Where We Be
|Spotting this bull elephant in the distance, Steve drove off-road and put our vehicle smack-dab in its path. I snapped pictures until the
elephant was so close he filled up the whole frame without the zoom on. At that point my palms got sweaty and I stopped taking pictures!
|Near the lodge, we came across a hyena, a silver-backed jackal, and a vulture
all prowling around the same spot. Perhaps there was a recent kill here.
This was our favorite safari day in Africa, hands
down. Our guide took us on an all-day game
drive we'll never forget, driving us to the Talek
River in the middle of the Masai Mara. We were
astonished at the amount of resident wildlife
present -- and this was in January, long before
the wildebeest migration to the Mara each July.
The highlight of the whole day, and perhaps the
whole trip, was when Robin spied the shadowy
form of a cheetah crouched in the grass hunting
its prey. The cheetah waited as a mixed herd of
tommies and impalas grazed closer and closer,
obviously oblivious to his presence. Before
long they were only twenty yards away. “They
never miss from this distance,” our guide Steve
whispered to us. He seemed as excited as we
were. My own heart was beating fast. Suddenly
the cheetah readied himself to pounce, his
muscles bunched -- but perhaps he waited a
moment too long, because the impala suddenly
raised their heads, catching his scent. A few
snorted and trotted off, alerting the others. The
cheetah sprang, ran straight for one of the baby
tommies -- and missed. He gave furious chase
but the tommy got away. Robin’s reaction was
“Phew!” Steve’s was “I can’t believe he missed!”
Mine was “I can’t believe we just saw that!”
|This silver-backed jackal almost
looks like a dog ready for his walk!
|These were some of the first lion we saw, resting in the shade during the heat of the day
|This one's stare made us glad we were inside a vehicle
|An iconic African image: a lone acacia tree on the savannah
|“Wait wait wait!” Robin yelled: she had spotted a cheetah on the hunt (see blurb at top). After the hunt, Steve drove forward, stopping ahead
of the cheetah and turning off the engine. The cheetah paced right past our vehicle, so close we could hear him panting from his exertions.
|We were surprised to see impala FOLLOWING the cheetah, alarm-snorting as he plodded away.
They were keeping track of his whereabouts -- and probably swearing at him in impala.
|By now it was late afternoon and we were starving. Steve drove us to a pretty spot overlooking the Talek River.
We sat on car mats on the ground and enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch. Steve left the van door open "just in case."
|Three adult cheetah! The animal I most hoped to see in Africa, and here they were. While we watched, ten banded mongoose
headed straight towards where they were resting. One cheetah put its head up and stared. All of a sudden, with about ten
yards to go, the mongoose all stood up on their hind legs, sniffed the air, and beat a quick retreat in the other direction.
|This herd of elephants, with several young ones in tow, crossed the wide-open savannah just in front of us. What a sight!
|I was standing up looking through the hatch, just about eye-level with him. I discovered I was holding my breath. He nearly brushed the
side of our vehicle he was so close. Then he turned that enormous head of his and HUFFED at us. I thought my heart might stop. After he
had passed I dropped back down into my seat and said “Wow” and meant it. Robin echoed with the same word and Steve laughed delightedly.
|They may look a bit like cows on steroids, but the unpredictable cape buffalo is
actually responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other large animal
|We were surprised how similar lions can be to house cats: they bat at branches, roll on their backs with
their paws in the air, sleep for large portions of the day, and stalk their prey just like their smaller cousins.
|The wide-open savannah resonated with us in a powerful way;
we felt like we could spend months here and be happy
|Torrential rain is coming -- time to head home
|One benefit of going on safari in January is that the
grasses are lower, making it easier to spot animals
|These giraffe seem as curious about us as we are about them
|This day just keeps getting better! Towards dusk we
have another close encounter with a baby elephant.
|And we end things right with yet another cheetah, up close and personal. What a day!
|The tommy (Thomson's gazelle, officially) with its distinctive black "racing stripe" along the side became one
of our favorite animals to watch because of its incredible speed; look how tiny it is compared to the ostrich
|Two tommies do battle, horns clacking. The males fight to maintain their harem but eventually
become so exhausted from defending it they have to rest and eat, letting another take over.
|We were consistently surprised at the mix of animals congregating together in one space on the savannah
|Warthog and hyena seem to love nothing more than a cool mud puddle on a hot day. This spotted hyena got up
from his roadside mud puddle, wet and dripping, and moved off a bit, staring balefully at us until we moved on.
|We stopped for sodas at the Fig Tree Lodge. The concentration of animals near this lodge
on the Talek River is phenomenal. We'd love to come back and stay here someday.
|Baby warthogs consistently elicited an
Owwwhh" from Robin because they're so cute
|This young male lion was one of seven resting under the trees
|Watching this cheetah on the hunt was one of the highlights of our safari experience
|Ostrich and giraffe certainly qualify as two of the more unusual species in the animal world