Saturday, September 1, 2007

Masai Mara & Lake Nakuru Safari

We headed back to Nairobi and lined up a 4 day safari to Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. Our trip got off to a bit of a rocky start when we were supposed to be on the road at 9:00, but instead found ourselves sitting in our tour operator's office listening to yet another promise that we'd be leaving "soon, soon" at noon. After a hair-raising ride through the beautiful Rift Valley, we made it to our campsite and then on to the park gate just in time for an incredible downpour that turned our first game drive into a very brief affair. Luckily, we were able to see a cheetah devouring a very unlucky wildebeest in that short time period. Also unlucky that evening was our driver, who was fined for driving off the road to give us a closer view. It's was a difficult lesson, but probably for the best - the park is in pretty rough shape from overuse and the following day the drivers seemed to be showing a little more respect for the rules.

Our trip appeared to be continuing down the same bumpy path the next morning when our driver told us that his minivan was having electrical problems and we'd need to join another group for our safari. Fortunately, our surrogate guide was a genial fellow and the group of Germans we imposed upon were very welcoming. We got to see an abundance of wildlife, from countless wildebeest and zebra that had recently migrated from the Serengeti in Tanzania to several lions, including a male and female lion away from the pride on "honeymoon" and a young male that decided to lay in the cool shade of our van to escape the mid-day sun. Alas, fate threw us another curve ball when our van got stuck in the mud, requiring us to push it out - but, I suppose that just added to the experience of being in the "bush".

While the animals are amazing to view, perhaps even more interesting to watch are the Maasai people who live nearby. The Maasai are only one of East Africa's many tribal groups, but are known the world over for being one of the last tribes to hold on to their traditional customs and pastoral way of life. You notice the Maasai immediately, as the men are draped in plaid cloth of reds and purple and the women wear beautifully patterned dresses - both of which stand out vividly against the burnt yellow savanna. Adding further color, they adorn themselves with beaded necklaces and shiny silver earrings that hang from their stretch their earlobes, and sometimes even stain their skin or hair with the bright red earth. It was fascinating to watch the young boys tending to the cattle with their warrior spears or the women repairing the roofs of their mud huts. But, it is clear that this way of life is under serious threat. Both tourism and the competition for land are impacting the Maasai's ability to continue with their traditional way of life unaltered.

After several unexpected vehicle changes, we continued our safari at Lake Nakuru, one of the many lakes formed by volcanic activity in the great Rift Valley. The park is relatively small and, because it's a sanctuary for the endangered black and white rhinos, is surrounded by an electric fence. This means there are plenty of animals congregating down by the lake at all times, including thousands of flamingos that frost the edges of the lake in pink. It made for a stunning and somewhat surreal backdrop, particular when viewing the rhinos, which are quite strange and wondrous creatures in their own right!

Despite the logistical problems we encountered, we had a great time on safari and wish you all could have been there to experience it with us!


Jane said...

Wow- this is great- keep the updates coming! Miss you guys,

Lani said...

I am seriously living vicariously through you guys. this trip sounds incredible! i love your blog and am anxiously awaiting the next one - its been over 2 weeks! where have you been?

joey said...

sounds like you got the classic african safari experience, beginning to end. at least the lion was gone when you had to get out and push! really great pics too!

Anonymous said...

This is awsome, were are you? It's Oct. 2, now it's been one month, since last heard from you. Elizabeth and Rob love you and miss ya, alot. Stay safe and we love you both.
PS. happy b-day in 14 days, is that 30?

rita said...

Happy birthday Gil. October 2nd

Anonymous said...

You two look fabulous and right at home with the lions and rhinos. I'm just back from Zion & Bryce. From Utah to Uganda, this planet is amazing. Keep soaking it all in and sharing the stories of your awesome adventures. Love, Aunt Deb

matty D 4 lyfe said...

I couldn't stop reading this! OMG! how am i not with you right now?! WEll, i'll let you answer that. Miss you 2 much. Be safe!