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4 Days in Massai Mara | Kenya 🇰🇪

Do you think we, human will let cheetahs to survive in wilderness? According to National Geographic, cheetahs need habitat about 3,800 square miles to live, breed and ultimately survive as a species. I simply do not think so. Wildlife from this planet is already gone or at the edge of wilderness. For now, it is all about conservation. All reserves and national parks around the world is to protect what’s left in the wild.

This is our trip to East Africa (Kenya & Tanzania). We would be visiting Massai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania. Nine days trip starting from Nairobi and ended in Kilimanjaro. We planned our trip with Sanctuary Retreats one of the well reputed luxury safari with accommodations in various national reserves. With Sanctuary, we planned a complete custom private tour itinerary for two of us, me and wife that would transfer us between countries and national reserves in both countries.

Olonana Lodge, Kenya:

After arriving in Nairobi we spent a night in local hotel and took a short flight from domestic Wilson Airport to Massai Mara Kitchwa Tembo airstrip. Our driver/ safari guide Nelson picked us and we were taken to Olonana Lodge, one of the most amazing safari lodge set on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of Massai Mara National Reserve. The large spacious lodge was fill with amenities, all inclusive, magnificent architecture and interior, it sets just a feet away from the Mara River where guest will be awaken early morning by loud honking hippos in the river. Hippos forage for food at night, return to water early morning, and stay cool basking in water during day.

Game Drive in Massai Mara:

Since we were on a private tour, exploration was completely on us. Game drive safari around Massai Mara could be planned early morning, half a day or full day out with picnic lunch. We chose to go out for half a day twice and full day once. It was the day we enjoyed the most when we were out for a full day game drive. The words game and drive refers to wildlife and drive with a vehicle, it is part of a safari. Vehicles here 4x4 drive, open car, no protection of fire arms and another other equipment. Locals are expect, they too grew up around wildlife and can sense behavior of each kind in the wild. There are not many incidents recorded, unless people do stupid things when get close to animals. We literally watched lions pride, group of seven literally 1o feet away sitting the open car. Lions are not bothered, they don’t even make eye contacts with human, and it seems they were ignoring our presence.

Long ago, westerners who colonized Africa used to kill Big Five on foot for recreation, pride to win prizes and trophies. Big Five animals are lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Killing has stopped in a large scale, today “Big Five Game Drive” still used for tourism. It is hard to find and see all Big Five animals, especially leopard. Leopards are very elusive, mainly active at night. We were lucky enough to see all Big Five animals in Massai Mara. Our guide, Nelson was eager to show us the very best of Massai Mara, and truly we were exposed to an event that luck isn’t enough for sighting.

Early morning were out for a full day game drive. We were enjoying the beautiful landscapes in the open savanna. Mara is mostly a grassland, few big trees spotted throughout the landscapes, family of elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffalos, gazelles, impalas, few hyenas here and there- you name it; they all there in their wonderlands, perfect harmony in nature. Driving through the dirt roads, stopping for a while, take a break to sip a cup of coffee –there is no other place you want to be, it felt you belong to this place. You have been waiting for so long to come and see how nature flourish without our settlement.

There drives and guides, they all connected via radios. They help each other if rare animals are spotted. Nelson, our driver got a call. He was rushing to the scene, a cheetah was spotted in the bushland. When we arrived, we have seen some movement through the grassland, slowly the cheetah was moving towards the open land, then it stopped and we lost it. We moved again to our own way to explore others parts of Mara reserve. After another half hour passed, Nelson turned around flying back to the scene when cheetah was spotted. Yes, she is out. A magnificent cat few feet away from us, wondering and moving slowing. Locals understand the behavior of their animals. We were told this cheetah may have cubs left behind and she is out for hunt. Cheetah was moving, few cars along with us were moving in a distance, getting ahead of the cat to its direction. Few gazelles were grazing miles away, it was taking a while, and cheetah was moving very slowly, often got a termite hill and watching the open savanna, perhaps selecting its next meal. Without giving me enough time to set my camera with 500 mm heavy lens, cheetah made the move, speeded up and within few seconds put heard break. It knew it wouldn’t make it to its target. We just witnessed a failed attempt of cheetah approaching its kill.

Perhaps bit exhausted, slowly the cheetah was walking back towards where it started. We are now in the afternoon, we too are hungry and couldn’t wait for our lunch break. We asked Nelson to give up following the cheetah and head back to lunch area. We are on an exclusive private tour, Nelson should have listen to us. Instead he requested us to have little for patience, give him some time. Things are slow again, nothing much on the open savanna, cheetah scared the wildlife around. Very slowly the cheetah was moving, stopping and wondering again. Nelson was looking for something using his binocular, and me to see something using my 500 mm lens. Few gazelles are head of the cheetah, almost more than mile away from us. I thought the cheetah was done for the day, but Nelson thought otherwise predicted cheetah made a target to a young gazelle ahead of him. Once again, hungry but eagerly waiting again to see some movement. My body was tired, we were mile away from the cheetah. We can follow it, it’s a rule in Mara Reserve. When a predator is out following its prey, it must not be followed from behind.

It was a perfect sunny day, we were cruising in the open nature, and everything looks perfect. Savana is peaceful, it’s a heaven for its wild residences. Laws of nature working in a perfect balance, then everything changed. The bones and the muscles of the fastest land animal energized in a fraction of a second. The cheetah is on hunt again. My camera is live, hard to pinpoint from this distance, I shouted –it’s moving. Target was a young gazelle, almost ¾ miles away from the cheetah. They both and all others around them were running. It a moment – outrun the cheetah or this is the last day of living. In nature, in millions of year’s evolution, both cheetah and gazelle were getting faster. To survive, one must pace faster than cheetah, and had to get faster to get to its prey. I witnessed disruption in nature, the balance and perfect harmony was broken. It felt the laws of physics and biology taking place differently as cheetah was moving faster and faster. Then one had to honor his/her life to keep the cycle of life going. The gazelle felt the sharp bite, suffocated. Nelson got the 4x4 on high gear in seconds asked us to hold on tight, he literally flew over the grassy bumpy savanna. We are now on the scene, 10-15 feet away, both predator and prey were lying. One is giving up on living, still moving tough, I could see ears flapping few times. The other, nature’s fastest machine is exhausted, breathing heavy, chest and belly expanding-contracting fast. It got its meal. We were witnessing nature, perhaps in a sad way, but isn’t life all about sufferings at the end? We must leave to allow something else stronger than us to arrive on the scene, nature. We yet to wait for a perpetual machine in nature, the cheetah perhaps is getting close to that.

I was glad we listen to Nelson, waited for so long to see something unspeakable, memory that wouldn’t be occupied by some other events so long we live.

Massai Mara Village:

It gives a snapshot of how much we have. LIFE is simple here. These are the people protecting the land and wild LIFE that will be seen for the very last time (perhaps) on this planet. Here, few wealthy used to come for fun and hunting, called BIG five. Its a shame to many, specially British. Ask them, they would know better how much they sucked out of Africa.

For now, tourism (responsible) is the key for these animals to survive and thrive in Maasai Mara.

Our evening in Maasai Village. For us, it was an amazing experience.


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