The spotted land of the Maasais. Known so because of the savannah landscape that is dotted sporadically with acacia trees adorned with leopards and the spirits of the land. Famous for the Mara river that runs through it, separating the land of the Maasais from the SerengetiNational park. It is Africa in the true sense.
Unfortunately, we were a few weeks too early to see the entire plain teeming with wildlife. The migration was supposed to start a week or two after our visit there, and only the tester herds had crossed the river, braving the crocodile infested Mara. The lawn mowers or the wildebeests had not yet arrived, and the grass was waist high, hiding all the smaller creatures from view. Not very promising conditions for a visit, but it was Africa after all…
We drove down from LakeNaivasha to Maasai mara, leaving the Great Rift Valley behind us, and checked into Keekerok resort, which had a private pool with its own family of hippos! It was situated bang in the middle of the wilderness and we could see gazelles and giraffes grazing placidly from our rooms. We spent all our free time in a watch tower situated next to the pool, watching the hippos socialize and the dominant male establish his upper hand by gruesome fights where the males flung tons of body mass against each other, mouth open wide and teeth barred to kill. The fights we witnessed lasted no longer than a few seconds as there was no serious contender to the alpha male and the other smaller males backed down quickly and submissively.
The drives into the grassland were more than magical. Stretches of dry grass with clumps of stunted trees forming islands of lush greenery, as far as your eyes could see. The land forming solid waves as it rose up and smoothly crashed onto the shore of coarse grass. Herds of various species of gazelles, giraffes, zebras and gnus all chomping at the roots of the grass with single minded precision. An occasional alarm call and flurry of activity as the predators weaved their way across the savannah. We were lucky enough to see most of the predators that keep the population of the grass chompers in check- a pride of around twenty lions that consisted of incredibly cute and small cubs, a cheetah that was taking his siesta on a mound hardly a few feet away from our jeep, hyenas that cantered away laughing wildly, and even the very rare Savo cat.
The last day in the wilderness, we drove down to the Mara river, where we were accompanied by a forest guard who took us on a small walk along the banks of the river. We climbed down the very crevasses that the gnus and the zebras use during the migration, that have been carved over the centuries by the migrating herds, as they escaped the jaws of the crocodiles that lay basking in the sun as if they had all the time in the world. We had a picnic lunch by the river side, as very cocky Vervet monkeys and colourful lizards teemed around us. It was a real ordeal to keep an eye on all these various creatures that seemed so keen on plucking food out of your very hands, while trying to figure out how to break through the tough skin of the very foreign fruits in the basket!
It was finally time to say goodbye to the musty African air that I had been breathing for a week, and my dad and I scrambled around buying all the curios we could lay our hands on as my mom frowned upon us. It had been a truly unbelievable week. It had passed by so quickly that things were still blurry and would take another month or so to safely tuck in the memories into the folds on my brain. It was a week I would never forget. It was my first trip to the Dark Continent.