The day for travelling to the Masai Mara was finally upon us. This was one of the places I’d insisted had to be part of the trip due to it being an iconic part of Africa. We were told to be ready for 07:30 yet the other group was told 07:00 so ended up rushing anyway just in case. The breakfast was a buffet pretty much the same as we’d come to expect.
At some point during the previous day I’d lost my cap; I looked everywhere in the room and even searched my suitcase and backpack thoroughly in hope of finding it. Fortunately someone had handed it into reception, meaning I’d left it in the lobby when we arrived the previous day. Considering it had been with me to a large number of countries I didn’t really want to lose it.
Outside the hotel were a number of colobus monkeys; we’d seen one previously on the way to the Ark, but that one had been impossible to photograph. These were quite numerous and were sitting around, some of them eating, and others just watching from the roof of the building.
Along the drive was the usual stop at a Curios shop to use their facilities and allow people to buy souvenirs. This stop took 50 minutes instead of the planned 5-10 minutes due to our driver being stuck in a queue to get petrol. This was apparently down to a fuel shortage in that town, the last before reaching the Masai Mara. We didn’t know that at the time and it felt like we’d been left there – other tour groups had turned up and left in the time we were waiting.
Not long after leaving the town we also ran out of tarmaced road, having to travel the rest of the way on bumpy dirt tracks. This part of the journey lasted around an hour, but we eventually made it to the gate into the National Park. At the gate there were locals once again trying to sell their wares, and this time they just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Shame we didn’t know the Swahili for it.
Not long after entering the park we saw an injured lioness resting underneath a tree. Despite her injury she seemed to be in a better state than the one we saw in Samburu. Not that long afterwards we saw a hyena crossing the path – we hadn’t expected to see one of these during the day as they hunt mostly at night.
After this the drive went on a while winding all over the place, but eventually we arrived at the Ashnil Mara camp. Once again these were tents, though this one was slightly less substantial in terms of building material. In addition to the mosquito net over the door, the beds had individual mosquito nets too. On the far side of the tent it had a balcony overlooking a river.
Almost immediately we then had to have lunch, by the time were done this gave us just over an hour until the drinks before the afternoon game drive at 16:00.So once again it was a rush to get camera equipment ready for a game drive. After a couple of unlucky drives in Samburu we were hopeful of seeing species we had not yet seen.
This drive was quite eventful; as we approached a steep path that led down to the river my friend joked that because the driver was on the phone he was probably on the phone to the RAC for when he gets stuck in a river in about 5 minutes time.
Surprisingly we did go down to the river, and sure enough we did get stuck as the vehicle slid sideways further into the water. After several attempts to move we realised we were totally stuck in the river. I was imagining us being stuck there for hours and missing the rest of our game drive.
The driver then got out and started to put loose rocks under the wheels to try and give them something solid to get traction on. By this time at least 3 other vehicles had joined us and their drivers had gotten out to help too.
Eventually they realised the rock approach was not going to work, so the driver of the Land Cruiser got his passengers out (bear in mind we’d seen lions about) and got a tow rope out. This would have helped if the Land Cruiser hadn’t got stuck; but with the other drivers pushing they got that one freed and managed to fasten the tow rope to ours.
It took a couple of attempts due to the steep bank, but eventually they managed to jolt us back a few metres. Our driver then had another go at crossing the river and was finally able to cross. We made a further two crossings after this, but for only one of them did we get stuck again (followed by the driver exclaiming “oh no!). This time though he was able to get it out by himself. In the meantime we stayed in the vehicle and watched the hippos in the water just a few metres away. The smell coming from the water was incredibly bad.
Not long later we came across a male lion before realising there were a further two behind us that were eating a hippo that had apparently been killed by one of the males the night before. There were quite a few other vehicles watching too as the lions took turns to rip the soft insides out of this hippo.
From there we moved on to where a lioness had just caught a fairly young buffalo she must have managed to separate from the herd. We watched for quite some time as she laid on her back holding the buffaloes head down trying to suffocate it. Eventually she turned it over and put her whole man over its mouth to stop it from breathing. Once killed she let out a low noise to let her cubs know that dinner was ready.
We then headed back as the sun set after one of the most eventful and longest game drives yet. It didn’t leave much time before dinner, but that didn’t bother me – I was quite pleased with what we had seen. When we got back housekeeping had lowered the mosquito nets ready to keep the insects out. The evening meal was served very quickly with each course being replaced with the next with literally no pause in between.
This had been one of the most eventful and brilliant days of the trip so far.