The real excitement had begun. We were all set for Mara!!
On the morning of 30th September, 2017 we set out to Maasai Mara National Reserve. Maasai Mara, named in honour of the Maasai people, is globally famous for its big cats and the annual migration of zebras, wildebeest etc., to and from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. After having travelled for around 7 hours through various landscapes, covering almost 200 kms, we reached the reserve. En Route, we stopped by to get a glimpse of the Great Rift valley that runs through Kenya from north to south. The approach to the reserve by air is recommended over the road journey since the approach road to the reserve was terrible. We checked in to Sarova Mara game camp, one of the better resorts in the reserve. The camp did not have a fence of its own and animals could trespass freely. We saw two dikdiks, smallest antelope in Africa just outside our tent and after a good lunch, at around 4 pm, we set out for the safari. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grasslands with riverlets.
After driving for about 10 minutes, I saw the sight I had been waiting for since forever. From afar, I could notice a small bush in the vast grasslands with an animal resting underneath it. As we drove closer, I could figure out that it was the first cat sighting of the trip and the cameras again! A cheetah, the fastest animal of the world, was resting in the shade of the bush and I just couldn’t believe the sight of it. I hadn’t even seen a cheetah in a zoo before and there it was open in the wild, lazying around, presumably after a good meal. After a while, I just put down my camera and tried to soak in the stunning view.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 310mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/400s
Leaving the cat behind, we came across a herd of elephants, when it started to drizzle. Our driver pulled down the roof and we waited for the rain to stop. In a moments time, the drizzle was gone, and the sun was out again in its full shine. We went in search for more cats and from afar, we could see the bigger ones playing with each other and strolling around the vast grasslands. As we closed in, we saw a group of lionesses sun bathing and enjoying the cool breeze just before sunset. This is the view one expects to see in Mara and we had it all at that moment. Four big lionesses at a distance of 30-40 meters from us were busy playing, yawning and drowsing. We couldn’t just leave them behind but after watching them for quite some time, we decided to move on.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 500mm, f/5.6, ISO 500, 1/250s
On our way back to the camp, we saw some more of ostriches, giraffes, Topi gazelles, guinea fowls and a variety of birds. It was surely an eventful day and we could only wait for the next morning to start our full day game drive.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 200mm, f/5.6, ISO 500, 1/250s
Ready for the day, we left at around 7.30 am for the drive. Lunch was packed, and the cameras were ready to click. A few miles into the reserve, we saw the lionesses roaming together.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 500mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/400s
Then we came face to face with the king of the jungle. The beast was walking towards us, only stopping on its way to drink water.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 200mm, f/10, ISO 200, 1/400s
We kept following it for quite some time, before it rested under a bush. We also followed it slowly to the bush, only to find a lioness nearby.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 480mm, f/6.3, ISO 250, 1/500s
We also found a huge number of elephants, migrating zebras and wildebeests, vultures preying on dead animals and a variety of birds. We drove to river Mara to see the zebras and wildebeests crossing the river, but we weren’t that lucky. Few zebras could be seen crossing it while the crocodiles lay waiting for their meal with their jaws open. The river also has a considerable number of rhinos, which just lie in the water all day long.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 210mm, f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/1250s
We proceeded to an open place to have our picnic lunch and sitting under a tree, we enjoyed our time outside of the van. Suddenly, we spotted a bunch of vehicles gathering at a spot. Curious, we rushed towards it to find a lion drinking out of a water hole with its prey lying by its side. It then went inside a bush to rest, which was surrounded by five lionesses. Maybe we missed the chance to see him having lunch when we were busy eating ours.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 200mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/1000s
We sighted three cheetahs, who were dangerously close to us and three lions, who were asleep inside a bush.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 500mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/400s
We had been searching for a leopard for quite some time but found none and we were a bit disappointed by the end of the day. We had called it a day and had started our retreat, when our van swirled around a patch of trees and we saw the most incredible sight of the entire trip. There were approx. 25-30 lion cubs along with their mothers playing and relaxing under the trees. For a moment we could not believe the sight and just kept shooting them. We kept circling around the trees to get a better line of sight and we realized that the cubs were everywhere. This is something I would not be able to describe either in words or in pictures and the sight will forever be etched in my memory. While the sun was setting, we reached our camp.
Nikon D 800E, 200-500mm f/5.6E, 200mm, f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/400s
After all, it was time to celebrate and there was nothing better than a glass of local beer. One glass turned out to be a few of them and after a relaxing dinner, bags were packed along with lots of memories to carry back home.
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