It rains at night, leaving the Mara even greener than before. Once again, mesmerized by the buffalo, we witness their symbiotic relationship with the ox peckers. Water buffalo function like a big, sturdy mobile restaurant for these birds who constantly peck off the bugs and eat them for lunch. Lucky for these buffalo, even though one seems a bit annoyed when the bird pecks a little too close to his eye!
I look at the elephants in pieces this time, partitioning off each part of their bodies. The curvy trunk, contemplating eyes, the textured canyon of their rough, gray sky. Even isolated, each aspect of the elephant is truly unique. And the sum, such a wise, grand piece of art. (especially the "old lady" elephant we see!)
The savannah is scattered with other remarkable creatures. More zebra, one with cuddly baby (I find zebra so fascinating now. Did you know that they were never domesticated as pack animals because their spine is so fragile? And, as they make their migration with the wildebeest into Serengeti every year, they make the wildebeest go first across the river--watch out for crocodiles! Smart and sassy zebras. Yesiree!) We watch a A Marshall eagle on top of a tree is dive-bombed by smaller water birds who probably have a nest nearby. Herds of the mauve and tan colored topi, a medium-sized antelope, grace the landscape. (and even a disguised cell photo tower off in the distance: see funny looking tree)
Lady luck in Kenya shines brightly on us in Masai Mara. A female cheetah and her six juvenile cubs race across the grassland. The cubs tackle and tumble and sprint all around us, while mom sits and watches the horizon. It's a gorgeous sight to see these sleek, regal cats in all their glory.
Our friend Simon, is an amazing guide and driver with Southern Cross Safaris. He's out with other clients in the Mara, and every day we seem to "run in" to him on the roads. Today, his van is stuck in a huge mud hole from last night's storm. They attach his van to another SUV with a rope, rev the engine and T...U...G... Eventually, his vehicle lurches out of the rut and we cheer!
There a buster--heaviest bird in Africa, warthog, ostrich, wildebeest, Thompson's gazelle, and an oribi--a rare gazelle--another gift from Lady Luck. The Lilac-breasted roller is stunning and we catch of group of mongoose by surprise. Count to three, snap a shot and there gone!
Masai Mara borders the Serengeti in Tanzania. After crossing the Tanzanian border (for 5 seconds,) we stop at the Masai River for lunch. We get out and talk a walk with a young Masai Kenyan Wildlife Ranger (armed with machine gun.) We cruise along the river and spot lots of giraffe (see poop here)and many BIG kiboko, or hippo partially soaking in the water (they come on land at night.) Even with just their tops visible, we can see the shear brute of their bodies (most dangerous animal in Africa) ...and look at that print in the mud! We cross the bridge, and aim for crocodile--and spot two basking in the sun, absolutely still like marble. Our guide talks about his Masai culture. These traditional herders do not eat animals from the wild, only meat from their cattle or goats ("and don't be afraid, but I do drink blood!" he says to us.) With eyes wide, we listen as he explains the process of draining goat blood to drink! Ah! But I love what he says about his life as a caretaker. He grew up as a small child herding the cattle, and now he cares for the wildlife. All his life, he's loved the animals. I get one photo of the ranger in a shot of my son, but he's hidden in the bush. Masai do not believe in getting their pictures taken. I am enamored by this beautiful tribe--their multi-colored beads, the delicated drape of their Masai cloths (red, black, blue checkered patterns,) wrapped around them in striking contrast as they walk with staff in hand across the savannah.
We have lunch surrounded by weaver birds (who eat our leftovers) and Vevert monkeys (who steal the bags right out of our hands and get into the snacks in our vehicle!) I watch a mother grooming her baby--just like a human mom and child. The baby rushes into his mother's arms. We watch the young monkeys compete for our food, often erupting into screams and fits. They're hilarious, and totally bold in their stake for our food.
My son decides he wants to catch a lizard with using a loop of grass to whisk him up into our hands for the traditional "calm the reptile by scratching his belly" technique. Finally, after days of attempts, he gets the loop around an purple and orange agama's neck. Pull! The grass breaks, leaving a noose around the neck. We chase the lizard back and forth until finally, we grab the strip of grass, pull him close and scratch the belly. And it works! I hold him tight, and three hearts race (two human, one reptile.) We let him go and laugh and laugh and laugh... until our guide, Dennis, tells us that "any reptile with color is dangerous!" We make it through another adventure ...
Masai Mara. So much to take in. So many gifts laid out before us.
(Thank you Nicola for donating some of your AMAZING photos!)