Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kenya: Stalking Lions Stalking

Kenya, in comparison, was nothing like Uganda. Their capital cities are vastly different and despite becoming independent at just about the same time, Kenya has far surpassed Uganda in the great quest to become modern. 

We spent our first night in a posh Nairobi apartment building with a couple of Emily's friends. We passed that day walking around a zoo of sorts looking at, and learning about, the game we would hopefully see on our upcoming safari. The baboons, who may or may not be actual residents of the zoo, wander about and got awfully close to patrons (such as myself) milling about. 

The next morning our safari outfitter picked us up at 7. From Nairobi the drive to the Maasai Mara National Reserve is about 6 hours (including a stop or two). Some of the roads, like those in neighboring Uganda, were just short of awful, but the views (especially once we got closer to the reserve) were quite breathtaking. About an hour from the park one can start spotting antelope on the horizon, later zebra and the always hard to hide giraffe.

When we arrived at the lodge we were greeted by members of the Maasai tribe. After all, it is their land. All donned brilliant red robes and many had stretched ear lobes. They're known throughout Kenya as (cow and goat) herders and they never seem to go anywhere without their switch and tall walking stick. In addition, many wore a machete-like sword on their hip. We were fortunate to go on a sunset game ride that night and even more fortunate to come across a pack of 15 or so lions, some of which brushed past our van. The usual beasts and critters were also spotted: wildebeests, elephants, hertabeests, giraffes, zebras, impalas among others. Later in the week, on longer rides (one which had us crossing into Tanzania), we saw cheetahs, hippos, ostridge, crocs, buffalo, hyenas and jackals. The only animals from the "Big Five"* we didn't see were the leopard and black rhino. On two occasions we stalked lions stalking prey. It was heart-pounding excitement because, unlike watching it on TV, one never knew what the outcome would be.

At night we drank beer and watched beautiful sunsets. Our tent was a classic safari-style canvass getup. Aside from the apartment in Nairobi, it was the best bed we slept in all trip aside from the hyenas howling outside our tent; a haunting reminder we were in the middle of the wilderness. 

Our trip back to the States was long and, at times, arduous: 8 hour drive from the Mara to Nairobi airport, flight from Nairobi to Entebbe (4 hour layover), flight from Entebbe to Istanbul (6.5 hours and a 2 hour layover), flight from Istanbul to JFK (11 hours) and then a quick flight back to DC. I was glad to be home and anxious to get back on a schedule of sorts. I was also excited to get back into shape. I had all sorts of low level dings and dents before I went overseas and I was hoping the trip might ease these pains.

I am sure once I get back into the 9 to 5 swing of things, my mind will wander back to Africa. 

It already is.

* the "Big Five" is a term originally coined after the 5 hardest/most dangerous animals to hunt/kill animals by big game hungters in Africa 50-100 years ago. The Big Five consists of the lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.


Bea said...

Enjoyed reading all of your posts from Africa. My trip there was one of my most memorable and I hope to go back.

KLIM said...

Thanks Bea! You went to Kenya, correct?