Following on from the previous blog [https://alfredthumser.com/2017/09/17/masai-mara-kenya-day-1/], after lunch we headed towards the Mara river where we walked along the river bank accompanied, by a game ranger, observing hippo and crocodile sunbathing, while carcasses kept floating past. Fortunately, the crocodiles were on the opposite bank, apparently they know that tourists are coming and they prefer it a little more quiet. The animal carcasses, mainly wildebeest, are … of the great migration across the river; only about a quarter of the animals survive the crossing as they panic in their rush to cross the river, christmas come early for the crocodiles and carrion-eating birds further downstream. Suddenly, commotion amongst the hippos, some of the boys were having a show of strength while the rest were not happy that their siesta had been interrupted. As quick as the tif had started, it quietened down again. The crocodiles, well, they couldn’t care less.
Further down-river was a “carrion restaurant”, where many of the carcasses piled up on the bank, attracting carrion-eating birds such as vultures, maribou storks and ibis. An awful putrid smell, one that I would recognise at the site of lion kills; a required “service” provided by the birds to prevent the carcasses poisoning the river. A mesmerising sight, though not pleasant, a cauldron of rotting meat and bones.
Off we went on a little sojourn to a border beacon with Tanzania, where we all had a few steps into Tanzania and discussed animal tracks with the resident game rangers. That’s a “simba”, he said, probably what the tourists want to hear, understandably. Nice guys, these rangers, really down-to-earth types. I think it’s the hind paw of a hyena, based on its size and the distinctive claws (http://hesc.co.za/2015/07/a-guide-to-tracking-animals-in-the-wild/).
Well, it was late afternoon and we had to get out of the park before sunset… would we see anything else, we all thought, settling back for a bumpy ride back to the lodge. We were not to be disappointed. Off track were 3, maybe 4, female lions… with a cavalcade of tourist vans trying to get close. About 100 meters away was a herd of zebra and wildebeest, carefully watching the lions. Then, just as I was getting ready to get a shot, we were told to sit down; park rangers had been spotted and we had gone off-track. Oh dear, car numbers and driver names were taken, all in a line, a bit like the headmaster’s office.
After an overnight at the lodge, we got off to an early start for a planned half-day in the park, then off to Nairobi for an 11 pm flight back to London. What would the day bring, we had been saturated with good fortunate the previous day; to be honest, I think we had had all settled settled into a “seen that, seen that” mindset. Well, well, well, the Masai Mara did not disappoint. The expected herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra, supplemented with water buffalo and resident ox-peckers, both red- and yellow-billed, a single male ostrich with eggs, the female in the distance, a few brown hyena, lilac-breasted rollers, different vultures and eagles, and a single malachite kingfisher. The latter a “lucky” spot as I saw a smudge of colour on a river bank as we drove past, and a quick reverse by the driver. We had seen plenty of pied kingfisher earlier on our trip, this was the only malachite kingfisher we were to see, but see it we did! The list of animals goes on and on; we had seen the “big five” and the “ugly five” during 7 days in Kenya.
Around noon we had to off back to Nairobi for our flight back to the UK. We left the Rift Valley as we had come in, with traffic, though this time with sadness and possibly a little bit of Kenya in our hearts.
Every magic show comes to an end