Wide open plains, magical sunsets and millions of hooves pounding the earth. These have become age-old clichés to describe Masai Mara’s world-acclaimed allure. It matters little how many times one has been to the Mara but the vast and varied array of beauty is irresistible. Mara is a multi-faceted jewel that shines for eons. In the Mara, time stops.
For yet another season, Masai Mara is becoming a wild theatre drawing viewers from far and wide. The main actors just arrived from neighbouring Tanzania for their annual act in the golden plains. Wildebeests in their thousands are determined to leave no stone unturned (pardon another cliché) as they go for the last blade of grass before returning ‘home’.
I got the news of the arrivals from Paul Kirui, one of the top guides in the Mara. Like other players that I have met in the sector, our paths crossed while visiting the Mara in the company of one Jackson Loseeiya, another renowned guide and wildlife commentator. These fellows know the Mara like the back of their hands. They know the name of every creature that calls Mara home including their mating habits. Kirui’s blog had all the news I needed to get my antenna searching for the Mara signal.
“The wildebeests have now entered the Mara. I can now confirm after a fact finding mission around the entry points along the Mara and Serengeti border. This may be the earliest arrival recorded in the recent past,” wrote Kirui. I love the way these guides describe the animals in the Mara– in very ‘human’ terms. It is like the wildebeests just got their passports stamped at the border points. It could as well be for there are some wildebeests that reside in Kenya throughout the year. The joke is that they do not have passports to crisscross the border at will.
We had landed at Keekorok Lodge midmorning, just in time for a quick bite before venturing out into the wild. But this is Africa and our snack quickly turned into lunch. An hour later and we just sunbathed at the lodge. In any case, we reasoned, the animals are right outside the lodge. In the afternoon, we embarked on a game drive, the very reason that brings thousands of visitors here. It is ironical that no matter how many times one has been on these game drives, you always look forward to the next. I guess we are just wild by nature albeit with a sense of civility.
Unfortunately, gone are the days when game viewing was a relaxed affair in the Mara. Thanks to its global fame, Mara now competes with our cities in terms of human and vehicular traffic. At some point, our vehicle could hardly pass the tons of tour vans packed on the road as visitors craned their necks to see a leopard enjoy her lunch. I always wonder what animals think of us staring at their lunch. Who likes to eat with cameras clicking away for hours on end?
At the river, where much of the activities concentrate, wildebeests bid their time. I guess it is never an easy decision for any animal to take the lead in what is perhaps the most dangerous moment of their lives. Menacing crocodiles lay in wait at the banks. Their time to eat had come. They have been in this game before humans walked the earth. They looked docile as they warmed themselves in the early afternoon sun.
But they are among the most agile reptiles, able to leap themselves more than ten feet in the air, grab a hapless animal, drown it and enjoy the meal at leisure. They are also the most versatile and can stay submerged, with only the eyes popping out to scan the grey waters. On this day however, with the wildebeests putting off their show severally, all the crocodiles could do was wait.
While the migration spectacle only lasts about three months, the Mara is never short of drama. We watched as a lone lioness crept alongside the river, pounced on a hapless impala and disappeared as quickly as she came, with vultures hot on her heels in the hope of snatching some morsel. On the way back, we passed a pair of silverback jackals testing their fate by attempting to steal a kill from hyenas. That is the daily show on the Mara – Kenya’s wild theatre.
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