Off on safari

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November 6th 2017
Published: November 6th 2017
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As you probably know by now I decided to cut short my time in Mozambique. I realised early on that the internship wasn't for me, and that diving is much less fun when you're working and having to keep an eye on everyone.
Finding myself at a lose end I found a dragoman trip to do instead. I had a couple of weeks between quitting the dive job and starting my chosen trip in Nairobi, in which I made the most of not working, and read many books at the beach, made new friends, and generally relaxed in Mozambique.
The trip I've chosen runs from Nairobi all the way to cape town, with many exciting inclusions along the way.
My trip did not get off to the best start, upon arriving in Nairobi on a very quiet plane I was the only person left standing at baggage claim, and then the belt stopped turning! No bag for me it seems. I found a lady and filled in the necessary form with where I'm staying, details of the bag etc, and told her not to worry, it happens. To which she just said 'no'....then finally when we were finished with the necessary paperwork she thanked me for being so calm about it. Unfortunately this means I'm leaving on safari to the Massai Mara in the same outfit I have flown in, but luckily I picked up a toothbrush on the way to the hotel, and the rest I can cope without for the next few days!
On the way from Nairobi airport we drove past the Nairobi game reserve, right in the city, and I was lucky enough to see water buffalo and impalas through the fence from the highway. A great start to my trip!
Upon meeting my group they are all great, very nice people, and I've had various offers of mosquito spray, toothpaste, leggings etc. I also found a pair of flight socks I got free on the plane, so that's a bonus!
(I'm writing this day by day, as there is so much to include.)
Our first day of the tour sees us head out to the Massai Mara in pop top land cruisers for two nights, with plenty of opportunity for game drives. As we're a small group we managed to fit in one car too which is nice and sociable. As soon as we arrived at the park we headed out on our first drive, and we were absolutely spoilt rotten! I said I'd like to see zebra, as I haven't seen them wild before, and we all said we'd like to see lions.
Within 10 minutes of entering the gate we were sat watching some impala, then we noticed they became alert, and we all started hoping for a lion hunting scene! It turned out it was a jackal, so the impala went back to calmly grazing, but I felt very lucky we'd seen a jacket, as I wasn't expecting to. Very soon after we came across plenty of zebra, and soon after 3 giraffe too! After this we spotted a warthog and some water buffalo, before going on to see small groups of wildebeest.
Our guide then started driving fairly fast, informing us that he wanted to get as deep in to the park as we could, as we only had until 6:30 (another hour and a half) before we had to be out of the park and at our campsite. We could see a lot of vehicles parked up in the distance, and immediately started trying to guess what they could see. We then realised it was elephants! But for some reason we turned and were not driving towards the elephants, which is when we noticed another group of vehicles. As we got close we could just make out brown shapes lying down, and with our zooms on we realised we were being treated to 5 cheetahs!! They were playing around with each other, before they got up and started to approach a group of wildebeest with young. Unfortunately the wildebeest ran away, and the cheetahs did not take up the chase, so after a few photos we looped around to avoid getting between them and their dinner. Coming around a corner we were surprised to find a large male lion laying behind a bush. This safari just keeps throwing up surprises! We continued looping around and got the other side of the cheetahs, putting us in a position for a much better view. Our guide told us these are 5 young males, around 3yrs old. They aren't yet capable of tackling zebra and fully grown wildebeest until they are 5. After watching the cheetahs for a few more minutes we headed off so there weren't so many vehicles around them and continued our drive. This is when we came across the elephants much closer. There was a mummy elephant with 3 young, the smallest of which was tiny!
Behind the elephants were masses of wildebeest (which we are hoping means we can see them crossing the crocodile infested river!). The sun was now beginning to set, so we slowly started heading back towards our camp. On the way we were treated to 3 more lions - one female and two males. We were the only vehicle with these lions, which were very relaxed with our presence, wandering around by the vehicle and laying down for a rest. After leaving the lions we came across vultures picking at the remains of a cow carcass - not quite the kill we were teasingly asking the guide for, but a good close second.
As we got back just past the area we first spotted giraffe our guide spotted a hyaena. Unfortunately by this time it was too dark for my camera, but it was a great treat to end our drive on! I cannot believe how lucky we were on the drive, and just how many different iconic animals we managed to spot.
The next thing I have said I would like to see is Ostrich, although I'm not expecting them here, but rather just to be on the bucket list to tick off before Cape Town.
To top off such an amazing day, when we got to our camp I had a message passed on to me that my luggage is in Nairobi at the hotel! I had faith it would be there before I returned, but it's good to know it's definitely there (I'm hoping they haven't delivered the wrong bag!).
