybe 30 mph and then a rough spot would appear and he would hit the brakes, shift into 1st gear and crawl over the pot-hole or sag, the big truck rolling and heaving violently from side to side. The going was very slow during that last part of the trip. I had a great seat -- up front with a good view of the road ahead.
|On the road to Maasai Mara. The pavement was rough and pot-holed.|
|The road to Maasai Mara after the rain- we're in the African bush at last|
As soon as we crossed into the park proper we began to see wildlife, lots of wildlife. Pictures will tell the story. The first animal we saw, appropriately, was the wildebeest. The Mara River, our furthest destination within the park that day, is famous for the fact that migrating herds of wildebeest cross it and when they do, they fall prey to crocodiles that are plentiful along its shores. The big migrations occur in July so we won't see that spectacle during our time here, but check out the photos below for a taste of the drama of the river crossing.
|Wildebeest - Masai Mara|
|Mara River shore - bone yard for deceased wildebeests|
|A cheetah with her two cubs|
|The Cape Buffalo - one of the most dangerous of big game animals||\|
I thought we had been very fortunate to have seen a cheetah right away and then just after that, we saw cape buffalo. When I was a hunter many years ago, I remember reading about how the cape buffalo was considered the most dangerous big game animal in the world. I can't vouch for that but these animals are most impressive. I never thought I would ever see one in the flesh, yet here they were, a herd of about twenty animals, quietly grazing in the protected confines of the park. Awesome!
And then, just a few hundred meters from where we saw the cheetahs, lions! It was a group of three males, perhaps brothers Moses said. Here are two of them.
I imagine you're getting the idea floating around in my head by now. This place is a paradise, but a fragile one. It's a preserve, a last holdout against man's incessant incursions. A treasure. A treasure like Alaska's North Slope, like the Galapagos, the Brazilian rainforest. A threatened treasure. Even we benevolent tourists threaten the balance. That cheetah was bothered by us, and bothered all day by people like us, people interested in preserving species but by our actions, threatening her very survival. Did she hunt that day? I doubt it.
Yes, we saw elephants that day as well. No big bulls as yet but we enjoyed seeing them just the same.
|Elephants grazing in Maasai Mara|
|Hippos on the Mara River|
I must close now. My batteries are about done and it's late. We depart early tomorrow for the 21-day safari we signed up for last summer, the actual trip. We'll go first to the Serengeti in Tanzania, of which Maasai Mara is only a small northern extension, and then to the Ngonongoro Crater. And Zanzibar after that.