Monday, October 8, 2018

Kenya at Its Best - Whole Day Safaris at Masai Mara

Day 4 of our Trip  

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We had reached Mara Sopa Lodge yesterday and enjoyed our evening with Masai Dance. Today was the day of a “whole day Safari” including seeing the famous migration of Wilder Beasts, Zebras and Giraffes (if at all it happens as it entirely depends on the mood of the animals to migrate or not to migrate). The Masai Mara National Park Opens for people at 0630. We had planned to have a quick breakfast and start the safari at 0730.  


Being an ex Fauji (ex Military Man) always helps. I think I can be a Good Tour Manager. Our group was out on the road at 0740. A good time with respect to our schedule. In a short time, we reached the Gate and encountered a first and only problem in the whole trip. The security persons wanted our id document (namely Passport) and we were not carrying them (nor did our guide warn us to carry them). However, the Forest staff let us go after verifying our stay details from Sopa Mara Lodge.

As we moved into the forest, the usual sightings started. The Zebras were there, the Impalas were there and so were Giraffes, etc. Flat grassland made it possible to view these animals from up and close. The morning sun rays made the coat of all the animals shine and they were looking magnificent.

Tomson's Gazal, also feel the flat grassland of Masai Mara (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Wilder Beast (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Lapwing (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Heard of Wilder Beasts (Image - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Zebra in its full glory, Africans call it "Donkey with the Strips" (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Male Impalas, thrown out of the herd by dominant male (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


Where is my Food? A Giraffe looking for food (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Ground Hornbill (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

When one is in a National Forest, the aim is to enjoy the nature and the wildlife that is encountered. Every one desires to see the Big Cat (Tigers) in India and Big Five in Africa (out of which Leopard, being a shy animal, is difficult to sight and Lions are few as compared to big herds of animals like Impalas, Zebras) but that desire needs to be curbed else one is left chasing the big cats or big five and miss the pristine forest and grand wildlife in chasing the illusion.

After venturing little more inside we met our first predator (of Masai Mara), a  Cheetah, merrily resting under a tree, oblivious to all the tourist vehicles and camera noise being generated. He looked majestic and cute. See for yourself.

"Parde me Rehene Do" (Let me be behind a curtain), a Cheetah (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Let me Rest, you go your way (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

WHo is There!!!!! (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

As we moved further we met a flock of Ibis, a herd of African Water Buffalo and an antelope family animal called “Topi”, yes you heard it right, Topi.   

African Water Buffalos (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Topi (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)



Venturing further into Masai Mara Reserve we found something light brown on top of a rock. 

From a distance, they were a small mass  of Brown, this is up and close first image (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)
On getting a little closer, we realised we have hit a jackpot, a Pride of Lions were enjoying siesta (maybe, after a great meal). There were about 7 to 8 adult lionesses there, most sleeping and one grand Lioness seemed to be on security duty (difficult for me to shake off my defence background). Our and many other camera shutters started rolling and it felt that we be there for a long time and capture the mood.

Beauty on Duty (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Grand and Proud (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Scanning for Trouble (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


Behave yourself Girls (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

A Lion Pride is composed of a Male Lion and many Lionesses and few cubs. We took one round of this rock formation looking for that Big Lion but did not find one. Lions by nature are lazy, we knew (actually, Eric, the Guide knew) that we can safely move out and come back after some time and the Lionesses would still be there and maybe the Lion too will appear. We decided to look for other beauties of the Jungle (other animals).


Common Drongo (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

Lo and behold, soon we found a herd of Elephants. Actually, we found a small elephant first and soon realised that there is a full herd of them.


Cute Baby (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


I have grown  (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

In Pursuit of Something  (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


Feeling Hungry, Let me eat something  (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


When we returned to that rock, we found the Lionesses very much there and soon we also found the Lion of the pride with a cub trying to play with him. That cub was promptly scolded by the Lion.
I am the King  (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

It's Too Hot

 Poor cubs made an innocent face and sat, see how innocent they look.

I did not do anything

After some modelling for photos, the Lion got up. Walked on top of the rock and drank some water and went to another place to rest. It is impossible to get a resting Lion moving. He is King of the Jungle and a king moves only when he wants (in this case that desire comes only when he is hungry).
Too many people, let me find a new place

Wow, What a Refreshing Drink

Grand and Majestic 

One interesting fact is, all safari vehicles have wireless sets installed and they exchange the sighting information. We also received input about sighting a Leopard on a tree. The place was far. A drive of over 40 minutes took us there. The Leopard was there, sitting on a tree branch but his face was on the other side. It was not possible to go on the other side of that tree. All we got was side view (minus his face and head) but none the less, a Leopard, very shy and difficult to sight animal was sighted by us (those who reached after half an hour could see Leopard walking away).

Get me if you can

We moved on from there and continued meeting some more animals. 

After some time we decided to have our Picnic basket (packed lunch is called Picnic basket by hotels and resorts). As we were sitting down for our lunch under an umbrella Acacia tree Eric got the news of possible migration. We rushed to the spot and waited for a long time (while having our lunch in our safari car).

There were many wilder beast and zebras gathered on both side of the river and they did inch towards the river but their mood possibly changed and they moved away from the banks of Mara. Few Crocodiles missed their Lunch and we missed sighting the famous migration. 

