Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara

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Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara 1/1 by Anuj Tikku

One of the last parts of my journey through Kenya was the Maasai Mara National Reserve (aka Masai Mara or simply The Mara), a massive 1500 sq km game reserve in the Narok County at Kenya. It is right next to / adjacent with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Mara Land - in the Masaai language Mara means spots - a description of circles of trees, scrub, savanna and cloud shadows that mark the area.

Photo of Masai Mara National Reserve, Narok County, Kenya by Anuj Tikku

The Maasai are the historical inhabitants of the area. Tall and hardy; they are a colourful tribe in the way they dress and their simple lives. They still make fire in the very old fashioned way!

The colourful Massai tribesmen making fire the old fashioned way!

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

I was staying in a camp just outside the game reserve and it is a jungle camp right in the middle of the Mara land. I had a tent to myself for the four nights I planned to be here. The tents are spread out and right in the middle, the Maasai men have a fire lit up while they sit around taking comfort from its heat. They have a generator which is on for four hours in the morning and for another four in the evening at dinner time. They even have a Wi-Fi connection but it is rather slow and I could barely send a few emails. There is also a large dining hall which is another tent and somewhat aptly, the TV there is tuned on to National Geographic wildlife shows. Dinner is served at 7:30 pm till 8:30 pm and then lights out by 10:00 pm. It’s a very chilled, indulgent sort of a camp and you could enjoy on your own or chat with other guests from time to time if all the solo travelling is getting to you.

Breakfast is served at 6:30 am and most people venture out into the reserve after breakfast to catch a glimpse of the animals. There were several people from around the world and some were obviously super pro photographers. For novice photographers like me, it is overwhelming to see the sizes of some of the lenses these folks are carrying. I saw some really huge bazooka style lenses with their cameras. My camera, though a DSLR, looked like the proverbial mouse in front of their paraphernalia.

The South Koreans seemed to have got it right. They wear face masks all the time, protecting them from the dust and germs of an alien land. I have managed to stay disciplined during my stay at the camp; Getting up on time, eating on time and fully participating in the activities of the day. Morning and evenings are a bit nippy with a chill in the air. But the afternoon can get hot as I realised that when I wandered into the forest near the Mara lake.

Mara Lake

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

It was hot and sticky with flies buzzing around my face. The more I would swat them, the more they would come back to irritate me. The beauty of Masai Mara is to see the variety of God’s creatures surviving together. They are well-knit by nature and the circle of life. Each one has a unique place in the habitat and contributes to the entire ecosystem. The predator and the prey together on the same land and amongst them all were us and man trying to get a peek into the world of wild beasts.

This is also the right weather as animal migration happens at this time. The intrepid traveller can see thousands of animals seemingly walking in a single file crossing the vast savannah.

After two days of hectic but enjoyable safari, we have some rest time where one does nothing much, not me at least. I chilled out in my tent with a book and admired the pictures I had shot.

The Foraging Baboon! They raid camps in the night to trouble, perhaps, the human interlopers!

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

We have been advised to zip up our tents in the night to safeguard from the baboons who frequent the camp at night stealing and creating general havoc. Apart from that, it’s a pretty safe place I might add. On my day of rest - that bit of Sabbath in the Savannah I had, I reached a final conclusion. This is the mother of all safaris; The sheer size, the resplendent natural surroundings, the whole cradle of humanity thing, the diversity of the fauna. Without a doubt, this is an adventure that cannot be missed and deserves a bucket listing!

After a day of rest in the wilderness of the park, it was me feasting and dining with the wild cats of Africa again. I woke up to munching on my cheese sandwiches and I knew it was going to be a long and hard day.

Zebras of the Maara! Indolent grazing with stripes on their back - a delight to watch.

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

My driver and I started at 7:30 am for the deep inside of the Game Reserve. The first thing that hits you when you enter the gates of the reserve is the vastness and space of Masaai Mara and the animals. It is like a sea of wild beasts, zebras, deer, antelopes and gazelles.

It is a deer for sure - those antlers mark them out !

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

There were probably more but those were the animals I recognised! The safari takes you so close to the animals that if you really wanted to, perhaps you could kiss them. Not that it would be advisable, of course, because the operative word here is animals that are wild!

They look nice - but they sure don't look like they would want you to get too close !

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

At points, you feel like you are bang in the middle of the action with them. I had seen a life time’s worth of waterbucks and zebras but there was not a lion to be spied!

That is a life times worth of zebra and wild bison!

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

The Lion King! Where was he to be seen? Perhaps having his breakfast and all we needed to do was to identify his kill. Yes, to get to the lion, first get to his kill I thought. You can know a kill has been made when you see vultures hovering over a spot in the air. One knows instantly that there must be the carcass of a wild beast or antelope that was just killed by the lion.

The vultures begin to flock towards the dead carcass to eat it and so do other scavengers like the hyena. One instantly knows that the Lion will be around either resting in the shade or drinking water at the nearby watering hole. These muddy watering holes are theirs throughout this savannah and are the lifeblood of its wild animals. We spotted a lion resting under some shade. I clicked away as my driver brought us just meters away from each other. The lion opened his eyes to see the commotion but must have been tired after the kill. So he went back to sleep.

My driver was determined to show me every nook and cranny of this great land and spot every animal that existed in its territory. We just kept going deeper and deeper into the Mara, till we reached the Kenya -Tanzania border.

More hippos in the lake !

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

Then we drove up through the maze of the migrating animals to the Mara Lake. This is the Masai Mara lake which houses a huge colony of hippos all swimming together and amongst them are huge crocodiles floating in the water.

Hippos in the lake!

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

I was handed over the rangers here who took me around the lake and into the forest for an hour long walk. I got a better view of the animals from these different vantage points.

Then it was leopard chasing time. This time, we spotted a family of five leopards sitting near each other under trees. On the other side, a leopard had recently killed a deer and was licking the blood of his face.

Majestic and just fed!

Photo of Dining with Lions and Leopards in Maasai Mara by Anuj Tikku

I took some photos of this feasting and carnage. The leopard then got up and just walked past our SUV. As we moved on, we were in for a real treat as we happened upon elephants and a huge giraffe in front of us. Then we saw two ostriches trying to mate with each other as zebras kept cutting our path. This was really like being in The Lion King film and I was loving every bit of it. We spent over ten hours meandering through the rough terrain of the Masai Mara and I can confidently say that I did not miss a thing.

On the way, I witnessed the most beautiful sunset one can see as we headed back to our Jungle Camp. I was tired but very satisfied with the experience. I could never imagine coming this close to wild animals. It was truly a mind boggling experience.

Originally posted on tikkustravelthon.in

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