A journey to the Masai Mara National Reserve
This entry is from Ken’s blog, “Tokyo Life”
A journey to the Masai Mara National Reserve
After 5 years of living in Africa, the time for me to return to Japan was coming closer. So, I decided to travel around Africa before I would have to leave, and took some time off in late September to visit the Masai Mara National Reserve. I spent two nights in Masai Mara, and one night in Nairobi (The capital of Kenya).
It is easy to find information on Masai Mara online, and what it is like to travel there, but it was such fun that I can’t help writing it again here.
Masai Mara is a National Reserve located in the south western area of Kenya, and is connected to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Herds of wildebeest (also known as Gnu) and zebras migrate between the two parks depending on the rainfall and vegetation. This is one of the more famous “Great Migrations” in the world. The time between July and September is usually when the Great Migration reaches Masai Mara, and giant herds of wildebeest can be seen in and along the Mara river.
I had actually visited Serengeti over the 2008 ~ 2009 new years vacation, and so I had seen plenty of wildebeest and zebra then. But, 3 and a half years later, I decided to see the same sight on the Masai Mara side.
(I actually had a video camera when I visited the Serengeti, to see the video please go here: 「Wildlife in Tanzania」2009/01/12『YouTube』：http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg8Hr_Dq3Hg&feature=plcp)
About 300 km from Nairobi, it took about 40 minutes on a small plane. As soon as you stand on the dirt runway, you are immediately in the middle of the wilderness. Sometimes there are elephants on the runways.
The “Duty Free” store at the Olkiombo runway
The place I stayed at was a few minutes from the runway. This is a sign that was on the front.
As expected, there were many, many animals.
The lion, king of the beasts! The lion pups are very cute. (The male lion looked disheveled so I did not post his pictures)
A Cheetah family. On the right is the mother, and the left is a grown up daughter. Among the big cats, the cheetah are not as territorial and follow the herds as they migrate.
I was very lucky this time, and was able to see a Cheetah hunt! The Cheetah was so fast that I could not get a good picture of the cheetah chasing the impala, but I was finally able to see the cheetah run in person. The picture is of after the cheetah captured the young impala.
The mother was the one doing the hunting, but after capturing the impala once, she let it go on purpose. After weakening it a little, she would have her daughter hunt the beast. It is a way to train the younger cheetah on hunting. The guide said that it was the first time he had seen it too.
Vultures eating a rotting carcass. I remember hearing on the TV that animals are able to smell rotting meat from far away, but when you actually experience it, it’s not that hard for a human to smell it from far away either.
This is not as exciting a picture, but the Rhino is actually quite rare. Much rarer than the big cat species. Even in Masai Mara the numbers are quite few. They have dwindled because they are slow to reproduce, can only live in certain areas, and are being poached. I have seen rhinos being kept at breeding sites, but this is the first wild rhino I have seen. With it’s horn intact, as well. The horn is the target of poachers, and so some rhinos have their horns cut off preemptively to deter poachers.
People waiting to see a wildebeest herd cross the Mara river. Unfortunately they were unable to see a herd cross the river this day. A herd of 4WDs were the only thing that crossed that day.
Leopards! They are often hiding in the brush, and so it is somewhat rare to see them. We were lucky this trip.
The location I visited this time is about in the middle of the Masai Mara National Reserve. It is the location where the BBC documentary “Big Cat Diary” was filmed, and is also the location of several National Geographic reports. I could feel the grandness of nature there. At the safari in Zimbabwe and Botswana the dry season would be quite harsh and visitors can experience the difficulties of living in the wild. However in the Masai Mara and Serengeti areas, there are plenty of rivers and green areas. Of course there are predators, and life is not easy, but the vegetation is plentiful. It definitely must be experienced to understand. The place I stayed was very nice as well. It was a “tent,” but there was a bed, decorations, and a nice bathroom. The food was great, and the hotel staff were very professional. Just because it is in the middle of the wilderness does not mean that you have to live in harsh conditions.
I would definitely recommend this safari to travelers. I would suggest that when going on a safari, that you should reserve the hotel directly on the hotel website rather than using comparison websites…there are cases of trouble occuring, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.