Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Searching and Locating a Lion is Fun - Quick three hour Safari in Masai Mara

Day 6 of Kenya Trip (Day three at Masai Mara)

It was our 6th day in Kenya and third day at Masai Mara. We had a window up to 0930 for safari (as our permit was to expire at 1000 hrs) but three out of our team of 5 were not keen on getting up early but being hardcore travellers, I and my daughter decided to take our chances and go for early morning safari.

The park opens for visitors at 0630 and we were on the dot. The first thing that greeted us was the glory of morning sun and the pristine golden sky.

Peeping Sun

The grand peaceful Morning scene

Going deeper into the Forest, we encountered a charged atmosphere. One Cheetah was on the prowl and was testing various herds for identifying his potential kill.

Savannah grassland makes it very easy to photograph objects from a distance, here is the Cheetah in the backdrop of Umbrella Acacia tree.

The herd and the Cheetah are testing each other's patience

Jackals are the Side Kicks of Cheetah. See how one of them is imitating Cheetah

Itni Badi Mahafil aur ek kill, Isko Lu ya Uska Lu?
We waited for almost 45 minutes but the tussel was on and the Cheetah going for kill looked a remote possibality at this time. We were on a time constrained safari and we had to wind it up by 0930. We decided to move on.

My daughter had been asking me for last two days that Eric takes us to Lion when he gets information from other guides. Why he does not track any Lion heimself. Though I did not tell Eric this, he seems to have sixth sense. he keept driving us deeper and it looked a aimless driving. The reality was different.

After some time and after a tyrn he told us to look out for something walkng ahead of  us.  Lo and behold! it was a huge Lion walking ahead of us looking for a shade to settled down to rest.

Soon he found a tree and sat down. Knowing nature of Lions, it was evident that the Lion is here to stay for long time. However, our happiness was because of the fact that we were the first one to locate the Lion and stayed the only vehicle for over 15 minutes before second and subsequent vehicles to come there, obiviously because of our guide Eric informing othres.

After about half an hour there, we started our return journey. Masai Mara was teaming with all kind of wildlife and we had our own fill viewing to our heart's contained.

As we were heading towards exit, the wildlife was going away from us. Bidding goodbye to these magnificent creatures of the wild, the Lions, Lionesses, Cheetahs, Leopards, Zebras, Giraffes, etc we returned to our lodge.

After haing breakfast, we moved out of the lodge and started our journey to Nairobi where we were staying for a day.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Greatest Dance of the Democracy is about to happen, Are you Ready?

India is the biggest Democracy in the world by number of Voters (by size, USA would be no 1). Our country holds a record of holding series of peaceful and successful elections. The transfer of Power is smooth and without any hiccups or interventions. All three arms of the state, Legislature, Executive and Judiciary work independently and provide the necessary checks and balances.

The magic called Indian Democracy has given power to people and also brought down people from the power. This dance of democracy is done every five years for the Parliament and Legislature Assemblies respectively. In this dance of democracy, the biggest players are the Voters who exercise their right to Vote and perform their sacred duty towards our Mother Land.

The general elections for Loksabha are around the corner. It would be the biggest dance of democracy that is going to happen. Unfortunately, many of us are either callous and disinterested in casting our vote or even when they want to cast their vote, they do not know how to register as a voter. Some who are registered as a voter somewhere else and now live in a different place or city keep wondering how to get their name shifted.

This post is not meant for those who very stupidly take pride in stating that they have neither voted in any election nor have any inclination to do so. This post is meant for that vast majority who wants to register as a b voter and consider voting their sacred duty.

Registering as a voter is easy. Here are two ways that I know. One where you have to physically go and register and the second method is doing it online where the Election staff may come to you for verification purpose. Take your pick.

Method I - Closure to the elections many political parties, social service organisations and sometimes your own housing societies organise voter registration camps. One can go to such a camp with your Photo (carry spare copy too, just in case), Proof of date of birth and proof of your address. The staff there would assist you thereafter.

Method II - To register as a voter online, go to www.nvsp.in. the Page looks like this:-

Once there, click on "

"Apply online for registration of new voter/due to shifting from AC"

Having clicked there, it will take you to form 6, First thing that one needs to do on this screen is to choose the language and the options are, Hindi, English and Malayam. Rest of the form is easy to fill. If certain details like what is assembly constituency of your area are easy to find on the internet.

