Wow. So Scott and I just had one of the best weekend of our lives, just below the weekend we got married of course! This is going to be so hard to put into words, so instead we’re just going to bombard you with pictures. So, grab a cup a chai, sit back, and enjoy!
Last Friday morning we left Tenwek for the Masai Mara. The Masai Mara, in southwest Kenya, is Kenya’s (and possibly all of Africa) most famous game reserve and safari destination. After a two-hour and fifteen minute drive (most of which was on a rocky dirt road) we arrived at our lodge, Ngerende Island Lodge which is almost completely surrounded by the Mara River with many hippos and crocodiles living in the river. Ngerende is a luxurious safari lodge that normally we would not be able to afford, however, they graciously provide Tenwek missionaries with an incredible discount. Before our car had even come to a stop, we were greeted by these guys.
Some Masai Warriors encircled our car and greeted us as our luggage was quickly whisked away to our room by butlers.
One of the Masai warriors promptly took our camera and clicked away snapping many photos and even doing a few short films as they led us to the lodge.
Upon reaching the lodge entrance they did their traditional Masai dance which involves jumping as high as one possibly can. You can watch this video to see them jump and here their chanting song.
Then they had us give it a try!
Scott jumping high like the Masai
Giving it a go. Unfortunately, I’ve never been known for my astounding vertical leap.
After this traditional dance, the Masai all shook our hands goodbye and when we turned towards the lodge we were greeted with cool washcloths scented with eucalyptus oil to wipe the dust from our hands and faces, and given a glass with freshly made mango-pineapple juice with a sprig of mint. Once finished with our juice, our own personal private butler, Evans, showed us to our tent. Well, maybe I should say “tent” as it is really more of a luxury suite!
The view of our tent that meets you at the door. We hadn’t been in our room more than 10 seconds and Scott was already checking out the river.
Scott heard a noise while out on our back porch and looked down and saw this little guy waiting to greet us.
The view from the opposite side of the room looking towards the entry door.
The view from our porch. The bathroom with the soaking tub and a shower with the fancy “rain-like” shower head are to the immediate left. There is only one robe hanging here because Scott had already eagerly tried on the other one when I took this picture. 😉
On the left: Scott enjoying the view of the river in his Egyptian cotton bath robe. Top right: Another view from our room. The bathroom entrance is through the swinging doors. Bottom right: I am lounging in a super comfortable lounge chair while watching the hippos below.
After getting settled in our room, Evans (our butler) met us at the lodge to lead us to our lunch destination. He arranged for us to have our first lunch at Ngerende under a beautiful thatched roof hut overlooking the Mara River with dozens of hippos lazily basking in the sun or soaking in the river. We had a wonderful lunch with a Mediterranean feta salad, a grilled duck stir fry, and strawberry mouse for dessert!
Enjoying the view, the food, and the company!
A few of the hippos we saw. The little one is less than one week old!
Another shot of the hippos! This one is showing off his grill!
Sitting by the pool overlooking the Mara River and hippos as we wait for Evans to bring our dessert course.
A Nile Crocidile nearby the group of hippos
Here is a video of the hippos, please note that Scott and I crack up and laugh every time we watch this video because we think we sound so flaky! It is at a great cost to my personal pride to post this here, but I am doing so at Scott’s request so you can see the hippos.
After our tasty and refreshing private lunch, we were ready to get back in a car and bounce along rocky terrain, only this time we would be on a game drive discovering animals in the wild! We met Matthew, our guide and game driver, and he took us on our first ever safari! We saw thousands of animals and took so many pictures, but we will just share a few to give a general idea of the drive.
The first animal we came across on our afternoon game drive. Little did we know that over the next two days, we would literally see thousands and thousands of zebra. Their stripe pattern really is a thing of beauty.
A couple of Masai giraffes. Giraffes are my favorite!
Two giraffes reaching up to have some dinner!
I love giraffes. Have I mentioned I love giraffes? I could post so many picture of giraffes, but I will try to move on!
A female ostrich running through the plains.
A male ostrich chasing the female shown above!
A female ostrich protecting her nest. We learned that these eggs were laid by different female partners of the male and then the male choses his “best” female to sit on the nest for him during the day, and then during the night he sits on the nest.
In the Mara there are many groups of Impala. A group of Impala contains one dominant male and a few dozen females (without antlers) who the male breeds with. Here, the two male Impalas battled for dominance to determine who gets to control the group of females. The one on the right was the victor!
A Grant’s Gazelle with its long antlers. Many Acacia trees can be seen in the background.
Thomson’s gazelles. These are extremely numerous in the Mara and one can spot groups of these basically at any time. The baby seen here, was not more than 1 day old!