It must be understood that they migrate across the Mara river (animals do not have a notion of a boundary between nations like we have) and surprisingly migration happens from both banks across the river to the other bank, they may be thinking that the grass on the other side is greener and thus switching sides. It is just coincidental that at some places where Mara River forms the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania when these animals migrate, they do migrate from Tanzania to Kenya and vice versa.


All this while some Giraffes were merrily grazing and ambling on the river bank.


Aao Gale Lag Jaye, Two Giraffe (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)
It was almost 1400 hrs. we decided to return back as we were deep inside Masai Mara National Park. While driving along the bank of Mara we saw Crocodiles and Hippopotamus sunbathing on the sandbank of the river.


Crocodile  (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)




Hippopotamus (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018) 
As we continued our return journey, at a small stream we witnessed mini-migration of wilder beasts across this stream.


Mini Migration (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)



Wilder Beasts Having their fill, Great Grey Heron in the foreground (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)

We kept meeting our non-predatory friends on our way back. We made it back to Mara Sopa at about 1630 after a very fruitful albeit tiring day into the Masai Mara National Park.

White Backed Vulture (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


Rhino (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)



Heard of Elephant (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)



SIlver Back Jackal (Copyright - Harshad Datar, 2018)


One safari into Masai Mara was not enough. For us, it was “Yeh Dil Mange More” (Our heart craves for More (of wildlife)). We planned our half – day safari for the next day with Eric and then did usual things of tea, rest dinner and sleep sequence. 





Monday, September 24, 2018

Hails Gate National Park at Naivasha - A National Park with a Difference - Kenya Trip

As mentioned earlier, some animals do come to the campus and around the boundary of Simba Lodge in the morning. Here are some of the photos of such animals.

Giraffe Grazing outside the fence

Water Buck enjoying his time in Simba Lodge Lawn
Now coming to the description of the day:-

Our plan for the day 3 was to pack up, check out and start the journey for Masai Mara but not directly. After leaving the Lodge, we were to visit Hell’s Gate National forest and the Gorge deep inside this forest. After this visit, we were to travel to Masai Mara where we were booked at Mara Sopa Lodge.

Hell's Gate, First Glimpse 

Hell’s Gate National Park is unique. It is almost in the Naivasha town is the first thing. Second important thing is, one can hire cycles and travel inside the park. If a cycle is not your mode of choice, one still has two more modes, Just walk your way (It is generally called 11 No Bus in India and "Footsubishi" in Kenya) or travel in your Safari Vehicle.

Cycling to The Gorge, Our Safari Vehicle is Ahead of the Cycle
Are you worried, walking down or cycling down in an African forest? What about predators? Good question but dear readers, surprisingly, there are no predators in Hell’s Gate National Park (or for that matter Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha). Unbelievable but true.

Cycles are available on the main road and Hell’s gate road junction as also at “Hell’s gate” entrance gate. The trip to “Ol Njorowa” Gorge is about 9 km from the main gate and it is mostly on plains or downhill. It also means most of the return trip is uphill. 

But not to worry. You have an option of leaving the bicycle(s) at the Gorge and do your return journey in the safari vehicle (if one has it). If you do not have a backup vehicle, then there is no alternative but to cycle back to the Main gate. I and my daughter took cycles, rode up to the Gorge and decided to leave the cycles there and come back with others in our safari vehicle.

Hell’s Gate has all the animals (except Big Five of Africa) like Giraffes. Zebras, Gazelles, Impalas, etc. It is fun to be walking or cycling almost alongside these beautiful creatures. 

Zebras Routinely Cross the Road Ahead or behind you


The landscape is mountainous with few grasslands spread between mountains. There are few rock formations on the way and the ride is very enjoyable. Though the real fun and the thrill is to get inside the gorge and to see the geographical formations of the rocks in the gorge as also the natural hot water geysers.

Rock Formations (This and hew photod below)






Cute Zebras

Lone Sentinel 

Majestic Giraffe 




See Two Sides of the Same road, this and the next photo


The guided trip (I don’t think an unguided trip is allowed) to and inside Gorge is based on time and so are the guide charges. We took a one-hour trip (the least that could be taken). Going inside the Gorge was a tough challenge for some in the group having issues of the back pain, etc. going down and coming up was tough as also getting into the gorge wherein in few places one had to walk on ledges.

Entry to Hell's Gate Gorge

Animal Skulls

Start Point

First Glimpse of Gorge

Tough Get Going

Bird's Eye View



James Providing Assistance

Rock Formations, Bottom Soft Stone, Middle Lime Stone and top Sand Stone

Walking on the Ladge



Finally Reached the Bottom
 All these efforts were worth as the bottom of the gorge was beautiful. The geysers were small but the water stream of some of them was extremely hot. It is worth noting that these places inside the gorge have attracted filmmakers and some movies have been shot here.

Geyser

The Beauty called Devils Bed Room

The rock where Simba sits in the Movie  Lion King
Our guide, James, a Masai Tribal, was very good and very energetic person who made sure that each one of reached the bottom and could enjoy the trip.


After finishing the Hell’s Gate trip, we started off for Masai Mara which is a distance of about 240 km. The road was reasonably ok till few kilometres beyond Narok town and became very good for few kilometres before becoming only metalled road (No Tar) and in the final stretch of few kilometres when it passed through Masia villages, it was just as good as a dirt track. However, once we reached closure to the Lodge, we had just a kilometre of ok road.

After check in and some rest, we returned to the dining area for dinner and then sat in their Bar cum recreation area to witness a performance of Masia (male) dance.


It was a time to sleep after this show.