Saturday, June 8, 2013

On safari at Masai Mara: First day game drives

It's not quite sunrise yet, but we're up for our morning game drive - and the balloons are in the air already. I think I read these rides cost $500 for an hour and a half or so. We bought a cheaper version in 2008 over Cappadocia, Turkey.

It's still low season, but there's a very large group at our lodge - nearly 90 people - and they're engaging in numerous activities, including the balloons. The group is from TaTa Communications. I'd never heard of it, but it's a very large telecommunications company based in India. This gathering, as I understand it, is a reward for their top performers for the year. People from India, the United Kingdom, and North America. I'll talk a little about how I know this a little later.

We never know what we are going to see on a game drive. It is a visual feast. There's no order to the animals I've posted here, except how they came off Art's camera. Wherever we look, some beautiful and interesting animal or beautiful scene.

Hyenas. They may be the first on the scene after a lion kill.

Sunrise on the Masai Mara.

A heron?

What the heck is the name of this animal?  Art says it's an eland. My friend Jackie says it's a hartebeest.

A topi. We only saw these in the Masai Mara.

We saw more on our afternoon game drive.

A solitary baboon by the water.

A pair of Grant's gazelles.

More topis.

When we first came upon the pride of lions, they were relaxing.

But the two lionesses and five young were getting ready to hunt. Over the next few minutes, their heads were lifted and they began watching. The two lionesses were alert and focused.

Then one lioness rose from her resting place and started to move, focused and controlled. After a few minutes, one by one, the rest of the lions followed her. We were watching a pride of lions moving through the grass. But they weren't stalking yet. They were looking, but they hadn't found their prey.

Five hundred meters away, a lone waterbuck grazed. One lioness saw it and changed direction, moving low and slow through the grass. The others followed her. A line of lions, stalking now. Careful and slow and silent.

Half a dozen vehicles gathered to watch. A woman in a nearby vehicle caught my eye; we smiled at each other and gestured our excitement at the scenario of the lions. "This is so awesome!"

A troop of baboons was in some nearby trees. One baboon gave a warning call. Predator! From a little further away, a gazelle hissed an alarm. The waterbuck raised its head and then moved off. The lions ceased their stalking. The waterbuck was not going to be the prey today. In all likelihood the pride of lions would be hunting during the night; it had been two days since their last kill.

We were disappointed that the hunt had stopped and wanted to stay longer to see what would happen next, but it was getting dark. Peter said the lions do a lot of stalking, but they don't have a successful kill every time. "We can come back tomorrow morning and see what happens." He turned the vehicle back toward camp.

Giraffes at eventide.


Teresa Evangeline said...

I'm just getting caught up today on your posts. My heavens, you two are having the adventure of a lifetime. Warthogs on the runway, indeed. What an experience. Beautiful photos, perfect synopses...

Terra said...

This is a beautiful experience to see all those animals and the balloons seem like a nonintrusive way to nature watch, tho rather expensive. You are truly celebrating your new freedom. I am retired too.

Terra said...

Oh, I am a member of African Wildlife Foundation, a great way to help protect the animals of Africa. if anyone is interested.

Arkansas Patti said...

That sunrise was awesome.
Quite a cooperative warning system the animals have. It is a wonder the lions ever get to eat.

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

Great pictures!

DJan said...

Wow! The entire experience is filled with wonder, not to mention exotic animals everywhere!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I always wondered how much wildlife people actually could see on safari. Your reports give a great sense of the pace, the excitement, the wonder of it all.... So glad you went, and that you are sharing with the rest of us.

wheels4me said...

What an excellent adventure! Love the videos.