This is a Topi. You can often spot them standing on top of a termite mound looking for predators. They have a shiny coat with bluish coloration along the upper legs. Our guide refers to the colors as the topi’s blue jeans.
We next encountered a group of 30+ African Buffalo. Apparently these are some of the meanest and most dangerous animals in Africa.
We then went to a rhino reserve where we got out of the car and walked with a park ranger to see the rhinos. . .who were not in a fence!
The White Rhinoceros. These animals are among the most endangered animals in Africa. This particular one weighs over 7,000 pounds!
This picture was taken about 10 feet from the rhino behind us. Of course, on multiple occasions I (and also the park ranger once) had to holler at Scott to back up as he more than once got too close for comfort!
Pumba! We saw many, many warthogs on our various game drives. Each sighting prompted our van to sing…”If I was a young warthooooog!” (from the Lion King movie)
Our first lion! We saw this one toward the end of our first game drive.
A close up!
As the sun was setting, we found these four giraffes on the horizon with gazelles and wildebeests in the foreground!
On the way back from the first game drive, we had the opportunity to witness a gorgeous African sunset
Another picture of the sun setting over the savannah.
Sunset, with an acacia tree and zebra of course!
At the end of our game drive we were taken back to the lodge and our “tent” where Evans had filled our bath with steaming hot water, bubbles, and amazing smelling Eucalyptus oils. He also started a crackling fire in our fireplace so our suite was warm and cozy when we got back. The bath felt like I was at a spa. The heat of the bath did wonders to loosen up tense muscles from a day of driving on dirt “roads,” the smell of the bath oils were calming, and the occasional grunts, snorts, and bellows from the hippos in the river below were an amusing reminder that I was on safari in Africa. By the time I reluctantly left that soaking tub of bliss, I only had time to sit in front of the fire in a leather, wing-backed chair for a full five seconds before Scott, hungry and ever puntual, pulled me up and out the door to enjoy an amazing five course dinner in the lodge served to us by Evans.
The next morning, Saturday morning, we woke up early, had our three course breakfast at 6:30AM and left for the Maasai Mara on an all-day game drive where we hoped to see a wildebeest crossing. Again, here is a tiny sampling of a few of the things we saw:
This is a jackal. Now you know what a jackal is.
These hippos we found out of the water. They typically come out at night to graze on the grass, and return to the water in the morning where they remain for the rest of the day to keep cool and sleep on the shore. Apparently, they eat something like 170 pounds of grass each night!
These are wildebeests, the most abundant animal in the Mara. Our driver joked that they were made with “left-overs.” They have the long face and tail of a horse, the horns of a buffalo, and the body of an antelope. What do you think?
Everywhere we looked there were thousands of wildebeests. In total, we likely saw more than one million of these animals.
We came across this mama lioness nursing her adorable little cubs
Another image of the cubs
In this video you can see the lion cubs squirming and working hard to get their fill of milk.
Next, we found a group of vultures scavenging a dead animal. This bird (not sure the name of it, it’s different than the normal vultures) came away with what looks to be a piece of small intestine or maybe the trachea. Sorry, it’s kind of gross!
Wildebeests on the move, with vultures in the tree taking notice!
We came across a group of wildebeests standing on our path and soon we had the whole heard on the move running away from our car. It felt like we were herding cattle. Below is a video.
Another female lion resting in the shade during the mid-day heat. No male lions seen yet!
The Great Wildebeest/Zebra Migration
The great migration is deemed one of the seven natural wonders of the world! Each year, 2-3 million wildebeests (and hundreds of thousands of zebra) migrate from the Sarengeti in Tanzania, into the Masai Mara in search of vegetation and water. As they arrive in the Mara, they have to cross the treacherous Mara River. In the river lurks many massive Nile Crocodiles, ready to devour these animals. The migration occurs annually, typically in August-September. During these months, the Mara savannah is literally carpeted with zebra and wildebeests. When groups of animals reach the river, they often will stand at the banks for days before proceeding to cross. Therefore, it makes witnessing this spectacle very hit or miss, as nobody knows which days they will cross. Well, we arrived at the river and there were thousands of wildebeests and zebra. We parked our vehicle, and waited hopefully (yet trying not to get our hopes up too much) that we could be one of the lucky ones to witness this. Sure enough, after about 45 minutes of waiting, one brave zebra decided to go for it and took the plunge, thereby opening the floodgates. We watched in awe as thousands of zebra and wildebeests braved the water to cross to the other side. In the process, we watched as two wildebeests were taken by crocodiles, and another broke his right hind leg and was unable to make it past the shore of the river. After watching the crossing for about 45 minutes, a woman in our safari van actually had to hold back a few tears as this was a one of her dreams to see the crossing, and here she was experiencing it. It really was an amazing thrill. Here are a few pics and a short video clip:
Zebra and wildebeests jumping into the river.
