Imagine the picture of a man wrapped in a bright red patterned shawl. In the middle of miles and miles of grassland, with the wind blowing against his shawl against the backdrop of the setting sun. A huge huge sun at that. This is my picture of the Masai Mara which I carried back with me, despite the many animals that we saw.
A trip to the African safari was a long held dream. With one child being an active animal enthusiast (from observing to eating them!) another who is the exact opposite, and a husband who loathes travelling long stretches, I had almost decided that this would be a trip to be put on my bucket list for my sixties.
But as the saying goes, “All the power in the Universe cannot change your destiny”, I was meant to go, whether I did plan it or not! A chance conversation with a friend snowballed into a plan, and before we knew it we were off!
The long drive from Nairobi to Masai through the rift valley was not one of my most pleasant rides (and that’s putting it politely), but the beauty more than makes up for it. Miles and miles of vast plains with golden grass gleaming in the morning sunlight makes for pleasant viewing.
Masai mara(Kenya) and the Serengiti (a part of Tanzania), are the the same stretch of game reserve divided by man made borders. And though Masai feels so very huge(1510 km square), it actually is a very small part of what Serengiti is (14750 km square)!
The animal sightings are obviously amazing as is the landscape. But what really struck me was the way the animals treated you. They may be used to seeing visitors gape at them and point millions of cameras at their face, but their attitude towards us is something at another level. They see through us and walk by majestically as if the jeeps around them are non existent. They are so close that you can look at them in the eye, but they do not seem to care. Humans put in their place. Check!
In the beginning of the journey, a solitary wildebeest would make us pick our cameras and go berserk, till we saw the crossing. This will be one of the most spectacular sights of my life time. The migration is the most stunning display of animal behaviour where about 1.5 million wildebeest and thousands of zebras cross the River Mara to enter the Serengeti, and then the other way round. This happens based on the availability of water and grass, and the wildebeest follow their instincts in getting to a place where there is plenty of both.
In the process of migrating, they have to cross the Mara river. The zebras are apparently the scouts. Being the smarter ones of the lot, they gauge the best point to cross. Then, as if by telepathy, this gets conveyed to the herd and a few brave ones decide to take the plunge to cross. And then, the herd follows.
By herd, I mean at least tens of thousands of them. You can almost feel their anxiety of making it safely to the other side, without being eaten up by the huge nile crocodiles, or pushed around by lazy hippos or by sly lions waiting for their chance.
Though it is the way of nature, it was heart breaking to see a young lion successfully preying on a wildebeest. The others, half way through the crossing, frantically looked for ways to protect their young and flee, and eventually found their way out. The rest of the herd, realised their folly, stopped and went their way. Grazing. Waiting. Looking. For another day and time to reach a place of bountiful.
Probably in their own way, giving us life’s lessons that a lot of times, things are not what we want them to be. Adjust, move on and repeat. Without missing a beat.
That is what Masai Mara taught me.
Picture credits: Dr. Pavan, Hassan.