Sunscreen - check
Caps - check
Binoculars - check
Aviators - check
Camera - check
New (expensive) zoom lens - check
Lists were made and with a lot of discussions over which things need to be taken and which were to be left out, our bags were packed. We, ‘colonial cousins’ were set out on a journey into the most pristine and rich forests of Kenya.
For those who want a close encounter with wildlife, one cannot think of a better way to heal the travails of a busy city life than to seek out nature at its best. Masai Mara Game Reserve is famous for the ‘Big Five’ - lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants and rhinos.
Masai Mara is the gateway for game reserve situated in Narok County of Kenya. It stretches along a land covering an area of 1,510 sq km. Safari operators arrange special tours where you can see the ‘game’ live. There are several lodges and tented camps in this National Reserve for you to stay. Masai Mara has one of the best hot-air balloon safaris ever which will surely provide some unforgettable views.
The best time to visit Masai Mara is during the period of ‘Great Migration’ from July to October. Great Migration involves migration of horde of lions, leopards and cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti area of the region.
The herds of zebra, impala and deer were unbelievable in their beauty. Our guide was determined to show us lions in all their glory and drove us around the park till we actually saw a pride of them, one lion with about five lionesses just slumbering after the kill. The carcass of a buffalo lay just nearby being attacked by the jackals for their share of the booty.
The Nairobi National Park
The grasslands of Savannah are abundant with wildlife. Abundance of nature and inclement weather is what strikes you head on. However, thanks to the list making session, we were well equipped to beat the heat.
We were in for a surprise when the local people spoke to us in good English making things so much easier for us to communicate in a common tongue. Patrick, our guide and a wildlife expert, came along and introduced himself to us. His beaming smile always kept us going through out the safari.
He was thoroughly well versed with the forests and knew the wildlife around. He gave us insight into the Kenyan culture and made us feel comfortable even at the sound of a deep roar. His adeptness and agility came handy while spotting the rare species.
Well, he wrested out the hidden animals for us to shoot; with a camera of course!
We have seen giraffes in the zoo, but to see these extremely tall animals in their natural surroundings floating about happily was humbling. They are shy creatures, usually found in small groups, grazing on the tender shoots of acacia trees. Few deer romping around created the picture of pure nature, so hard to imagine in our daily dusty lives. Moving on to other Nature Parks we drove through clean, green countryside. What struck us at every stop is the friendliness of the people and probably the weather that makes them dress in neat, warm clothes.
We passed the Equator Point at a place called Nanyuki. Standing in front of the board we witnessed what Seamen usually do when they cross the equator on the high seas. Water poured through a funnel was swirling clockwise to the North and anticlockwise in the South although we had hardly moved ten feet either ways.
The Ark and Lake Nakuru
One night was spent at ‘The Ark’ which was built at the bank of a watering hole. The animals would come to drink water at night and anytime someone spotted an animal a bell would be rung so all of us could go and watch it quietly.
Lake Nakuru was our next stop and as we entered we saw a lion just by the side of the road, licking a carcass clean. Taking pictures did not seem to disturb his respite. We were entertained that evening by the local artists with the African song and dance performance. The next morning, as we went along the lakeside in our van we spotted white rhinos; and actually witnessed from a distance, through binoculars, a leopard making a kill of an impala. It was a strange sight to see the rest of the herd just petrified and still, watching one of their own meet its end. The flamingos at the lake were a cloud of orange and white, a visual treat.
TIPS & TRICKS
1. Getting there: Take a flight to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. There are direct flights available between Mumbai, New Delhi to Nairobi. Few more airlines offer one-stop connections between India and Kenya.
2. When to go: January to March; July to December
3. Binoculars are your best friend there. You’ll miss a lot of important sightings if you forget them.
4. To see the ‘Great Migration’, travel from July to October.
5. Comfortable casual clothing is the best for your Safari ride.
6. Be alert and make sure that you don’t disturb the animals by making noise. Silently observe the wildlife from your vehicle. Animals can get ticked off if you try getting closer.
7. Abide by the rules of your guide. He knows the area better.
8. Don’t forget to carry a head gear, sunscreen and glares.
9. Do not try to feed the animals no matter how silent it looks. Attacks can be unpredictable.
The warmth of the climate gets overshadowed by the warmth of the people there. Such a unique experience that left us spellbound every time we saw a lion pounce on its prey.
Author : Archana Gopakumar
Photo courtesy : Anita Jain