The Masai Mara: one of Kenya’s most famous and glorious attractions. Over 1500km of grassland and open plains extend for as far as the eye can see before becoming Tanzania’s Serengeti. I spent three wonderful days there in April, filling my time with game drives, bush breakfasts and awe-inspiring views. During my stay, as we spent more and more time among the world’s giants, I came to think of the Mara as a theatre. Here, each different creature strolls or trots or leaps its way on to the stage for its performance in a show so awesome only Nature could have directed it.
In Act One, a family of wart hogs came trotting importantly in to view: father, mother and child. Each of their tails was poker straight and sticking comically up toward the sky. Their faces were alert, popping up above the long grass in search of predators and disappearing from view. We watched in glee, chortling away at their amusing entrance. “There go the lion sausages”, said our ranger affectionately.
Next, after a short interval, we came up close to a pack of hyenas dramatically dragging their kill in to a shaded spot. I caught a glimpse of a torn leg; unable to identify which creature it had once belonged to, and listened to the gory crunch as the pack chewed right through the bones.
Act Three was the dance of the antelope, Springbok and herds of zebra as they galloped and leaped from the tracks as we passed and joyfully ran toward the horizon. This distraction gave way to the graceful elephants grazing in the distance, perfectly framed between the Acacia trees making everything look like a postcard. Down at the elephant’s feet, huge anthills spurted out of the ground like chimneys.
The rains come from April to June and with them streams develop which flow down from the escarpment (the backdrop to the Mara) and curve their way through the land harbouring more life. As we crossed the shallow rippling waters in our 4 x 4 we came across Act Four: a turtle making its way down the river. Our presence startled it, and after freezing for a moment it hurried off, clambering over patches of grass as it went.
And the story continued, with packs of lions, sauntering giraffes and herds of cattle passing through the plains. The cattle was expertly manoeuvred by the Masai tribes, but we watched gobsmacked as they wandered right through the middle of the Mara – so packed with predators – for their morning stroll to the salt lakes where the cattle would lap up some valuable nutrients.
For the grand finale, we were treated to the most spectacular close-up encounter with one of nature’s most elusive predators: the leopard. We had spent about three hours hoping to find one as we drove the Mara plains, but as hunger and the numbness of sitting down for so long set in we decided to head back. Much to our delight, we were half way along a quiet road leading back to our lodge and there he was! Our leopard; just nonchalantly strolling down the road marking the trees as he went. We held our breath and just watched as he came right past our car and continued elegantly along the road behind us. A spectacular end to the best show on earth.
Information: We were staying at Mara Engai, a new tented camp and lodge with wonderful views in the Mara Triangle – a conservancy just outside the Mara reserve. We visited in ‘green season’ (April to June) which was the most fantastic time to visit as the grass is lush with vegetation and tourists are barely to be seen. Busiest months to visit are July- September for the wildebeest migration. The Masai Mara is about 4 hours drive from Nairobi or accessible via plane from Nairobi Wilson Airport.