Africa Masai Mara – Aug 2019 -Tour report
Cornucopia symbolizes an ornamental basket with overflowing flowers and fruits. It is a representation of well-being and prosperity. Masai Mara, filled with bountiful species of animals and birds signifies wildlife cornucopia of Mother Earth. The wildlife in the natural habitat attracts travel and photography enthusiasts to observe the abundant beauty like nowhere in the world.
Our photography tour to Masai Mara was proof of the glory of wildlife one can witness in the savannah land. Invaluable sightings of big cats and colourful birds in their habitat displaying their natural behaviours gave us delightful moments to bring back home. Our cameras were more than productive to let us click as many pictures as we could of the wildlife in its untamed form.
Our photography tour began with soaring excitement as we took a boat ride to spot the vivacious birds of Lake Naivasha. We were eager to locate the commoners of the region like Marabou Stork, Sacred Ibis, and Superb Starling. We captured amazing pictures of diving African Fish Eagle and the impressive Super Starling with a unique mix of colours and striking fluorescent eyes.
We indulged in admiration of the distinctive features and appearances of the variety of birds in the Lake. A few hippopotamuses alongside gave us company in the birding. We spent a good time clicking the mighty hippos enjoying themselves in the waters and wondering what these humans were up to.
We proceeded towards our next stop to Lake Nakuru in the bed of the Great Rift Valley. The pristine waters of the lake are surrounded by the scenic beauty of the grasslands. Rains showered as we reached the lake to threaten us of low sightings. Then suddenly the weather cleared off to reveal a backdrop of dead trees and white rhinos and a tower of Rothschild Giraffes emerged to thrill our cameras. We clicked a few pictures of these herbivorous friends and thoroughly enjoyed watching them.
Lake Nakuru provided us with great sightings of Long-tailed Widow birds. The length of its feather tail is so long that it appears as if a Japanese hand fan is hovering amidst the lush green grass. The long plumage is an indication that the male Widow bird is ready to attract the females for breeding off-springs. Nature definitely has unique ideas in place to entice the female birds to come in search of the male birds.
The next morning we passed through a group of sleeping white rhinos while we approached the lakebed. The lake was adorned with the flamingos – pink ballet birds carrying out their usual routines. Their flamboyance is a treat to the eyes. We clicked good pictures of them and filled their charisma in our eyes and started to check out of Lake Nakuru. Suddenly, Olive baboons came in front of the safari track and displayed their playfulness and after a brief period of clicking them, we bid adieu and moved from there.
Mara is a magical destination for those looking to spot the big cats. We had remarkable Leopard sightings on the first two days and captured poised pictures of them. We had resident Leopardess Baghati near our entrance on the first day and Lorian with her daughter on the second day offering close views of them for great pictures.
The Majestic Lion Pride
Lion pride was the top highlights of our trip. We had fabulous sightings of the Topi pride, Marsh pride and Fig-Tree pride. Topi pride had seven cute cubs which granted us various candid poses to be captured in our cameras. They were seen having a cool time stalking and playing with each other. They had hunted a Zebra the night before and one of the cubs had fun with the tail of the dead Zebra.
The Gentle Giants
Giraffes met us everywhere to showcase the natural tattoos on their bodies and allow us to click their close up shots and natural habitat behaviour. We could also witness a funny scene of a giraffe calf chasing a Banded Mongoose out of its territory.
The Fast Five Cheetah Brothers
The special photographic and defining moment of our trip at Mara was spotting the coalition of ‘Fast Five’ Cheetahs in one of the evenings. They were planning for a massive hunt. This provided us an awesome chance to photograph the Cheetah silhouettes against the setting sun. It was such a rare scene to be able to witness in a safari.
The other Cheetah sightings were equally phenomenal. We saw Imani and her cubs hunting down an Impala. It was just about 20 minutes for the gang to attack and kill the poor prey. We also noticed a male Cheetah walking in the savannah and another female Cheetah feasting on a Thomson’s Gazelle kill in the early morning light.
The Great Migration – River Crossing
Millions of Wildebeest and thousands of Zebras and Gazelles migrate from Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara in Kenya around July till September. They head back to Tanzania around December and January in search of fresh pastures. Their migration has a major hurdle of crossing the River Mara to reach the other side of the bank. They fall prey to the crocodiles residing in the river along with Lions, Cheetahs, and Leopards while they try to cross the river. The grazers cross in vast numbers to escape from these predators lurking in water and bushes around.
The river cross over is a magnificent sight for nature and photography lovers. The huge gathering of the animals for migration is a lifetime experience to witness. The savage wildlife scene unveils when a predator attacks creating ruckus and stampede in the cross over. The entire havoc ultimately makes it easy for the predator to find prey for a sumptuous meal.
We were eager to hear from the local guides on the cross-over. On the third day at Mara, we heard about the river crossing and our adrenaline pumped to catch a glimpse of the great migration. We reached the river Mara and pivoted ourselves at a place to witness one of the natural animal world splendours.
After a long wait, came a group of Zebras to cross-over the river. They did not offer good photographic angles and we settled in our places watching them jump into the water and slowly reaching the other side of the bank.
The last day at Mara, we again received the news of cross-over. We hoped to get good photos of the river crossing of the Zebras and Wildebeests. When we positioned to click photos of Zebras who were ready to cross the river, they sensed danger and retreated. We were left clueless about their returning time and waited for a good five hours when a group of daring Zebras started to cross-over.
Following the lead, another set of Zebras and Wildebeests jumped into the waters to reach the other bank. We captured pictures of waves and waves of grazers crossing the river. We also could see many Zebras and Wildebeests being attacked by the crocodiles. The most heart-stirring moment was when, a foal was being dragged by a crocodile and the mother brayed frantically. The helpless mother could do nothing apart from painfully seeing the little one being dragged inside the gushing waters.
The great migration was an unforgettable scene in the entire trip. A six-year old accompanied us in the trip to keep the enthusiasm for all of us alive during the waiting periods. He drew images of all animals spotted in the safari to live the memories of his first Mara trip back home.
Note: The river crossing has to be put as a separate post, so we will keep this report short and sweet.
Everlasting Images and Memories
Most of us have fond memories associated with us while watching on television in our childhood. The engrossing wildlife behaviour influenced to dream of witnessing the scenes in reality.
At, Masai Mara National Reserve this dream comes true in every bit. The television screen is replaced by the real forest backdrop where the Giraffes and Zebras run in front of us. The cameras probe the hands to capture the wildlife in their raw and natural behavior. Images and memories are created that lasts forever in our lives.