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Posts Tagged ‘Masai Mara’

 “There is always something new out of Africa.” Pliny the Elder, 23 Ad – 73 AD

 

An up close and personal big cat experience. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Photo Souvenir

We had the “Kids” with us for our wildlife drive yesterday and again this morning. The young couple, newlyweds, were Frankie and John from London, and as excited as Kim and I about the wildlife and landscape.

I caught Kim’s eye as John bounced around from one side of the Land Rover to the other, and may even have smirked. .

I had done exactly the same thing until Kim strongly let me know that my bouncing was interfering with her photo taking. She was as serious about photographing our adventure as I was about seeing Africa’s birds. I tried to be more sedate after her scolding, but enthusiasm is hard to contain.

 

Friends still on our very last wildlife safari outing. -- Photo by John

Today, as John bounced, Kim resignedly smiled back at me and ruefully shook her head. Some times you just have to go with the flow.

And today’s flow was perfect – from a wake of Ruppell’s griffin vultures feasting on a dead wildebeest to a lion mom and two young sons strolling past our vehicle. Joseph had seen them and had parked near where he thought they would pass. He was right on, as he had been so many times in selecting our viewing sites. It was as if he could read the animals’ minds.

 

One last cheetah -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was one of the young males that gave me my final tall cat tail. Just as the trio were passing, it veered toward our Land Rover and casually scratched its back on a rear tire – the one I was standing over. It looked right straight up at me and I stopped breathing. I was sure hoping, that as we had been told, the wildlife considered us just a part of the non-digestible metal beast they saw everywhere.

When it finally looked down and started to walk away, however, I snapped its picture. It’s not a great shot, but I considered it one of my favorite African souvenirs. When I showed the picture to Joseph on my digital camera, he was surprised. From his seat in the front of the Land Rover, he hadn’t seen it. Neither had Frankie or John, whose names always made me want to burst out in song “”Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts ….”

But Kim had seen it. So I had a witness to my tallest cat story of all.

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 “Most of us don’t need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with.” – Robert Brault.

 

Sharp-eyed Kim spotted this serval in the bush. It was a rare daytime find. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: The Rest of the Day

Joseph picked us up after the hot air balloon ride for yet another exciting Safari day. Right off Kim spotted a cheetah – No, we quickly saw it was a serval, a rare daytime find, said Joseph, who quickly followed it off the road to give us a better look before it slunk off.

Then we watched a river full of crocodiles dining on a dead hippo, the same dead one we had seen them guarding the day before. Joseph had told us that hippos’ thick hides were too tough for the crocs to eat, and that they were waiting for it to rot a bit so they could tear it apart.

I thought you might enjoy this picture of a live hippo enjoying its spa day better than the one of the dead hippo being chomped up by crocodiles. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And that’s exactly what they were doing. Several toothy snouts had hold of it and were twisting their bodies in circles to tear off chunks. Really gruesome to watch, but Kim and I were fascinated.

Our big event for the day was to watch wildebeest on migration cross the Mara River. We watched for hours but it never happened. All it would take is for one wildebeest to start across and the all the rest would follow in a mad dash. Such a crossing is prime dinner time for the Nile crocodiles, but the mass swim allows most of the wildebeest to survive the day.

The animals make the crossing twice a year.

Today's wildebeest preferred dry land to water -- Photo by Kim Perrin

But this day, despite many a wildebeest approach right up to the river, they all skittishly turned back.

Finally Joseph gave up, as disappointed as Bilal was at not finding rhinos for us to watch, and went in search of lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He always found them, and watching their feline ways was never disappointing.

It was a wise choice because we heard over dinner that night the wildebeest never did get up the nerve this day to cross the river. The cat-watching, meanwhile had been great, Among other things, we got a glimpse of a hyena that was stalking a cheetah that was stalking a tommy.

The gazelle ran, the cheetah slinked away, and the hyena decided there might be easier prey around and trotted off as well.

Pink-backed pelican -- Wikipedia poto

Toward the evening, Joseph lingered in a swampy area of the park, where birds were plentiful.

I spotted what I thought was a pink-backed pelican, which would be a lifer for me. Joseph, however, thought it might be a white pelican, which would have been a lifer for him.

So off we went for a closer view. While I felt sorry for Joseph, I’m glad my identification proved right. It would be one of only two lifers I would get this day, the other being a black-chested snake eagle. I was still happy, however. We saw lots of birds I had seen earlier and it was becoming easier for me to recognize the common ones.

Back in camp, Kim and I bemoaned that our African Safari was coming to an end. We only had one more wildlife drive with Joseph in the morning and then we would be flying back to Nairobi, and from there home to the United States. .

We made it a two Jack and Coke night, celebrating both the adventure and the fact that our friendship had survived over two weeks of 24-hour togetherness. Given how quirky and different from each otherwe are, that was as important to celebrate as was our fantastic safari.

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Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” Helen Keller

Bateleur -- goafrica.com photo

African Safari:

Our afternoon safari with Joseph started off with some new life birds for me, including two eagles, a bateleur and a greater spotted eagle. Joseph said the first was known for its snake killing talent, and the latter was a rare find.

“I don’t get to see to many of them,” he said.

Since the spotted eagle was in its winter plumage and its spots not clearly visible, I probably would have missed the identification without Joseph’s help.

The bateleur, however, was a much easy bird to identify, and I had been looking for one ever since I had hit Africa. It was great to finally see one of these magnificent birds. It reminded me of our own caracara just a bit.

