Thursday, Massai Mara

Ashikaga Thursday! We got to sleep in – sort of! We had breakfast at 7, departure at 8, then on the road with George to the airfield to catch a puddle jumper to Maasai Mara.

Naturally we were held up by a herd of elephant and a few other forms of wildlife on our way to the airfield.

We arrive a bit early. So we watched planes land and take off on a landing strip of dirt. George told us that today was the first day the field was operational after the rains. The strip had been non-functional, washed out but now it had been graded and was ready to go.

Our pilot landed, we climbed aboard and took off for Maasai  Mara, about an hour away.

It was a pretty uneventful flight and we were met by our guide, Michal. He asked us if we wanted to go back to the lodge and check in first or, if we wanted to take a game drive. We agreed let’s go check in, scope out our accommodations at Entim then go out at 4 pm.

We’ll, all did not go as planned. We kept trying to get to the lodge, but the bridge was out, so turn around and go back, wind your way around, swamp too wet, back up, go around and so on. Finally we made it to Entim and scoped out our new lodging tent. Lunch was almost over, so we ate lunch and made arrangements to catch up with Michal at 4 pm.

All our diversions on the way to Entim, brought us in view of wildlife much of what we had seen before. We were treated to a pair of resting lions: a papa and his son. There were lots of onlookers, so the Lewa rule of only three vehicles at a time viewing an animal was not in practice here. 

But we found a few interesting things: a herd of over 200 buffalo so far away a photo was impossible. They looked like bumps or rocks.

The Maasai ostrich with its pink neck and legs visible plainly on the male. We had previously seen the Somali ostrich with blue/grey legs and neck in the male. Michal told us that the female sits on the eggs during the day; the male at night.

We saw warthogs in. Closer proximity so we could take better photos.

We found Topi, which looks like a darker and glossier Coke’s Hartebeest, and prefers open grassland, like the savannahs of the Mara. It is dark brown with some black on the flanks and snout with striking yellow legs. The usually travel in small herds and are considered one of the fastest antelopes in Africa. 

A close cousin, we saw the Coke’s Hartebeest. It is very similar to the Jackson’s hartebeest we saw previously. It has large shoulders, a backward sloping back, slender torso, pale yellow-brown coat, smallish unisex horns, and a narrow heart shaped face as alluded to in its Dutch name. Males frequently climb on termite hills and rocks to scan, as a display of territorial dominance. 

We also saw jackals. This common small dog species in Africa is most active at dusk and dawn and its shrill yelping can be heard at night. It has an ochre coat offset by a silver flecked black saddle. It is an opportunist feeder, subsisting on small mammals, birds, and is often seen near lion kills.

We also visited the hippo pond, and saw about a dozen hippos of various ages – possibly a family. The hippo has a purple-grey hairless hide with pink undersides and cheeks. It has a barrel-like torso and stumpy legs. Eyes, ears, and nostrils are placed high on the skull allowing it to spend most of its time submerged in the shallow water. It feeds on land between dusk and dawn but spends its days in the water for cooling. It does secrete a sort of sun screen to protect its hide from the sun. It lives in pods of up to 30 members, is very territorial and fights for dominance between males can result in serious injury or death (often from infection obtained s a result of a gash). Though bulky in appearance, they can attain a speed of 20 mph on land.

We did a good deed for the day, Michal asked us if we minded that he took the time to help another truck that got stuck in the mud at a river crossing. Of course, we said no. We maneuvered into place, hooked up a cable to tow them up the hill and out of the mud. First try snapped the tow, but the second was successful and we headed on our way.

We arrived back at camp at 7, in dire need of a shower before dinner. Then a delicious dinner and time for bed.

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