Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Safari, Day One: What an Amazing Adventure!

Sunday, 6/30/13: 

It's 3:30 am here in the Masai Mara, and I can hear three sounds: the snoring of two adults, a bird twittering, and a hyena whooping. They say we will hear lions roaring at night, and that sometimes animals come right through the camp--especially elephants and lions. I hope this happens! 

We arrived at this camp, Porini Mara, yesterday around 10:45 am, landing the tiny plane on a gravelly dirty runway. The 20-minute drive to the camp from the airstrip proved to be our best game watching all day! 

Our pilot had to circle the landing strip several times, looking out the window to make sure there weren't any animals 
on it. 

Our driver, Shadrack, and our spotter, Josphat, are talented at spotting animals we would have never seen. We saw at least six giraffes-my favorite--munching on treetops, as well as lots of zebras and antelope. (All our animal pictures are on big cameras, and will have to be uploaded later.) As we drove up to the actual camp, we spotted baboons and some kind of small monkey. They live in the acacia trees that shade the tents, and if you don't zip your tent up, they will come in and steal your stuff, especially food, cameras, and sunglasses. Fantastic! 

This is a picture of our two guides, Josphat and Shadrack, at the airstrip. That's the safari vehicle they take us around in. 

Upon arrival at Porini Mara, we were welcomed with chilled eucalyptus towels (for refreshing and wiping the dust off), and a glass of juice. We talked with Harry, the camp manager, for a while about his plans for us for the day, and then settled down in our family tent for a short nap. The tent is fairly large, with wooden floors, a rug, a twin bed for me, and a queen bed for my parents. It even has a regular bathroom with running water, although we must alert them when we are ready to take a shower, because they must heat the water over a wood fire first, and then bring the buckets to the back of the shower--it's called a bucket shower, and it's quite nice! 

After a delicious lunch and yet another nap, we went on a 4:00 pm game drive with the two other guests who had arrived, Australian Tim and Irish Naomi, newlyweds who teach at an international school in Singapore. We are the only five guests at the camp right now, which is quite nice! On this game drive, we headed to the western part of Ole Kinyei preserve, and saw many deer-type animals: two types of antelope, impalas, topis, and dik-diks. There were also loads of zebras and wildebeests. We had what is called a sundowner (cocktails with a view) at the top of a big hill overlooking a valley. After gin and tonics and our new favorite, Tusker beer, we headed back to camp. Josphat swept the bushes and fields with a red light, looking for lions, as dusk is apparently a time when they are just becoming active after snoozing all day. Every once in a while, Shadrack would suddenly stop the engine so that we could listen for lions roaring, but unfortunately we didn't hear or see anything except for some cape buffalo. 

When we arrived back at the camp, it was dark, so we had to be escorted to our tent by one of the Masai Mara workers. We have been told not to walk alone in the dark, and each of them carries a club "just in case." If a lion pounces on us out of that tall grass, I'm not sure his little billy club is going to make much of a difference. Hopefully we won't get a chance to find out. 

We had a beautiful dinner of chicken and rice, cream of pea soup, and brownies, all of which even my finicky dad ate. Wine flowed, and dinner ended with more wine at a nearby campfire. After being led back to our tent by a Masai guide, we discovered our beds had been turned down and flannel-covered hot water bottles had been placed between the covers to ward off the evening chill. Are we in heaven or what?! This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience that we will never, ever forget, and I am so grateful that we were able to come here and experience this together. 

This is probably too difficult to see: our candlelit dinner 
Warming my feet by the fire: it's quite chilly here at night. 
Coziest thing ever: surprise hot water bottles beneath the covers.

Well, I guess I'd better sign off and go back to sleep. We start our day today with a 6 am coffee and tea wake up call, a 6:30 game drive, and then breakfast. I am dying to see an elephant and a lion up close today. We shall see what kind of excitement unfolds! 


P.S. I just heard some loud whooping (a hyena?) followed by a loud wooden rattling immediately behind our beds. I wonder what creature is out there bumping around in the dark!!!

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