Our 3-day, 2-night safari adventure took off from Nairobi on Wednesday morning. About an hour into the drive, we hit the Great Rift Valley which runs from from Mozambique to Syria, cutting through Kenya and Ethiopia. The valley is gargantuan. Looking down from an abutting mountain range, the valley appears as a plain stretching unending into the distance in nearly all directions. The Great Rift Valley lacks the magical quality of the Grand Canyon, but it is deserving of the title “great” nonetheless.
We arrived at the Mara in the afternoon, and headed straight to our camp to drop packs before going on the first game drive. We stayed at Rhino Tourist Tent Camp, a luxurious (by my standards) collection of permanent tents arrayed around a massage parlor and a dining hall. Nathan and I bunked up with Ian, a Brit on holiday to safari and visit family in Kenya.
The first game drive took off at 1600, and as soon as we entered the park, I was positively blown away by how exquisite the Mara is. The Mara savannah itself is endless rolling plains full of tall grass blowing in the wind punctuated only by the occasional acacia tree. The plains are abutted by lush rolling hills, and looking through a crack in those hills, one can see into the Serengeti in Tanzania. The sky, though cloudy and brooding for much of the drive, opened up with sunlight towards the middle of our drive, making things, if possible, even more beautiful. And everywhere I looked—actually everywhere—there was new & abundant wildlife.
The density of large game here is astounding. In the first hour, we saw gazelles, impalas, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffes, eagles, and of course, lions. Lions were, again, of course, the most impressive. We saw several lionesses with cubs, and one lion sitting atop a hillcrest. With the sunlight highlighting his bright golden-brown mane, he looked quite regal indeed watching impassively over his pride below. Before we left, we even got to see the pride hunt a small springbuck! Watching the lionesses stalk their prey, I was especially impressed by how well they worked together to hem in the springbuck. Though the hunt failed, it was impressive to behold.
The night was spent back at camp. I had a great conversation with an Israeli couple I had seen briefly in Aksum, Ethiopia, who taught me some new words in Hebrew—“magniiv” means “cool” or “awesome,” for instance! Then, Ian and I played cards with some of the camp workers, which was an absolute blast. I went to bed after writing in my journal, like in Awra Amba, pretty carefree.
I awoke at 0600 the next morning for a quick jog before breakfast (all you can eat eggs and sausage! It’s time to put back on the weight I’ve lost so far this trip!) and our day’s game drive.
The game drive was absolutely tremendous! I had a real feeling of exploration as we zoomed throughout the savannah, sometimes following established van routes, sometimes going off-road. Steve was great at finding the animals, but I must say: if every driver were like him, visitors to Masai Mara would have an absolute blast over the next ten years, but after that, the park would be a roadless mud-pit from vehicles going off-road everywhere. For that reason, I felt somewhat conflicted every time we went off the path; but we still saw so much!
From the top: among other things, we caught amazing sites of elephants, cheetahs (three at once!—a mother and two cubs!), a leopard sleeping in a tree above a freshly-eaten zebra carcass hanging from the branches below it, more lions, crocodiles recently stuffed on wildebeest, hippos, animals, and countless grazing and other animals. Again, everywhere we looked, there was some new creature, and we were frequently able to get very close to the animals, especially the elephant, cheetahs, and lions. The cheetahs even stopped to pose for us atop a small bluff after Steve had chased after them off-road for a few hundred meters.
I’ve known this for some time, but the safari strongly affirmed my recreational passion for zoology. This field and astronomy are two areas I have long loved to engage with, be it taking in the Milky Way as we did in Awra Amba or devouring a thousand-page Wildlife Factfile as I did when I was a child. I look forward to the days when I can devote substantial time to reading more on these fields, or even participate in some business or non-profit ventures trying to explore the heavens or the farthest reaches of undeveloped land here on Earth.