I saw a star this evening, the star you wish upon. And as I raised my eyes to the heaven and began to recite the wishing words I realized…I have nothing to wish for today. I had the best day in Kenya. THE BEST. Got up early for a full day safari, in the hopes of catching an eyeful of both a cheetah and a leopard, knowing that the odds weren’t great, considering they are both incredibly stealthy. But when in the Maasai Mara, you look for the big cats! So off we went. Before three hours were up, we had already checked the cheetah off our list. I also got a chance to see a baby giraffe with her mom, getting some love, warthogs big and small, a baby elephant with his herd, zebras and gazelles galore.
We kept on the lookout and soon found another cheetah, this one right after a kill, with still some blood on her cheek. As she demurely tried to clean herself, it was amazing to watch this animal just reaching her prime (according to my guide, her fawn color denotes her age) trying to catch her breath after running after and catching her prey in the hot sun.
A few minutes later, we were graced with hyenas, but not just a pack, a mom and her two babies tried to get some relief from the hot early afternoon sun by wading in a pool created just alongside the main road and then drying off on the smooth road instead of the spiky grass.
Since this was not enough, we actually caught sight of the water buffalo, a nice little herd with their respective bird friends, cleaning noses and all. Then we saw a couple of female lions, trying to get some shade from a barely leafy bush. Panting and lying, it was all they could do to try and minimize their exertion.
Having knocked off 3 of the big 5, we went in search of our leopard. We drove around different hangouts known to be favored by the leopard. After a couple of hours and no luck we decided to have our lunch under a tree, where my guide proceeded to tell me that the last time he was under this tree, a leopard was hanging out on a low branch. After lunch, we decided to have another go at it, driving alongside the river and looking up at trees to see if we could spot it (pun intended). After about an hour, we finally got one! It was not near and not the best shot (since its looking the other way), but when on safari, remember you are in the animals’ territory and they are not there to pose for you. We watched it for a few minutes and realized it would not be leaving its amazing hideout anytime soon. So, we left it in peace and started heading back to the lodge. 4 out of 5 in one day at the Mara, not bad at all. On the way back, caught a school of hippos in the river, and got a good shot of one of the main crossings in the wildebeest migration.
On a hunch, divine inspiration or maybe even magic, my guide decided to take a shortcut which led us to run right into a black rhino. Keep in mind, there are only about 30 of these mammals out in the Mara and it is really hard to see one. Well, we were amazingly lucky today and got to see it relatively close, too. 5 out of 5 and all I was hoping for today was a cheetah and maybe a leopard.
The lesson here folks is: 1) a good guide goes a long way. They know where to look, when to wait, how to go about the parks in the way that will most suit your needs. 2) Don’t go on a safari in Africa with a list. The bucket list should say: safari in Africa NOT see a, b, c. Remember, these are wild animals and are not here for your picture. 3) Start off your day accepting that you will see what you have to see, enjoy every second of it and take extra batteries everywhere, you don’t want to miss that amazing shot because your camera has died!
Kenya is amazing, beautiful and I highly highly recommend it to anyone. Does not matter your age or your tastes, you can get a top notch luxury safari or camp it out and freestyle, but do not miss out on this experience!