Friday, October 5, 2007

African Safari Series II - Masai mara

Nairobi is like any average Indian town .... the hussle-bustle, traffic jams... road-side vendors ... tuk-tuks (auto-rikshaws) ... bumpy roads's all there.The Satya Sai/Jalaram temples and healthy number of the Indian fraternity on the roads made us feel at home as soon as we landed in town. The weather too was pleasant with the temperatue ranging aroung 19/ 20 degs C. Elijah, our jovial tour operator introduced us to Maina the tour guide who would take us through the tour and Daniel his chela (or shinkidi as in coloquial malayalam). I was pretty much impressed with Matatu the safari van that Maina was driving and which would be our vahanam for the next five days. After a quick bite we set forth towards the famous Masai mara wild-life sanctuary.

We had two halts, the first one to get view of the Great Rift valley from a vantage point and then at a place called Naroak to have lunch. We reached our destination a couple of hours before nightfall and straightaway proceeded for an evening game-drive. Believe me, all fatigue caused due to two days of non-stop travelling was forgotten in a matter of minutes. A band of wild-elephants of varying sizes and ages passed by our vehicle compelling us to shake off our sleep.

Two juvenile pachyderms were enjoying a wrestling bout and another was relishing a mud-bath. I could relate to the fellow as kindred spirit on spotting that impish grin .... the sort I used to sport while returning home from school, with the all-white uniform turned virtually brown. The kiddos were tagged along by the older ones, visibly displaying aggression as if to accentuate their protective intentions. As we drove on ... zebras, wild-beasts, hart-beasts (kongoni in swahili) and various species of antelopes lined the track to welcome us into the animal kingdom. Even as twilight was fast approaching our probing eyes were on the look-out .... keen to spot some members of the big-five club, as they call it. It was then that a leapord walked right in front of our vehicle unannounced and gave a feline pose. It is a pity I couldn't capture him .. on camera, of course. The big cat being totally unaware of my genetically lethargic motoneural response vanished into the flanking tall grass even as I was trying to fine-tune the focus of my snap-gadget. Maina tried in vain to pursue the fella.I guess the matatu was no match to him in matters of pace and stealth.As darkness descended we retreated to the camp site where Ben, our gregarious host awaited us with refreshing cups of tea.

I had opted to stay in tents instead of lodges mainly due to limitations imposed by a strained purse.This, however turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A room would never have afforded us the thrills of camping.The next day was dedicated to a full day game drive. After a heavy breakfast of porridge, pancakes - which Sudha savoured, thinking them to be dosas or goacho polo (konkani) to me precise - and eggs, we headed back to be amongst the beasts.

We were previleged to be granted an early audience of His Majesty. The King of the wooded- world was enjoying a morning siesta when the matatu's engine sounded reveille .... and to our discomfort, the boss didn't seem a bit amused. His ladies were busy with their stretching routines a few feet away. [Lions are amongst the more sociable of predators.They hunt in groups and share the food, much unlike leapords and cheetahs, who believe in doing it all alone].

As we ventured further, the radio (every safari vehicle has one) suddenly started registering more traffic, warning us of some action ahead. Maina deciphered the conversation and drove us quickly to the scene of action. A Cheetah was stalking a bunch of antelopes, but quickly got into the bushes on seeing the vehicles approaching. We waited for about an hour and patience paid dividends as the cat sprang out from an adjacent bush and walked past us (with a look that spoke it's mind - why don't you guys let me hunt in peace). He looked visibly tired or rather hungry as saliva profusely dripped out of it's mouth. Maina had a good look, took a few moments to think and passed an expert's verdict that the Cheetah would rest for a while before venturing again.We moved on after offering a mental apology to the cheetah.[Cheetah is the quickest animal that walks the earth. However they are sprinters and cannot sustain a run of more than 100m , after which they get too tired to continue.They therefore, stalk the prey to get as close as 40-50m and then unleash their stored energies on the hapless victim].

The gait of a giraffe reminds one, of the lanky ladies with attitude (no taunt intended ..:)) who walk the ramp. Perhaps the term giraffe-walk is more suited to their glamorous perambulations than the oft used cat-walk.This analogy was confirmed to be appropriate when I saw traces of envy on someone's face even as I was engrossed in taking snaps of a Giraffe family.

The mara river which flows along the Kenya-Tanzania border has numerous hippos and crocodiles. The mara stretches into Tanzania and is called Serengeti across the border. That's where the wild-beasts, zebra's etc migrate to in Jan-Feb every year only to return after six months. [The Hippos look docile and lazy during day and mostly remain in water. At night they move on land and are violently aggressive. The males mark their territories in a unique way - you may call it the motion-fringing method - and do not entertain any intrusion into their sovereignity even by their own offspring].

We were fortunate to witness and experience many more situations that were simultaneously exciting and pleasing. I'll mention a few. Vultures swooping down on carcasses and tutoring their young ones on the techniques of scavenging ...... a mother cheetah putting her cub to sleep (the scene reminded me so much of my granny putting babies - ranging from my nephews to cousins - to sleep, that i could almost hear Omanathigalkidavo the popular malayalam lullaby ) ....... a filthy hyena chasing a hapless bird ....a Lion family sharing their food ....... I can go on.

you may visit my snapshots for a few more snaps

On our way back to the camp after an action packed day we visited a Masai village.The tribals still dressd in their traditional attires (they seemed to love the red colour) and live a primitive lifestyle. Many however spoke english (courtesy,the missionary schools) and had perfected the art of milking the tourists. We visited a few homes, witnessed a celebratory dance and a surveyed an artefacts market before heading back to our tents.We had a livelier evening than the one before.Read about it and about the rest of the journey in the next post .............. & thanx for being here ....... :-)

to be continued ....


Vidya said...

Ahh, I am so going to take a safari during my lifetime. I had actually gone to different kind of safari in Texas. We have to sit in our cars and go around the premises, watch the animals in their natural surroundings. This is kinda like a safari only that the lions and tigers will be caged.

The giraffes and other herbivores were so much used to seeing human beings around in the cars that they would boldly walk up to the car and stick their face in through the window!


mathew said... of a kind experience..i always wished to go on a safari like this..visitin the zoo isnt that thrilling anymore..Heard from many folks that africa is really beautiful much beyond our expectations..this post remphaises it..

harimohan said...

excellent post ,we lived the safri with you naveen

Gazal said...




dharmabum said...

such lovely pictures. i like the african elephant. and u spotted lion - lucky you :)

the missionary schools - is there any place where they are not present?

lol @ giraffe walk

Naveen said...

vidya & mathew - wish your chance for a safari comes soon

harimohan - thanx sir

gazal- happy trip to bannergatta :)

dharmabum - yes .. we were lucky to spot the big ones

Kalyan said...

WoW...some beautifully captured shots with so much wildlife & lovely reading your description...very nice!

Mona said...

Love to go through it...
I love photography and want to be a Wildlife photographer. Nature has so much to explore.

Take care and keep enjoying..

Nisha said...

thoroughly enjoyed reading it yar...

Nanditha Prabhu said...

reminded me of our days in south africa....and the game drives we used to enjoy. I can understand the joy and excitement when we are able to spot the camouflaged animals.

Maddy said...

it is a wish that we still have left - going on an african safari. i was under the impression that these days, you dont really get to see so many animals....but after reading your travelogue, i think we will plan one soon..