Day 2 - Today we went on an all day game drive from 7:30am until 5 pm. I cannot describe everything we saw, otherwise this will end up longer than my dissertation and you'll be asleep before you've managed to get through the one blog post!
The game drive started off well, with plenty of wildebeest, zebra and impala. There were also a lot of warthogs, including many small piglets! When they run away their tails are bolt upright, which looks quite amusing through the long grasses. The first big bit of excitement was when we parked up next to a bush. At first we asked what we were looking for, but then quickly realised that in the bushes were a pride of lions with a lot of cubs! They were all lazing around resting, and unfortunately the bushes got in the way of photos a bit, but we counted at least 15 lions, probably 20. They ranged in size from fully grown mums down to 4-6 months old. As they looked quite comfy, and very unlikely to provide us any hunting action, we headed on to continue our drive.
Just as we were enjoying some elephants our driver quickly hurried us to sit down and raced off. I asked what we were heading to see, but he wouldn't tell us until we got there! What he was talking us to was well worth leaving the elephants for though, he'd found us a leopard! I hadn't dreamt we'd be so lucky on our first safari of the trip. The leopard was up a tree sleeping, and I was amazed by just how beautiful leopards are. Unfortunately we didn't spot a tree with the leopard's dinner in, as it's usually left in a tree nearby, but we did look.
Continuing our drive I was surprised to see such big herds of water buffalo - I've only seen them in groups of around 10 our fewer before, but we saw herds of around 100 or more. We also spotted monkeys (one of which jumped through the window to steal a bag of snacks from the truck!), baboons, and we were treated to another hyaena sighting! We also got to see some giraffe, mostly in ones and twos, and 3 families of elephants. Every elephant family had one tiny baby, under 1 month old, as well as various bigger children and mums.
As we were driving along I noticed an ostrich up ahead! I couldn't believe my luck, I didn't expect to see one so soon. Now we're not leaving much for all the other safaris coming up on the trip! We managed to get some good pictures, then as we left she was joined by a male ostrich too.
After a lunch stop overlooking the plains we headed to the mara river, which is famous for the wildebeest crossings. On the way to the river we came across another two cheetahs slinking along on lookout. Unfortunately there were no wildebeest crossing, despite the last herds still being this side of the river, however it was very impressive to see the iconic river banks. The banks really are as steep as they look on tv, with tiny narrow paths up to safety. We managed to spot 3 big crocodiles, one baby, and plenty of grunting hippo.
Continuing our drive we were treated to another hyaena and 5 lionesses - 2 separate and a group of 3. The lionesses were all sat resting right near the paths, and seemed not at all bothered by our presence. One got up whilst we were sat by her, and went off to stalk some warthog. Unfortunately she didn't try very hard and they all got away, but it provided some excitement for us.
After this we started to head back to our accommodation. On the way one of our group suddenly said to stop - he'd spotted another leopard through the bushes! This really was our lucky day. We reversed up and saw the leopard very clearly, and realised she was getting ready to stalk some deer up ahead. We were the only truck there, so we got a great view and it was lovely and peaceful. We managed to sit with the leopard for over 10 mins before she made her move, and then we got to see her whole stalking process. My adrenaline was definitely going at this point. The deer had no idea she was just by them in the bush watching. Unfortunately something spooked the deer at the last minute and they ran off. The leopard took chase for a few steps, but despite them being scattered and confused she didn't spend any more energy pursuing them further. This meant we got to get really close - so close we were told to close the windows! She then came and lay down on the road in front of us, and was happy posing for photos for the next 15mins. We all felt so lucky to have witnessed this, especially with no other vehicles in sight. Leopards have definitely become my favourite animal I've seen so far. As elusive as they are meant to be we have had the best sightings I could ever ask for - much closer than you even get in a zoo, and all in the wide open plains where she could have easily run off if she didn't want us there with her. This was an unbelievable end to an amazing day seeing so much more than any of us could have dreamed of.
Day 3 - This morning we had our final game drive in the Massai Mara. We headed off at 6 am for a sunrise drive. Our safari started off to a fairly quiet start, although we were treated to some beautiful scenery throughout the park. We did manage to see plenty of wildebeest, zebra, some giraffe, elephants, and a few more ostrich. I also managed to spot a pair of jackal who were very obliging with posing for photos!
Our driver then started speeding off, and as usual he wouldn't tell us what we where heading off to see. As we got closer we saw two trucks, one of which the passengers where beckoning us over. As we got to the trucks we realised that the guys who had called us over had a leopard under their truck! They were very happy to see us as we could take photos of the experience for them. The leopard had a good crawl around under the truck in the warmth, before deciding to walk back in to the bushes towards it's stashed kill. This encounter was completely unexpected, and the perfect end to our trip to the Massai Mara.
We are now very excited about our next safari, although I don't know how it can beat this one!

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