An African Odyssey Begins
As a wildlife lover, the mecca of wildlife aka Africa has always been on my mind. From the sprawling savannas to the play of prey and predator, the vast vistas bring a plethora of photo-opportunities to the wildlife enthusiasts. Perhaps, nothing can beat the joy of witnessing the natural marvel- the Great Migration. And so with undue delay, I decided to head to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, to be privy to the thick of action and get shutter-happy!
About The Great Migration
An act of heroism and daredevil, the Great Migration event sees thousands of wildebeest dutifully completing their annual migration from the Serengeti to Masai Mara, and vice versa. The reason is simple- bare basic existence. The Darwinian law of “Survival of the Fittest” is seen coming to life here, as the millions of herbivores battle thrashing rivers and fiery predators in search of greener pastures (quite literally!). What ensues is a buffet feast for all who kill for a living. As the wildebeest migrate, lions, crocodiles, leopards, and many more predators follow in tow, in search of the weak and tired- an easy meal. Drama is seen in all its splendour in the river crossings, as chaos unfolds and only the brave and strong emerge rewarded! Such is the hype around the Annual Migration, that I found myself all ecstatic in the build-up to my one-week escape.
Wildlife Encounters In Mara
The seven-day holiday was less of a relaxing holiday, and more of a frenetic exploration. On the first day itself, we found the famed Enkoyonai pride of lions. The lighter side of wild Africa unfolded and we enjoyed clicking a huge litter of cute lion cubs. Their playful shenanigans charmed one and all, and after some light banter we pined for a glimpse of their majestic leaders, the male lions! Yet, luck eluded us, and we decided to head into the savannah for some other Mara-kind of drama! Bold leopard walking head-on towards us blew my mind away, while hordes of wildebeest with their annoying noises were strewn everywhere, in varied poses! The day drew to a satisfying end, as Africa lived up to its name of being a wildlife destination unlike others- full of drama and action.
Seeking the Mighty and Strong: In Search of Scarface
Any wildlife encounter is often measured by how rare and dangerous the subject is, and so how it fills us humans with enigmatic dread! To that end, we could not help but focus on the apex predator of the Mara lands- the lions. Lions present ample photo-opportunities. While their little ones and ladies provide tender moments, the majestic males exude strength and confidence in every stride. And who else better to represent this African might, than the good o’le Scarface. I had heard stories of his scarred face- testimony to the many battles he had won and the reason for his infamous name! Said to be around 12 years old (according to the The Marsh Pride of Lions on Facebook), he is believed to have been born in 2008. Believed to have been fathered by the Notch male lions, he is the dominant one of the Musketeers coalition; his three brothers, Morani, Sikio and Hunter being allies to lion wrath! Victory after victory ensued in battle, starting with their takeover of the darling of Mara lions- the Marsh pride. Only four years old at that time (2012), Scarface and his gang set the tone of lion dominance across the terrain. The conquests did not stop, and in 2016 the 4 musketeers took over the Paradise pride, constituting around nine females and few sub-adult males. Till date, his shadow looms large, his tell-tale battle scar as real evidence of his courage and savagery. Naturally, this Lion of Lions was on my mind for a while, and so we specifically turned towards the Mara triangle in search of this evil beauty.
The Search for the Scar Continues
Mara is all about variety, so we stopped along the way to the Mara triangle as a cheetah family made a kill. Rushing across the grassy knolls at full speed, it came down on an unfortunate antelope and in a matter of an hour, all that was left was a few scraps. What remained was gulped down by greedy hyenas and sassy vultures. I was mesmerized by nature’s ability to allow for “no remains”! After this wildlife treat, our gypsy headed towards the thick of action- the Mara triangle, all eyes for the Scarred apparition. The day passed, but he eluded us. The next day we awoke with single mission on mind- the mighty walk of Scarface! As the flies buzzed in the afternoon heat, a sudden jungle-intelligence came to the forefront. The Scarface gang was a few miles away, so we forgot about the heat and started the chase. And then it happened. Expecting to see a huge cat in its prime, what we witnessed turned the tables. We sighted him straight ahead. The Big Cat was limping, its sleek form hobbling a bit. Was this the very Scarface that we had dreamt of? I looked closely and saw that it was. For, despite the limp and the scar, his eyes spoke it all- years of proud rule, battles began and won, tales of courage- it was that enrapturing stare that had mesmerized every wildlife lover for years! Even as a ripe old man, he exuded the confidence that only a King can! My camera got shutter-crazy, as I clicked the majestic being in all his glory- a glory that had elevated him to the status of Uber-Emperor! Not only did he manage his own pride, but he was sub-managing four other prides, rumour said! I looked on, as he changed face and transformed from a prowling beast to a subdued cat licking his paws. And we settled to witness his proud gang as they lingered along.
A Lesson from the Wild
Scarface was a true epitome of how life unfolds. From his prime to his golden years, and hopefully many more years to come, he was the ultimate symbol of nature’s law. Testing times he had faced, yet true grit and determination had stood him the test of time! As I looked upon the mighty beast take a leisurely nap in the setting golden sun, I could not help but feel a twinge of déjà vu- how closely the life of this wild being reflected human life! And so, with a bunch of mixed feelings, I thanked the giant to have presented himself, and fulfilled my dream of the ultimate African safari!