The Masai Mara is one of the most incredible wildlife reserves that I have ever had the good fortune to visit. The abundance and diversity of wildlife together with the vastness of the plains take you into another sensory world which is spellbinding.
“As one who has often felt this need, and who has found refreshment in wild places, I attest to the recreational value of wilderness.” ~ George Aiken
We were based at Wild Eye’s Enkishui camp which is located about a kilometre up river from the Purungat bridge and ranger’s office in the Mara Triangle section of the Greater Masai Mara. This camp is at the southern end of the Mara Triangle. With the camp being located in the reserve we were able to be out of camp and into the reserve by 6h00. Enkishui is the Masai term for “life”.
“Wilderness is not defined by the absence of certain activities, but rather by the presence of certain unique and invaluable characteristics.” ~ Nick Rahall
There are many elephants in the Mara Triangle which tend to remain in family and breeding herds because of the high density of predators. With so much food available for the predators there is a low likelihood of the elephants being attacked. Nevertheless, the elephant mothers remain very protective of their young.
A large, life-ravaged female Spotted hyaena, possibly the matriarch. She had two companions both of which appeared to defer to her. Hyaenas span out during the day and lie in thick tuffs of red oat grass and wait for an opportunity to hunt or steal food.
We had been wandering down Claire road and turned off to follow a well used track when we found a single lioness lying in the grass wet with dew. As you can see there are few trees out on the open plains so the lions have to sleep in the grass out in the elements.
“To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness they call it peace.” ~ Tacitus
The flies are a constant source of irritation for the lions. They seem to gravitate around the lion’s face and neck possibly because of the moisture and minute traces of blood from kills they have recently fed on.
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The lioness we saw was keeping a low profile while two nomads were passing some distance off.
The two young males must have been recently kicked out of their pride by their father. The lion lying down seemed to be slightly older than the other male judging by the relative development of their manes.
The two nomads headed straight for the thick vegetation and rocks on an inselberg. There they had a vantage point to see potential threats and potential food.
“We look up for inspiration, down for desperation, right and left for information.” ~ Anonymous
The vastness of the plains in the south west of the Mara Triangle give your soul room to breathe. This was a view looking north west onto the Oloololo or Siria escarpment in the far distance. This part of the triangle did not have a lot of game when we were passing through, but at times there are vast herds of wildebeest and zebra that pass through.
Further down towards the Tanzanian border and the Serengeti, the plains are dotted with Balanites also called desert dates. These trees dotted across the vast plains give the Mara its name which means “spotted” in the Masai language.
We spent some time down along a drainage line close to the border where a female leopard had been spotted but we never got to see her well enough to take any photographs. Others in the Wild Eye group, in different vehicles, managed to get some wonderful images of the leopardess climbing up one of the trees along the drainage line.
On our way back to the Mara river we passed four sub-adults and an adult Masai giraffe walking along but just below a ridge on their way down to the river.
Eventually we decided to head back to the Mara river where there is always action. Being the “short rains” season, the sky was pregnant with moisture. It created some wonderful colour for our backgrounds. This female Masai giraffe had come down to the river. She had her gaze fixed on something on the other side of the river. Giraffe are known to cross the Mara river but not alone and not on this occasion.
The Mara river snakes through the Masai Mara National Reserve on its way into the Serengeti and eventually to Lake Victoria. It was flowing strongly from recent rains up on the the escarpment. The banks of the Mara river were steep and created a real challenge for the wildlife before they even tried to cross the fast flowing river. This was the scene looking north up river.
This was the view of the river looking south down the river. We had stopped close to “Figtree crossing”. The fig tree had fallen over some time ago but this is a section of the river where the wildlife frequently cross, so it has retained the name.
The vastness of this place is quite intoxicating. The river draws everything toward it. Grazers need to cross it and predators are drawn to the grazers wishing to cross it and we humans are drawn to the unfolding drama and spectacle of the scene and wildlife interaction.
“Fate whispers to the warrior “You cannot withstand the storm” and the warrior whispers back I am the storm.” ~ Unknown
In the quiet times, you have a chance to be still and witness the enormity of this place and become aware of its natural rhythm. It is driven by the seasons and weather. It drives a multitude of animals to follow an annual migration from the Masai Mara to Ndutu below the Ngorogoro crater in Tanzania, braving crocodile infected rivers and prides and clans of predators waiting for them either side of these dramatic crossing points. The overwhelming majority of them complete the journey to produce the next cycle of migrants.
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” ~William Burchell
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.
Have fun, Mike