Fill up this form, upload your passport size photo, proof of age and proof of residence. Submit the form thereafter. Very soon an SMS will be received on your registered mobile no (RMN) giving you the details of your form receipt no. Save it carefully. 

Your application can be tracked using this number. Soon you may be visited by a government official to verify the details after which you should receive your EPIC (Voter card).

As long as your registration is complete and it has been verified on the same site, you are entitled to vote even if you have not received your Voter ID card by giving the reference of registration and showing the election booth officer any valid id proof.

Its now a very easy task to register as a new voter or even changing your registration to the constituency belonging to your new place of residence. Just get going, either go to one such camp or just open the site www.nvsp.in and do the needful.

 It's your chance to join the dance of democracy as an active voter and play your part in shaping this nation.

Acceptable documents for the Date of birth are:-

Birth Certificate
SSC Marksheet
Indian Passport
Driving License
Aadhar Card

Acceptable documents for address proof are:

Indian Passport
Driving License
Bank Passbook
Ration Card
IT Assessment order
Rent Agreement
Water / Electricity / Telephone Bill
Gas Connection Bill
A letter delivered by Indian Post on your address

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Walking with a Lioness and Chatting with a Lion (Well, Almost!) - Half day safari at Masai Mara

Day 5 - Half Day Safari at Masai Mara and Visit to Masai Village
(This post contains the  blog with 45 high quality watermarked photographs)

Link to the blog of full day safari at Masai Mara - https://harshad-datar.blogspot.com/2018/10/kenya-at-its-best-whole-day-safaris-at.html

This was our 5th day of Kenya tour and the Second day at Masai Mara. Since our passes were already made for three-day entry yesterday itself, we were at peace. We had our lavish breakfast at our Lodge and started our tour at 0800.

Entering Masai Mara, we were welcomed by these Impalas, bright and active. They were grazing peacefully implying that they were in a safe zone.

Impalas Grazing at Peace
as we progressed deeper, the various bird gave us a quick glance and flew away. A few got shot by my camera. Here is one such bird (rather two, look carefully) Yellow Breasted Barber.

Yellow-Breasted Barber
Monkeys are the best entertainers. As we were driving further, at one open stretch we found the best entertainers in the world, Monkeys, busy in their antics.

Wrestling Championship is in progress in Monkey Olympics 
Giraffes have a wide presence in Kenya as also in many other countries. One gets to see Giraffes very often in Masai Mara reserve. Some of them were also posing for photos.

Standing Tall and Grand

Military Man's (that's me)Delight, Giraffes marching in Perfect Combination

Perfect Shot

Let's go our own ways, you that side, me this side
Kenyan Reserves do have few hills but they are mostly savannah grasslands. The flat landscape offers no protection to animals from the rain or harsh sun except for the few saviours aptly called Umbrella Acacia trees as one is seen below
Rain Guard of the Animals, Umbrella Acacia Tree
For the first time in 4 safaris across various Kenyan Reserves, we came across the largest of the Antelope family, Eland. Here is one of them suspiciously looking at us.

Elanda - Largest Animal of the Antelope Family
Elands are very shy animals. They scoot on the first hint of any noise or sight of any vehicle. This group lived up to their trait of shyness.

Elands are a very shy animal, on smallest hints they run away
After some time, "Eric the Guide" seemed to have got information about the presence of the King of the Jungle nearby. Soon he was driving towards that place (and obviously we did not know) and soon we reached a place where 4 or five safari vehicles were standing on a narrow road with bushes on both sides, As the vehicles ahead of us inched forward and made way, we moved forward and there he was, a mighty Lion was enjoying rest under the shadow of the bushes after a stomach full of the Kill. Half the kill that the Lion had killed some time ago was lying next to him.

And then came The King
That was a big, Massive Lion. He was just not bothered about all the vehicles and people and was happily resting under the shade.

The King is Huge
Eric knew the Jungle well. He told us that this Lion would be here for hours to come. We should try our luck with finding some other animals and should return later. We moved on and after some distance sighted vultures who seemed to be waiting and not devouring some dead animal and instantly knew that there is something worth exploring.