This guy leapt out of the water. Note the crocodile on the shore on the left side of the picture.
Zebra and Wildebeests moving to the river to cross
More animals joining in on the fun!
We saw several crocodiles on the bank and in the water. Here, this zebra narrowly escaped becoming this crocodile’s lunch. In the background, you can see hippos, and more crocs.
It is kind of hard to see, but here, on the left part of the picture, you can make out a crocodile’s jaw and teeth as he is taking down a wildebeest.
Here’s a video of the crossing to give you a better idea.
An example of the thousands of animals on display at all times.
More zebras! The one on the left is younger as its stripes have a brown color and its coat is more shaggy.
After viewing the various animals and the river crossing all morning, we had worked up quite an appetite. We were told that we would be having lunch in the Mara, which we figured would include a picnic/sack lunch type of deal. To our surprise we were brought to a beautiful spot under the shade tree with views of the river, as well as views of the many animals roaming the plains. Even Evans was there to greet us and serve us an octopus/seaweed delicious salad, a chicken and Sobe noodle main dish, and finished with an amazing grilled pineapple dessert.
Our picnic lunch in the middle of the savannah
Evans, our butler, explaining the menu. We loved Evans!! He was so sweet, nice, friendly, warm, hospitable, and ready to do anything to make our experience just that much better. We enjoyed getting to known him, and of course, appreciated all of his help!
After lunch, we resumed our safari and continued to be wowed by all that we saw. Here are a few more pics:
Close up shot of another African buffalo. Their horns remind me of a hairdo with a center-part and maybe Pippy Longstocking pig-tails.
We were taken to a more wooded area and came across 13 elephants. Beautiful, enormous animals! Here is an adult and a child.
Elephant strolling along.
The bird here is a Lilac-Breasted Roller. When it flies, its neon blue color is absolutely radiant! Another elephant is just behind the bird.
I like this picture for its layers. In the right foreground is the Lilac Breasted Roller, then a young elephant, then three zebra, and in the very back is wildebeest and zebra herds.
Our first male lion! The king of the jungle! I was just itching to see a male lion after seeing three females before we found this guy with his girl. He even stood up to greet us and smiled! Or maybe he was barring his teeth and warning us to stay back.
Settling back in, he began groom himself so he would look nice for his lady friend when she woke up.
On our way back from the game drive, we had yet to see a Cheetah, Scott’s favorite animal. They can be hard to see in the tall grass. We were searching intently, and sure enough, in the distance we spotted something, and as we approached, we found this cheetah, feasting on a freshly killed young Eland (similar to antelope).
Just look at those eyes! Love it! Not to mention the blood splatters on his nose and the piece of flesh hanging off of his lower canine tooth.
Staring down and standing over the kill like the haughty cat he is! (Truthfully I think he got up to look at a jackal nearby and make sure the jackal did not intend to cut in on his meal.)
So, perhaps I should put a warning before this video that it may not be suitable for all audiences. This is a video of the cheetah ripping flesh out of the young eland.
After an amazing day on safari, we eventually made it back to the lodge, and again, Evans had a hot bath prepared. We got cleaned up and made our way to dinner where we had stuffed peppers with a delicious filling involving mushrooms (Scott’s favorite), smooth potato leak soup with our names written in the soup, frozen grapes in a wine granita, roasted turkey, and finished with a lemon panna cotta. Yum!!
A few pics from dinner!
We woke up early the next morning, Evans gave us hot cups of chai, and we headed out for our final game drive. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise, and of course, countless animals. Here are just a few more pics:
An Afican sunrise. Just like the sunset from the first night, there’s an acacia tree and zebras!
The sun just peaking over the mountains.
A giraffe frolicking in the distance among acacia trees.
We observed a group of Topi (shown previously) all staring, motionless at something. We drove closer to investigate, and sure enough, found another Cheetah. We watched it for quite sometime as it prowled through the plains.
A little closer up
Staring contest! Sorry to interfere with your hunt!
We again loved seeing all of the beautiful surroundings and animals. We were brought back to the lodge, where Evans surprised us by having a private table set for us at another beautiful setting right on top of the Mara river. We were treated to multiple fresh, tropical fruit smoothies (all grown on site), eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, pancakes, toast, tea, fresh fruit, and a yogurt parfait. After we could eat no more, we finally had to pack up, and head home. We were so sad to leave and joked many times that day that we needed to devise a way to stay forever. It was an amazing weekend getaway, and something that neither of us will ever forget! Thanks for viewing some of our pictures.