The thrill of seeing the lions stayed with us long after we retired for the night and whetted our appetite for more. Our next stop was yet another lake – Lake Naivasha, which, like Lake Nakuru, is one of the five great lakes of the Great Rift Valley.
Our experience here was the most fascinating one. We stayed that night at the Enashipai Resort, a serene and relaxing hotel. It proved to be a fantastic place to watch, spot and photograph water birds, hippos, water bucks, zebras and other animals around the shore.
Lake Naivasha – a haven for birds
We took a boat ride on the lake to get a closer look at the birds and hippos and saw hundreds of white pelicans, herons and cormorants perched on the tree stumps all around.
We were left spell bounded when we saw what proved to be a spectacular display of bird show – a white breasted fish eagle swooped down in the water and caught a tilapia in its beak! Cormorant chicks cawed from their nests on the tall tree stumps and at the same time we heard the loud grunts of the hippos who were submerged in the shimmering lake. What a melody!
As we went near the tree stumps to get a closer look at the pelicans, we found some crouched on the water, as though waiting for us intruders go. But the sound of our boat stirred them into action and they sprung away into the blue sky like arrows scattering away with high bounding silver splashes!
The cradle of humanity
The next day saw us travelling from central Kenya to the south-western part of the country. I can’t put it into words how excited I was to finally reach Masai Mara! Entering into one of the greatest wildernesses of the world gave us a surreal feeling that was persistent till we had ended our journey.
Masai Mara is a magical destination in terms of wildlife, landscape and its indigenous people. When I first saw a Masai, it gave me an ancient feel of our long-lost past. The Masai’s look so different from the rest of the races in the world. They are so distinctly unique on their own. Luckily for me, we later got a chance for an intimate interaction with them in their village.
The wild beauty of Masai Mara
Mara is a beautiful grassland with acacia grooves teeming with zebras, giraffes, lions, elephants, wildebeests, buffaloes and many more known and unknown birds and animals. Witnessing the greatest migration of zebras and wildebeests on the fields of the savannah was an awe-inspiring moment for us.
In the Masai game drive we saw almost all the gems of Mara. In the late afternoon beyond the Kopjes (huge granite rocks) we saw two huge lions and a lioness lying on a kill. Against the setting sun their upraised heads amber brown. With their grim visages and flat glazed eyes, the beasts looked ominous.
We stayed at the Mara Serena – it was sheer comfort and goodness set on a hill overlooking the Savanah, deep in the forest. While relaxing on the verandah, we could spot faraway, several herds of animals like wildebeests, gazelles and elephants standing by the southern bank of the Mara River. Under the setting sun they looked marvelous and picture perfect.
A ride in a hot air balloon
We retired early that night as the next day we had planned on going for a hot balloon ride on the Mara River. We were picked up at 4.30 a.m. and driven to the location. It was a short one-hour drive on bumpy tracks. When we reached there, we saw the ground crew inflating the balloon in the faint light of the early dawn – a mesmerising sight! Once the massive balloon was fully inflated, the crew helped us aboard.
We lay in the basket, our heartbeats fluttering in keen anticipation of what was to follow. Slowly the ground slipped away and we started ascending steadily. Mother nature unfolded its beauty and bounty under the first rays of the rising sun. Witnessing a gorgeous sunrise, we ‘floated’ over the meandering Mara River, fields and trees.
We enjoyed a magnificent bird’s eye view of the wild game reserve and spotted many animals including the half-submerged hippos basking in the soft light of the sun. On landing we were taken to a site setup for a champagne breakfast in the middle of the savannah. Although our experience of the expensive hot air balloon ride lasted for only one hour ($450/person), the long-lasting fruity fragrance of champagne elevated our spirit for the rest of the day!
An afternoon spent looking for leopards
After a hearty lunch we set off on a late afternoon game drive in search of leopards. Peter drove miles after miles for hours in the emptiness of the Savannah. We sat silently with a strange feeling of being lost – no animal or jeep was visible and we realised that it was not our day. Slowly the bright sun sank into the blue sky.
Our jeep seemed to be tearing the peace and silence of the wilderness as it ran over some deep ruts. Left all alone, we had an uncanny feeling that we were being watched. At that very moment, the dirt track seemed to come alive and glittered with night eyes of jackals, hyenas, mongoose and gazelles.
After what seemed an eternity, we finally managed to see the lights of our hotel, twinkling on the horizon. We sighed with relief although Peter was sick at heart because he could ‘manage’ leopard sightings for us.
We were very tired that night and crashed into our beds, dreaming of visiting Serengeti the next day.