The Masai Mara

The Masai Mara

We said Goodbye with some regret to Jeremy, Katie & Philip and the Sarara team, climbed into the Caravan and headed SSW to cross the Rift Valley near Lake Naivasha, and the Aberdares, to land at Ol Kiombo, destination Mara Plains.

The flight was easy, smooth and made more interesting by Ricks’ commentary as we flew over the everchanging landscapes. The vast dry thorn scape of Samburu, dotted with Acacia bushes and trees, veined by sandy riverbeds, then the Uaso Nyiro, flowing with brown water from the recent rains!  Eventually neatly farmed lands of various crops, created a rich green tapestry of colours linked by hedge-rows and dirt roads. The edge of the Rift, Lake Naivasha with such high water levels, towns and neatly alien greenhouses of the flower-growers, like bulbous blisters on the greenery, and then scattered Masai settlements again. The characteristic ‘rings’ of their manyattas so distinctive from the air, and because we were lower now, speckles of white, dun and black sheep and goats, with isolated red ‘dots’ of herdsmen in their shukas, amongst the bushes and scrublands.

These settlements became sparser and the gravel line of an airstrip scarred the ground below us. We flew on, with virtually no settlements now and then a few camps showed along a river line that lead south. Herds of wildebeest and scattered zebra showed now, and sporadic giraffe too. We were getting closer to Ol Kiombo, and there it was, the tiny white frame of an aircraft on the runway showed us where we were to land. Two lines of land cruisers marked the turning area, and of course two buildings, and a score of visitors and guides waited for connecting flights.

Kevin met us dressed in his traditional shuka, and welcoming smile, landcruiser ready, cleaned and with a full cold box. We set off across the plains for camp, hidden amongst the evergreen trees of the Jakjak river.

Entrance to Mara Plains

Entrance to Mara Plains

Tan and Pang Family Safari

First stop, Serengeti!

The Caravan banked and turned at last, curving down towards the tiny strip, a smudge on the sketchy green of the plains, just inside the sinuous curves of the Grumeti river silver and smooth, that winds its’ way across this part of the Serengeti.  The two Singaporean families who were my guests on this trip chattered excitedly in Hokin and English as I pointed out animals, and suddenly the dark ‘dots’ took form. ‘Gavin, Gavin….THESE are wildebeest??………….’  A dark mass of animals walked  along the edge of the river, some of the herd rested amongst the scattered flat topped acacias, like carelessly scattered toys.  The dark ‘cloud’ of moving creatures represented for me one of the earth’s most unique and wonderful spectacles.

They had traveled across half the world to see this…the annual migration in the Serengeti.

A tiny percentage of the population feeding quietly in northern Serengeti

A tiny percentage of the population feeding quietly in northern Serengeti

The bulk of the herd had moved on ten days previously, but there were still A LOT of White-bearded gnu, as they are correctly named.  Thousands upon thousands of these bovids still remained…the vanguard of the million or so that perennially make this trek across the plains. The pilot grinned to himself. He had heard this excitement many times as flew travellers in to the bush strips at various points of entry in the Serengeti, and still he smiled…excitement of this nature is infectious! Read more…