October 27 2015

Travel The Mara, Day One


Our first day on safari started out in Nairobi, where we had spent the night after much too much trans-continental flying. After a delicious breakfast, we checked out of the Eka Hotel and loaded into a Land Cruiser for a slow crawl through Nairobi rush hour traffic to Wilson Airport, the smaller of Nairobi's two airports.

Traffic is massively chaotic - Nairobi's been experiencing a huge wave of growth; the population has doubled in the last 10 years, and the infrastructure hasn't always kept up.

Like most of East Africa, the commonly spoken language is Swahili, but all the signs and billboards are in English - a remnant of British colonial occupation; English remains the official language.

Once at the airport, our bags were weighed to make sure we were under the weight limits, and then we had about an hour to wait around for our flight. Karyn made this face a lot.

Flying over the Rift Valley

Then we piled into a 13-seat, twin-engine airplane, left a city that we never really saw any of, and flew about 45 minutes out to a tiny mud airstrip in western Kenya, in the Mara North Conservancy. The flight went directly over the East African Rift valley, which is very cool if you're into geology (And who isn't, right??).

Arriving in Mara North

We were met at the airstrip by the managers of Saruni Mara, our lodge for the next three nights, who took our bags on ahead, while we immediately went off with our driver and guide for the whole stay, Kisame.

And for the rest of the day it was pretty much solid wildlife. In our first afternoon in the Mara we saw most of the antelope species (Impala, Thompson's Gazelle, Topi, Hartebeest, Wildebeest, and Eland), warthogs, baboons, hyena, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, storks. And then when we went back out before dinner, we added elephants, ostrich, and lions to the list.

First day.

Yeah, it's pretty amazing.

Zebra derp face!

This big, ugly bird (below) is called a Marabou Stork.

It's really big.

And really ugly. The first auto-completion in Google search for it is "marabou stork nightmares" (which, admittedly, is the name of a brutal novel, but you could certainly have nightmares about this bird).

Then we found a cheetah and followed it for 45 minutes while it considered trying to get lunch. Sadly, it didn't - a topi warned off all the gazelles and impalas.

I may have taken a....large number of cheetah photos. They're my favorite of the big cats. Look at this camouflage. And their stare is really intense.

And then there's the landscape! I took a lot of photos of lone acacia trees. Like...a LOT. So did Hilary. Trying to get the perfect, platonic Dramatic Lone Acacia.

We headed to the lodge for lunch and a drink, seeing our first giraffe as we exited the main road onto the two-track path to the lodge.

Lions are Derpy

After lunch we went back out, found a bunch of lazy, derpy lions, and helped pull a fancy Land Cruiser out of a muddy ditch.

One of my favorite things about big cats is that, when they're chilling out, they behave exactly like housecats.

If your housecats were, you know, 300 to 400 lbs and capable of tearing you in half.