The Mara - Simba and Friends

I chose an organised tour for the majority of my time in Africa. After much deliberation, I had opted for a 43 day ‘overland’ tour with a company called Acacia Africa, which would take me from Nairobi in Kenya to Cape Town in South Africa. In between, we would travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. ‘Overlanding’ is the budget version of a group tour – it involves camping most nights, cooking together and covering long distances in a purpose-built truck that can ‘off road’ for authentic travel experiences!

I was really excited about starting the tour. Around 20 of us convened early the first morning at a hotel in central Nairobi, where we met our two tour leaders - Fiona and Blessed - and were briefed on the first few days. We wouldn’t board our truck just yet, instead we were setting off in minibuses to the Masai Mara for a full-on East African wildlife safari.

To get to the Mara, we endured hours of hideously bumpy roads in our minibuses that were ill-suited for such terrain. Thankfully it was worth it once we arrived.

We went out on an evening game drive and were overwhelmed at the abundant wildlife we saw within minutes of entering the Mara gates. I won’t forget out first sightings – zebra wandering along next to the track (they seemed elegant, beautiful and timid creatures), a giraffe ambling along in the distance, and then a herd of elephants right next to our vehicle.


We learnt to look for vultures as they indicate that a lion kill has recently taken place, and sure enough we came across a flock swooping down to devour some vile and stinking offal! The ripping and tearing noises that accompanied their scavenging were truly repugnant.

However, it was incredible to witness such awe-inspiring creatures at close proximity.
Over the following days, we ticked off the revered Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino – and even had the dubious honour of seeing the Ugly Five! - vulture, spotted hyena, wildebeest, warthog and marabou stalk (known as the Undertaker).


Given their unpleasant feeding habits, these five appear to be rather short on personality as well as looks! I could forgive a hyena its snarling appearance if it perhaps had other appealing qualities – but its vicious whooping and shrieking early in the morning is pretty fearsome!

Mostly the animals seemed surprisingly oblivious to the numerous safari vehicles hot on their heels – sometimes over ten would be tracking a pride of lions – but the Mara appeared woefully unregulated. Vehicles were driving off the tracks and into the grassland, stopping only a few feet away from the animals (hence my pictures of lions right next to our vehicle) and drivers would radio each other about animals’ locations. In some cases we even saw drivers revving engines to startle the animal into a performance for the tourists.



2 comments:

  1. Hi Cathy,

    We'd love to feature your review on the Acacia Africa blog and some of your pix. Please buzz me back at siobhan@tionlondon.co.uk - you'll find the blog at: http://bit.ly/12KtAw

    Hope to hear back soon :)

    Happy travels,

    Siobhan

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  2. Most enjoyable - I'm looking forward to more posts soon and do hope you're able to keep it up. You should, because besides entertaining your friends and relations, there's a book in there just waiting to burst out (or should be by the time you're finally done). You'll be pleased to hear that your lovely African sunset photo (with tree) now has pride of place in my sheep scab presentation (it's the closing shot). Fame at last!

    Till the next time, happy trails.

    UJ

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