The Mara seems never ending. I think we could drive for days and never see it all. While yesterday we got a two-hour glimpse of what is here, today we spent nine hours in the back of the safari van exploring and still we only saw a fraction of its vast expanse.
Dad had organised a private safari van so we had the whole thing to ourselves. I stood up the front most of the day (except a short period where I sat down and admit I dozed off due to the heat of the midday sun and gentle boat-like rocking of the van). We must have covered at least150km, travelling all the way to the Mara River where the wildebeest and zebras make their famous (and often lethal) crossings during the Great Migration.
While the Serengeti is currently teaming with animals preparing for the Great Migration, the Mara is relatively quiet. But the guides can still find good game. We saw big male elephants as well as families of the big grey beasts. Unlike Asian elephants, African elephants cannot be trained because they forget quickly and revert to their wild state.
We saw tiny little animals like this miniature breed of antelope that we might not have seen if the herds were here.
We even saw a tiny tortoise.
But the day belonged to Africa’s hunters. We saw a pride of four male lions that had killed a hippo. One was guarding the kill while his brothers took shelter in the shade of a nearby tree. The lions’ manes are starting to turn black, indicating that they are about eight years old. I got a great photo of what the lions had done to the hippo but think there will be those who complain if they see this natural part of life in the Mara so will keep it for myself.
We saw two cheetahs stalking a herd of impalas. Earlier in the day they had made a small kill but a hawk came and stole it from them. This second attempt was unsuccessful when the impalas noticed the cheetahs walking through the grass. But cats are patient and they settled in to wait until the impala had forgotten their presence under some trees. Perhaps they dined well tonight.
Where there are predators there are scavengers. Those opportunistic creatures that dine on what others earn. I find it interesting that scavenging animals often look so ugly compared with the killers themselves. These vultures had not yet smelled the hippo the lions had killed.
This hyena had but he was waiting until it was safe to go near because the four lions that killed the hippo are notoriously vicious. The guide told us that hippos are their favourite meal and that they even killed an older male lion that entered their territory. But I doubt the hyena will miss out.
Speaking of hippos. We saw about a hundred of them swimming in the Mara River. They were lying in big groups, taking turns to duck their heads under water. There were even baby hippos among the groups. But, unlike all the other animals, baby hippos break the rule that all baby animals are cute. Like their mature counterparts, they are just plain weird with their big bodies and tiny ears that seem to flick around non-stop.
Joining the hippos in the Mara River was the only creature that no one ever seems to feel sorry for: the crocodiles. It never ceases to amaze me how these ancient reptiles can be so well hidden while in plain view.
At lunch we joined all the other safari tours in finding a shady tree under which to eat the boxed lunch provided by the game lodge. All over the Mara, safari vans were parked under trees or driving around looking for a tree under which to park. I loved being out in the Mara with all that space around us. It was so quiet as we watched the impalas return to graze under the watchful eyes of the two cheetahs.
Our guide worked hard today to show us the best the Mara had to offer, from vast open plains to hill-top lookouts. Even when there were few animals, the scenery and driving was fantastic. It reminded me of the Queensland outback after the rains with the sandy red soil, long grasses blowing in the breeze and sporadic tree growth. I hope one day to return.