Juliet and I come to Kenya for the wedding of our dear friend, Sarah. As part of the festivities, we spend three days in Masai Mara National Park, a game reserve in Kenya. It is 583 square miles in size, and along with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania (5700 square miles!), is the location of the Great Migration, an annual round-trip journey of 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra, and various other herbivores north to the Mara and south to the Serengeti. It is quite a sight to behold. We last visited in 1996, when Juliet was eight years old! She has certainly changed, but fortunately, at least to my eye, Masai Mara has not.
It is possible to see the so-called Big Five here: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino. On our first morning here, we see all but rhino.
In addition, there are thousands of wildebeest, as well as zebra, waterbuck, topi, hippo, spotted hyena, giraffe, warthog, and a variety of birdlife unique to Africa. The most interesting sight was watching a male lion drag a wildebeest carcass to a hiding place for leftovers later on.
After dinner, as we make our way back to our room, I hear loud crunching noises nearby. It is quite dark but the sound is unmistakable. About ten feet from our balcony, several elephants are chomping loudly on vegetation, mostly leafy branches. Only the faint outlines of their massive bodies and trunks can be seen, but they certainly make quite a racket.
On subsequent days we drive throughout the vast expanse of the savannah on the red dirt roads with its variety of landscapes, lush or dry, bushes and trees or grass, and array of animal residents. A highlight is seeing an elegant cheetah napping in the shade of an acacia tree. We hope to see the animals cross the Mara River, but the wildebeest apparently lack competent leadership and hundreds of them run first towards the river and then in the opposite direction, in what looks like chaos.
As for the rhino, one afternoon we see a mama rhino and her offspring. I say see, using the term loosely, as the two of them are about half a mile away. The description given by the guide went something like this: “do you see the bush over there shaped like bunny ears?” (the bush being one of many, many bushes between us and the animals) “Well, look slightly to the left and way back, and there they are!” It was quite a task for me to follow this explanation and harder still to actually locate them. When finally I did, what I saw was what looked like a very large gray rock with two horns protruding from one end, definitely not picture-worthy!