Joseph then decided it was time to go look for some cats. First on the agenda were some lions, including one whose yawn looked ferocious. It provided us with a good view of its deadly fangs – and made me glad I wasn’t a warthog or a gazelle.

Just a yawn, but he's not your average pussycat. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Next on Joseph’s mission were a mom and three young cheetahs. It started to rain and the territory, where he suspected they were hanging out, was extremely rough but Joseph wouldn’t give up.

And to Kim and my delight, we finally came across the cheetahs just as the sun was beginning to set. Kim got a fantastic photo of the mom and one of the young ones, who mostly kept low in the rocks.

The rain followed us back to camp, and Kim and I got a bit wet since the sides of the Land Rover were open for better game viewing. I didn’t mind at all. And neither did Kim. It had been a marvelous day – and a little rain wouldn’t melt us. .

A cheetah mom and one of her three young charges at sunset in the Masai Mara. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Bird Log of New Lifers: Grey-headed bush shrike, woodland kingfisher, red-throated tit, yellow-throated longclaw, greater blue-eared starling, wooly-necked stork, rosy-breasted longclaw, bateleur, spur-winged goose, black-winged plover, rufus-bellied heron, sand martin, wire-tailed swallow, white-faced whistling ducks, white-browed robin, northern black flycatcher, Ross’ turaco, double-toothed barbet, spectacled weaver, African blue flycatcher, greater spotted eagle.

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 “A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together.” – Chuck Jones

Kim sitting at the table where we ate breakfasts and lunches while at Little Governor's. The roofed area in the background was where we ate our dinners, for which we dressed. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

We arrived at Little Governor’s Lodge in time for lunch. It was served outside beneath the trees in view of the marsh, where we could watch birds and other animals as we ate. This day we saw giraffe and water buffalo on the far side of the marsh and sacred ibis not far from our table.

Kim and I were enchanted with our new camp, and it would become our favorite of all the lodges during our Africa visit. So much so that I would love to go back and spend a whole month there one of these days.

A lion intently watching a wildebeeste which he later chased but failed to catch. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

After lunch, we were escorted to the river and then back across to meet up with Joseph, who would be our driver/guide for the Masai Mara. Normally there would be four of us safari goers in his Land Rover but today Kim and I had him to ourselves.

He was quieter than either Bilal or Emanuel, but when he did open up we discovered he had a wealth of knowledge to share about the landscape and wildlife we were seeing. And then I discovered that not only was he a birder, but one who kept a life list as I did. 

Sacred ibis — Photo by Johan Wesseks

  

We were always amazed at his successful efforts in finding lions and cheetahs for us to watch. He said he got his clues from the prey animals.

“Especially look where the topi and the zebra are looking. They act as lookouts for other animals as well,” he said. We did and soon we saw a lion make an unsuccessful attempt to chase down a wildebeest.

“Lions,” Emanuel said, “are successful only about 40 percent of the time. Leopards, on the other hand, have an 80 percent kill rate.”

Along with the four-legged wildlife we saw this day, I also added three new life birds, a grey-headed bush shrike, red-throated tit and a yellow-throated longclaw

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Above Photo: Masai Mara sunset, Wikipedia

How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places … it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make – leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone – we all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the firmament for its roof.” – John Muir

Me playing John Wayne in "Hatari" at the Ambolseli Air Strip. Also pictures is Jackson, a member of the Maasai tribe who was nearing the end of his five-year apprenticeship to be a guide. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Little Governor’s Lodge

After breakfast, Emanuel drove us the Amboseli Airport, a dirt landing strip with only a sign announcing its purpose, where we were to catch an 8:30 a.m. flight back to Nairobi’s small Wilson Airport.

In reminiscence of John Wayne in “Hatari,” I sat on the fender seat of the Land Rover and drank my coffee while we waited for the small plane to arrive. It was late.

The flight was a replay of the informal flight we had taken to Tanzania on our first full day in Africa, and was repeated again on the connecting flight we took from Nairobi on to the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is the northern end of Serengeti National Park.

Kim on board for the boat ride across the Mara River to get to Little Governor's Lodge. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Our small plane landed on a dirt strip within sight of zebra and giraffes. The smallest airport I had landed in up to this point had been a dirt strip in Smiley, Idaho, but then there had been a small town across the road.

A wart hog visits our tent at Little Governor's. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Here, at the Amboseli airport, there was nothing but wilderness and wildlife. I loved it.

From the airport it was a just a short distance to Little Governor’s Lodge, another tent camp and one where we would sleep for the next four nights. 

To get to the lodge complex, which was on an island surrounded by the Mara River and a swamp, we,took a boat powered by two staff members and a rope, to get across the river. Once across, we were met by a big-stick armed guard who escorted us the quarter-mile to camp.

Other stick-armed guards took us from the main, open air lodge buildings, to our tent, which in any sense of the word was much more than that. It included a large, tiled open shower and a front porch on which we could sit and watch animals across the swamp.

At closer range were wart hogs that roamed the tent complex. Our favorite of these was a mom with a tiny young one. The pair came right up to our porch. What fun, especially after we were told they were harmless.

Wart hogs were funny animals. We often saw them running full speed through the grass with their tails stuck straight up in the air. Then suddenly they would stop, as if they forgot where they were going.

Such behavior assured that they were often the entrée on a lion’s menu.

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