Day 6 Blog – Shannon Houlton

//Day 6 Blog – Shannon Houlton

We woke up in the Maasai Mara at around 06:30, so we could be ready for breakfast at 7. The food seemed like a random collection; beans with onion and peppers (weird) with bread, sausages and pancakes, but it was good and kept us going for the day.

We climbed onto our busses at 7.30, all ready for the safari and excited for the day ahead. Pondering the animals that we would see, I was most hoping to see a male lion, as I knew rhinos (my favourite) where out of the question, as there’s only around 10 in the whole reserve.

The bumpy journey from our camp to the gates of the safari lasted for no longer than 5 minutes. On the drive up to the gate we were approached by local women selling goods. I knew I wanted and had been looking for a wiseman figure, when one of the women appeared with a few. Starting off at a silly price of 2.500 shillings which is about £18.65, we managed to haggle the price down to 400 shillings, which is around £3.00. BARGAIN!!

Happy with my purchase we entered the Massai. It was a slow start, like busses, a lot of animals came at once; elephants, antelopes, gazelles, buffalo and wart hogs. But then you could be waiting ages to see something else, with our driver and guide, James, listening and talking on his radio, trying to find the next animal for us to see. I was on a bus with some great people though. There was a  lot of laughing and joking, so even during these times, there was never a dull moment!!

James kept us well informed about the different animals we were seeing, with my favourite fact being about the wart hog.  Basically they have really short memory spans. So a wart hog could be running away from a predator, completely forget why it’s running and just stop, making it very easy prey and a tasty dinner for the carnivores in the park!!!!

It was sometimes hard staying on your feet in the vans along the bumpy tracks, but the outstanding sights and animals we saw made it all worth while and made it all seem like a bit of an adventure!!!

We had a little break at this amazing hotel about 11 o’clock. We went straight outside where there was an elevated walkway over some of the grounds and a lake full of hippos. Though to be honest it was the tree hyrax that really stole the show!! He was in a tree trying to find something to eat and your heart just melted at his cute little face and the way he clumsily moved through the tree. He was christened Fred!!

After we finished on the walkway, we went back to the hotel and ordered drinks to the patio. There was a monkey hanging around, so a few of us went to get some photos, but then thought nothing of it and went back to join the others.

This was a brave, cunning monkey. He was wild, but obviously wasn’t scared of humans. He knew we would have something that he wanted. So he started walking up to our table. Everyone’s cameras came out. We couldn’t believe how close he was getting!!! Then he pounced!!! Sprang right up onto the table!!!! Peoples faces were a mix of amusement, disbelief and horror as the monkey reached out and stole all the sugar meant for someone’s coffee!!! The whole encounter lasted only a few seconds before the monkey scaled the wall and jumped on the roof like a parkour pro and ate his well deserved treat!!! This was definitely the highlight of the day with people still laughing about it at dinner that night.

After this we were driven to the border of Tanzania and Kenya, which is marked by this great stone. We got some group photos and then were on our way to our next destination.

Just before lunch, we had a wildlife walk to see hippos and crocodiles!! What an incredible sight!! We were walked along the banks of the river by an armed guard (in case the hippos took a dislike to us), and told facts about the animals that lived there. We saw just so many hippos!! They were all in their family groups chuntering away to each other and occasionally diving under the water.

We also got to see the famous crossing point where the wilder beast and zebras cross from Tanzania to Kenya. Annoyingly though, a lot of the animals don’t use it and get eaten or trampled trying to cross the river.

Lunch was an experience!! A guy from another trip was bitten by a monkey on the foot just moments before we arrived, as he thought it would be a good idea to try stroke one of them (fool)!! A packed lunch was provided for us by the camp, but we were wary of the monkeys hanging around, so a few people decided to eat on the bus. We were each handed a brown paper bag with a sandwich, banana, chicken thigh, and a fruit carton inside. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t great, but it was a well needed refreshment and kept us going to our next meal.

After lunch, we were back on the hunt for some more animals!! We were driving for a while when James started communicating on his radio. Though we couldn’t understand what he was saying as he was talking in Swahili, it was clear something interesting had been discovered and now it seemed we were in a rush against time, as James increased the speed, to find out what it is.

Up ahead we could see another bus stopped on the track. Obviously they had spotted something, we were just unsure what whilst we were still a bit too far away to get a good look. As we got closer we could see that it was a couple of lionesses and a few cubs!!! So cute!! Sunbathing!! We asked James about the King of the jungle and he told us that the male lion would be no more than a kilometre away so he could keep an eye on and protect his pride. So naturally our eyes started scanning the landscape trying to see where he was.

We asked James to move forward about 10/15 ft as someone noticed something like a beige rock just a little infront. As we got closer it was easier to make out what it was. It was lion!! We thought it was another female, but as we moved a little on, we could see we were mistaken!! This lion had a mane!! This lion was truly the King of the Jungle!!! To be fair, they didn’t really do anything, just lay there enjoying the sun, but it was just incredible!! Seeing a male lion for the first time!! This was my third safari, second one at the Maasai Mara, and never have I ever been so excited about seeing one of the animals!!!

It wasn’t long after this that we went back to the camp. We freshened up, put our bug spray on and went over to the dining area. We spent the evening playing cards, eating food and talking to one another without any interference from technology. It was a really nice night spent getting to know and bonding with the other volunteers on our trip. Most of us only knew a couple of the others before Kenya, but all the amazing experiences we’d shared throughout that first week and all of the laughing and joking meant that by this point we weren’t just a bunch of strangers anymore, but friends ????