Absolutely. Incredible. Day… I just cannot believe how much there has been to see and do in the last 24 hours!
So another early start as I was lucky enough to be heading back up the in balloon with Markham – leaving my tent was an interesting exercise after I found a buffalo chomping on some vegetation less than a meter from the window… I called Markham, but it turned out he was equally stranded, so it was down to the heroic askaris to, as usual, save the day and get us to the car in time!
This morning’s flight was beautiful – a completely clear sky with not a cloud in sight, and plenty to see wildlife-wise with lots of plains game as usual, as well as two very special sightings of a lioness with her cubs around last night’s kill, and a rhino moving through the forest with her baby following close behind! And as if that wasn’t enough, we crossed the river to find EVEN MORE wildebeest than there have been in the last couple of days – we almost didn’t notice them at first as there were just so many they looked like a massive shadow in the distance! With the lions and cheetah following closely behind the herds, as they do in migration season, all the ballooning guests were in for a real treat on their game drive back to camp following their morning flight…!
Wildlife in the Maasai Mara
So having seen so much wildlife from the balloon, I almost expected a less exciting afternoon game drive, feeling that I’d used up my ‘wildlife quota’ for the day… but how wrong I was – I really should have seen it coming, because if the last week has taught me anything, it’s that the concept of any sort of ‘wildlife quota’ simply does not exist in the Mara! Our drive was just a never-ending series of great sightings – hardly having a moment to let the last sighting sink in before Dominic found us another one to enjoy!
We started off with a big group of vultures (including a couple of Lappet-Faced variety, and a Maribu Stork to round off the collection…), arguing and fighting over the last scraps of a wildebeest carcass – it was really cool to watch; next up we headed to yesterday’s near-crossing point, where we saw four little jackals rounding up the herd of wildebeest – unfortunately AWAY from the river… but a worthy substitute for a crossing.
On moving a little closer to the bank of the river, we found it littered with 7-8 ENOURMOUS Nile crocs – I’m yet to think of any word to sum them up other than simply ‘prehistoric’… amazing; next up we were treated to some cool photo opportunities with a couple of extremely tired hyenas – complete with some unfortunate deep-sleep-drool and a BIG yawn from the youngster, after that we moved straight on to a herd of elephants, including a mother with her baby.
Then, as if that weren’t all enough, we were treated to an exclusive sighting of a group of Marsh Pride lionesses, along with their cubs, attempting to hunt a herd of zebra and wildebeest – unfortunately an over-eager cub eventually gave the game away, but watching the lionesses fan out silently and invisibly to surround the herd was truly unbelievable – a really special sighting that made for pretty exciting viewing! And THEN, on our way back to camp, when we were convinced that our time and luck were both up, we stumbled across not only the majority of the rest of the Marsh Pride (including a VERY tired Red, the juvenile male), but our day was also topped off with a simply hilarious sighting of one of the younger females attempting to single-handedly hunt a hippo…! Unsurprisingly, once she got herself within striking distance, she realized her error of judgement!
Altogether, an EPIC day full of non-stop excitement (in the Maasai Mara) – looking forward to another equally unforgettable one tomorrow!
written by James Townsend, Governors’ Camp Intern.