See the gathering of vultures taking shape-

Lapped Faced  Vulture (Left)  and Rupel's Griffon Vulture

Lapped Faced Vulture ready to take off

Here is the reason for the presence of the Vultures. This Lioness is guarding her Kill

She is waiting for the Lion (so we thought and rightly so)

Another Lioness or Cub sleeping in the grass
Since the kill was next to her, we (with our newly acquired knowledge) knew that the Lioness would guard her kill. We left her to go back and check on The King. As we reached his place (about one and a half km from Lioness), our man was sitting like a Yogi, nonchalant and unmoved, exactly where we had left him.
Enjoying his Yogic Posture
We were curious about the Lioness and the vultures waiting to devour the balance kill. We returned to her location. By then, she was restless and she started moving. It was not clear as to where she wanted to go.

Moving away from the kill yet not far

Still looking for someone, see the kill right behind her
After some time, she went away and sat under the flimsy shade of a small tree. Her eagerness to find the Lion (head of their pack) was evident. She, in fact, was looking in the same direction where the Lion was sighted by us.

Aayega Aayega, Aayega Aane Wala  (one who is expected is going to arrive)

Keeping an eye on the kill too
After waiting for some time, she left the tree and started moving towards the direction of Lion. Eric was very sure that she is going there and we would get to see them together. We followed her.

Let me go and get that lazy bum

As the Lioness was moving, other animals were on alert. See the very alert Topi keeping an eye on where the lioness is heading.

An alert Topi watching over the Lioness

Where is my Partner?

Queen (of the Jungle) walking the Ramp

Since the Lioness was heading for the Lion (or so we thought), thinking that she would cut through the forest, we rushed to the Lion to look at them meeting each other. Lion also seems to have sensed her presence and left his Yogic Samadhi and got up.

Finally out of his Yogic Samadhi
It seemed that the Lioness has not continued with her pursuit as the Lion did not go far, he just crossed the road NS St down into another Samadhi.


Burning Eyes - Could not get closer than this
Peaceful but still Fearsome

Now that the Lioness had left her "kill" and moved out, the Vultures had a field day and they polished off the whole kill.

Swooping Down 

Calling Finals for Landing

Oh, My landing strip is blocked

Perfect  Glide
Now that the Lioness had vanished, we moved out from there and went to another area. After driving a few kilometres brought us face to face with a herd of Elephants. A mom and her calf can be seen below.

Mom and Calf

Two males

The Elephant is having a (Mud ) bath

Let me powder my back

Massive Trunks

It was time to commence our return journey out of Masai Mara. Just out of curiosity we decided to check on our King of the Jungle and as we reached his abode, he was there, exactly the way we had left him.

After having the last view of the Lion we started our returned journey. As we were heading back we found a herd of elephants having water from a stream. However, they started withdrawing hearing the vehicular noise. Here are some of the snaps of that herd.

A Chotu (small) baby Elephant

The retreat has been sounded
We finished our very enjoyable half day safari and returned to ur Lodge for lunch. After lunch and some rest, we walked up with our Masai guide (who introduced us to Red Shrub, a shrub that is green but when crushed give red colour that is used by Masais for war painting their face, Mosquito repellant plant and plat used for treating Joint Pain) to a Masai village which was about a kilometre from our Lodge.

Some of the Masais have changed their lifestyle but there are some who still live traditionally in small mud houses of a small close-knit community of descendants of a single grandfather.  Masai Tribals, by DNA, are tall and lanky as can be seen below.

Masai Men in their village

Masai Hut

Masai men enjoy an enviable reputation of being very fierce warriors. Living in the immediate surrounding of the Lions, there is a mutual respect developed between Masais and Lions. People have seen Masai children playing when a Lion pride was nearby. Our guide told us that the Lion DNA is so built with centuries of relationship that Lions don't attack anyone wearing Masai Shawl (and also need to have Masai Smell). 

Once in the village. we were shown Masai dance done by men to celebrate an occasion like a big hunt etc. Here is a photo of Masai Men with some of us after their dance.

Masai's with New Converts from India
We were also shown their traditional jewellery and handicraft. A dance was also performed by Masai Women, a beautiful rhythmic dance that was.

The charges for visiting Masai village are USD 20 per person. We felt these charges are steep with respect to what and how is it shown but since the money is utilised for the education of their children, it was ok with us.

After this trip, our day came to an end with evening enjoyment of live music where one of our group members also performed songs on Mouth Orgon followed by dinner.