Happy Birthday to me! I was not in the best of spirits when I woke up this morning due to a distinct case of “poor me” and loneliness, but the morning turned out pretty darn good. After yesterday’s sightings of “everything”, I figured today would not be all that exciting. Pretty hard to beat lions, a cheetah, hyenas, giraffes and thousands of wildebeest (plus, plus, plus!). We did a mighty fine job of it though. We watched five cheetahs devour an impala, while heaps of vultures watched on hoping for leftovers. We arrived moments after they had taken down the small antelope and the band of cheetahs still panted from their exertions. They ripped it apart, growling at each other as they vied for a piece of the kill. Their furry faces were matted with blood before the feast was done. From the safety of our landrover, we observed the gruesome display of life on the savanna with clicks of cameras and hushed voices as a quiet backdrop to the setting. By the time the cheetahs were done, all the vultures got was the stomach and intestines. They didn’t go very far. Before we knew it, the cheetahs were slinking away to rest and digest, and the vultures were picking through the grass to find any missed morsels that held more than the stomach full of grass that was gone in an instant. This was the cycle of life in the African wilds.
I reflected on my safari after returning to camp. I had thoroughly enjoyed the Masai Mara so far. There were heaps of animals here. The Masai Mara was in Kenya, but continued into Tanzania as the Serengeti. The political border was all that stood in the way of thousands of animals migrating from one location to the next. While I had not realized it at the time, July to October was the prime time for the Great Migration when literally millions of wildebeest, zebras, and many other species of antelopes migrated North into the Mara. It was absolutely incredible.
Yes, the wildebeest were very impressive creatures. It was wild seeing thousands upon thousands of them. At one point, our driver Jimmy drove us into the middle of a herd. We were surrounded by black beasts that stretched on and on as far as the eye could see. It was neat to see the way they migrated. One day, we came upon a line of them crossing the road late in the afternoon. They were all in a single or double-file line and when they got approximately 200 metres from the road, they started to run. We sat watching them for a period of time. The line stretched out forever it seemed. It was fascinating to watch. I laughed as they crossed the road and continued for a bit before they jogged to a walk again. I couldn’t help but shake my head at the patience and orderliness of it.
During my brief 4-day visit into the game park, I was spoiled beyond belief with these animal sightings. They quickly followed each other in a succession of sightings till I felt like I was almost in a zoo, going from a cheetah lazing in the sun with a herd of wildebeest and zebra in the background, to two hyenas munching on a wildebeest with vultures on the side lines, to the sight of simple group of giraffes gently loping along in the African sun. In addition to all of that, we saw four lions lazing under some bushes to avoid the heat of the day. The male even got a bit of a root in, although the female did not let it last for long. As I said at the time, “typical male; after a good meal (wildebeest), all he wants is a little piece of action”. Ha!
Oh, but was it ever hot during the day! Due to getting stuck in the dirt briefly, and watching our national geographic moment with the cheetahs, we ate a late lunch that day. Lunch was followed by a break, as we were in need of siestas ourselves. My pen scratched out the stories from the morning’s adventures, while I sheltered from the baking rays from the near equatorial sun. Once the heat of the day abated, we would go on a bit of a walk.
The safari had certainly been worth it. While the people in my van were not the most interesting bunch, you can’t have everything. I got a chance to talk to some of Masai people that accompanied us on our game drives and helped out in camp. They provided an interesting study themselves. I found the women very beautiful. In fact, I felt that the Masai were a good looking race as a whole. They had good facial features, were all quite tall, and had very interesting piercings. One of the men in camp told me how his were done. A hole was cut in his ear with a knife, and gradually bigger and bigger pieces of wood were put in the hole. He said it took two months to get to the size the holes were now. The lobes dangled down towards his shoulders loosely. And while the lobe looked like it would have no feelings left, the young man encouraged me to feel it, and replied that it still did. Interesting, to say the least.
By the end of the day, we had taken in a nature walk as well. I showered, then popped the top on a bottle of Claret Select by Drostdy-Hof. It was my last birthday present to me for the day. Not a bad birthday all around with game viewing, a nature hike, good meals and a bottle of nice, red wine. It was my first birthday away from distant relatives, but I survived and had a list of new animals spied to add to my growing list of sightings.
New Animals Spied
ü Grant’s gazelle
ü Thomson’s Gazelle
ü Masai Giraffe
ü Olive baboon