Good things come to those who wait…even those who wait impatiently ? I have desired to visit the Mara for a long time now and my first experience was nothing short of spectacular. I finally made the trip last month accompanied by close friends. We had a lovely stay at Mara Serena which according to our guide was an ideal spot. The lodge is not too far from Mara River where the crossing takes place. Upon arrival we had a quick lunch and set off for the Mara River.
Our small group camped by the river for slightly over an hour waiting patiently as the herd built up and moved back and forth along the river bank. The Wildebeest seemed to be looking for a good spot we assumed. At some point it looked as if the crossing was not going to happen when the whole herd retreated. They however came rushing back and one gnu came close to the edge of the river and after a few minutes took the plunge. And then it was on. One after the other they all jumped in. It was an oddly calming cacophony of sounds. The splashing noise as the herd jumped into the water, the bellowing of the wildebeest, braying of Zebras, loud grunting of hippos which floated to the surface and moved further downstream sort of leaving a clear path for the wildebeests and zebras. I was hoping for some predator action when a crocodile started swimming slowly towards the crossing point. It tried to grab a calf but did not succeed. It was mesmerizing, I watched in silence taking it all in as the whole herd made its way safely across the river before the sun began to set. What a welcome! Our guide informed us just how lucky we were to see the crossing on the first day.
You probably read or heard about the wildebeests that drowned? more than 300 wildebeest drown in the mara. Well as we crossed the mara bridge entering the reserve heading to the ticketing office, the air smelled rotten. Wildebeest carcass littered either side of the bridge as vultures circled the sky above. The stench was too much – a perfect mask wearing moment dare I say – and it did not help that we had to wait a while at the bridge while our tickets were processed.
To pass time as we waited, our crazy selves posed and smiled for a few…okay many photos ? Special breathing skills were needed here.
We were fortunate to spot four of the big five. No rhino was sighted. Wildebeest herds could be seen all over the park as we went on a game drive the following day. Apparently, this was one of the biggest migrations in a while.
The lioness in this picture was spotted alone and it nibbled on the grass briefly before walking away. Our guide said that happens at times. I have heard it mentioned as well. I will read up on it later to find out why.
Topi carcass and a short distance away five satisfied cheetahs resting under the shade provided by bushes. We missed the hunting session but suspected that the topi was the menu. There were few safari vans out this day so we could at least get somewhat good shots of the cheetahs before the crowding of vans that would soon take place once the word of their sighting had spread. The cheetahs pictured here are the famous tano bora cheetahs of the Masai Mara the fast five tano bora males.
We had two leopard sightings. The first leopard had cubs and was hidden under a thicket it was hard to see it unless you got really close. The rangers on patrol informed us it looked uneasy and only allowed vehicles to pass by the area for a brief moment and move on. The wardens did not want the leopard agitated.
The one pictured here was spotted much later. If you look closely you will see the hooves of its meal dangling from the tree branch. Its coat was beautiful. I now see why wearing leopard print clothes or shoes oozes style. As we marveled at the site of the leopard and listened to interesting facts shared by our guide, we saw a hyena in the distance. It had obviously smelled the kill. It came just close enough for us to see it. We waited, hoping for a confrontation, some drama. But instead it went the opposite direction, we guessed to get some back up from its fellow hyenas. Moments later it was back on the scene but at a distance then finally went about its way. In the picture, the hyena can be seen between the two vans, using the as a shield as it looks in the direction of the leopard.
To top off a beautiful day. A light drizzle and then the sun began to set. I still do not know how to describe this sunset and the pictures we took do not do it justice either. It started off as a normal looking sunset. Rich hues of orange bright rays spreading out into the horizon and then slowly as we got near the lodge it changed to a fiery red orange that filled the skyline. That was just it for me. The perfect moment!
That sunset, that moment when the colours started to change and slowly the sun went down, down until you could see it no more. It’s safe to say that moment was the highlight for me. I felt this sense of calm, contentment, a bit misty eyed. Our guide stopped for us to take it all in until it got dark. I know no photograph can do it justice but I think this one comes close.
Lynda Ouma – Communication practitioner and traveler.
You are probably wondering, travelling in the time of COVID-19, were there any prevention measures?
- The lodge staff wore face masks and shields at all times
- Guests were expected to have their masks on at all times except when having meals
- Automatic hand sanitizer machines were set up at various points
- Though the food stations were set up buffet style, there were kitchen staff assigned to serve the guests. We were not to handle anything except our plates.
- Facilities such as the gym and spa remained closed for obvious reasons
- The swimming pool was open but its use was regulated to family groups or persons travelling as a group. One had to book their slot prior to avoid overcrowding