A group of us had been attending a “Exploring Kenyan Biodiversity” workshop at the Greta rift Valley lodge and decided to follow that up with a two-night visit to the Masai Mara. We left the Rift valley around 11 am and then had a rather long 7 hour and at the end rather bumpy drive to the Sopa Lodge, at the border of the Masai Mara game reserve. A really nice lodge, though I have my concerns about the impact of lodges on the environment and positive economic effects on the local community (a concern I have across Africa).
The next morning, we got picked picked up by Erastus and Frederic, our two guides for the next two days; these guys were absolutely brilliant, as will become clear below. We had two minibuses with a lifting roof, which was good for game spotting and viewing. First, though, I spotted along line of tourist “taxis” outside the lodge, a potentially ominous start as many tourists seem to have a tick list and “me first” attitude; fortunately, we avoided most of them. After that, we had to negotiate our way though the Masai vendors at the park gate; eventually, after buying a few items, I had to close my window, even to this impressive figurine of an old man (no nasty comparisons, please 🙂
Ok, time to spot some game! My prediction, first of the cats: cheetah; after some blue wildebeest, topi and Thomson’s gazelle, 10 minutes later… two cheetah, about 20 meters off the road. First, a bit of a lie down, then territory marking, with one spraying a tree, the other cheetah “scratching” the grass and some shrubs… after about 5 minutes they headed off… not far, on our way back to camp later that afternoon, they had moved about 200 meters. The next day, we did spot two fresh carcasses, so it looked like they may have done some hunting
What a start to the day that was, not much could beat it, or could it? The Masai Mara, with its great plains, absolutely teems with wildlife, both in numbers and species. Wildebeest herds contained hundreds of animals, and were usually found with either zebra or Thomson’s gazelle. All-in-all, in Kenya we saw all of the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros, the latter in Lake Nakuru national park) and Ugly Five (hyena, wildebeest, vulture, warthog and the marabou stork) and Big Six Birds (Lappet-faced Vulture, Kori Bustard & Southern Ground Hornbill) . My next target may be the Shy Five, probably the Impossible Five is a step too far (http://roarafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/big-five-big-seven-little-five-big-six.html; https://www.senseafrica.co.uk/big-5-little-5-ugly-5-shy-5-and-impossible-5/). As regards birds, we probably saw 80 different species on the trip, that’s what I am told. Several species of vultures, eagles (Bataleur, Tawny and Brown Snake Eagle), male and female ostrich, storks and kingfisher being just a few examples. The male ostrich were unusual in having pink-coloured legs, while several of the female ostrich did the “scaring away” dance.
We saw three prides of lion, interestingly all females in groups of 4, 3 & 4 (next day we only saw males). Also, three separate herds of elephant (10, 8 & 7 elephants).
And then, treat of the day and trip: two separate leopards, high up in the trees. Our guides had been active on the radios and Erastus spotted an old carcass in a tree. I thought, well, that’s the closest i will get to a leopard, then we saw one and a few minutes later another one. It was a bit of a crazy queue to get a good photo, we got there in the end.
Next stop, the Masai river and a short sidestep over the border into Tanzania [update to follow]