Tuesday, 30 December 2014

© Return to The Mara Plains!

       With an amazing offer from close friends to join Micato Safaris in Kenya, the dream of returning once again to the East Africa came true this summer after a 40 year absence!  Our guides, Kevin & Patrick were exceptional and the whole experience one never to be forgotten! This time there was no sleeping bags under the acacia trees with a campfire to keep alight all night protecting us from predators, or sharing a waterhole with the Maasai cattlemen. (Safaris of the 1970's described in the upcoming autobiography, 'Sharks in the Runway') Instead we enjoyed being taken within feet of all the big game one could wish for, staying in the most amazing facilities possible! 
      Our arrival by Cessna Caravan took us out of Nairobi and across the escarpment onto the Mara Plain. With an approach to landing over scattering herds of animals we landed on the grass airstrip. Here we were met by our guides and taken through the African bush toward the Camp. I was back in Africa!

Our guides for the stay took us through the Mara towards the campsite and within minutes we came upon lions in the grass; to see the 'Real Africa' again with its graceful giraffe skirting the classic shape of acacia trees, a treat for any arriving visitor.


A strange site with a Hippo so far away from water on a grazing outing!

The facilities at the Mara Plains Camp were something out of travel magazines we all had marvelled at in years past. We arrive at the entrance where one traverses a suspended wooden bridge walkway. Huge open tents are pitched well hidden amongst the trees, adorned with beautiful paintings, a full library and our rooms complete with a huge brass bathtub to lie soaking in each day while watching the Zebra grazing just outside! Our hosts Amy & Shaun, who see that everything one needs are at our disposal with gracious hospitality.

Outside our friends room, overlooking the small river, they could daily watch crocodiles sunbathing and hippos taking a communal swim!

We would meet each morning on the veranda, for breakfast with steaming fresh Kenyan coffee, to plan each days safari across the Mara. This amazing expanse of land leased from the Maasai was stunning with vast area that stretched as far as the eye could see. Each morning there would be evidence of a kill from the night before. Death is very much a part of life on the Plains and the circling vultures show presence of the 'clean-up crew' of the African bush disposing of the remains.

We had chance of two safaris each day exploring vast areas of the Mara Plain. Some days the flat lands with their waving grasses would let us get close to prides of lion and always elephant were within view, sometimes walking within mere feet away from our vehicle! Gazelles would race in front of us and herds of wildebeest most often found near the water holes. The notorious Cape Buffalo would stare at our every move!

Kevin & Patrick knew every square inch of their territory and would find some amazing animals for us to get close to and photograph. The pair of lions who were mating that week allowed us to stay with them for ages. Being so close was very surreal and we felt very privileged to experience Africa at its best.

The birdlife on the Mara was exquisite and everywhere we drove offered a beautiful vista and some special moments to see nature at her best.

Every day as we drove through the bush and across the vast Mara some dramatic sites really caught our eye. Magnificent pairings of Giraffe and then incredibly two Cheetah; a mother and daughter sharing the shade in the mid-day sun to play with each other as we sat only feet away!

The Mara displayed so many species it became hard to keep count; from the giant Ostrich to a face only a mother could love in the infamous Wart Hog! All the animals very always alert to the activity of very prevalent prides of Lion that could be seen lying in the grasses.

One morning we had a pre-dawn rise with a lengthy drive through the bush in the darkness. How our guides could read the way was quite beyond any of us? There were little signs of a track and certainly no signposts! As the African dawn slowly showed first light through the tree line, the roar of propane fire filling a hot-air balloon filled the morning. We were to climb aboard and sail serenely over the Mara Plain at a hundred feet as the animals scurried below. Our shadow projected on the grasslands below with the glorious sunrise. After an hour we drifted earthward and met with a full champagne breakfast served by our ground crew.

Our trip back to the Camp had us close to the majestic Eland and chance to see a pair of small Jackals bathing each other in the shade. Arrival at the campsite we could soak in a warm bath and catch up with conversation with our delightful hosts.

There was a noticeable amount of new born animals we encountered. Standing alone on the Mara they looked very vulnerable and always somewhere close by were always the predator Hyena or pride of young lions looking for the opportunity to steal the young.

One early morning our guides' radio came alive with news of a drama unfolding on the Plain. A female Giraffe, that we had seen earlier in a very pregnant way, had now given birth that night. Unfortunately she had been left alone by the remaining herd and was tending to her new born unguarded, when a pride of young lions suddenly encircled mother and child. Giraffe's have a deadly forward kick that can kill a lion easily and the young pride showed their inexperience in not being able to get close enough for their intended kill. We stayed quietly as the drama played out. The baby giraffe, so very young in the early morning light, showing its umbilical cord and hiding within its mothers two front legs. Even that young the legs were sturdy and able to manoeuvre quickly.

After staying over an hour we saw the mother manage to manoeuvre away finally from the pride. Her efforts rewarded that day only to lose the fight that evening. The afternoon unfolded another scene that required our intervention in order to save an Elephant that had been hit with a poachers spear just in front of the right ear. Failure to act would have infection set in and probably death for the animal. Kevin & Patrick called in to the Game Wardens office and had a vet dispatched to the area where the elephant could be sedated and the spear removed. Poaching unfortunately is taking the big game of Africa to where many species could well disappear within the next 10 years if the tide cannot be turned. We urge any followers of this posting to contribute in some way to any funds found online that support the Rangers in Africa.

Life in the African bush showed us daily the threats animals receive, both from their own kind and the predators that follow them. Even the huge Hippopotamus would not remain unscathed where scars of recent battle were visible while she grazed in the open.

Our days spent with Micato Safaris on their Mara Plains Camp were coming to a close. We encountered during our last days fabulous scenes closeup with a herd of Elephant and young lions that played in the trees, along with a final visit with the King of Beasts himself, not half a mile from where we were staying lying sedately in the evening grass with the breeze blowing his beautiful mane.


Our last night on the Plains revealed one last treat with our guides' keen eyes spotting the elusive Leopard lying across the river bank as night fell quickly.

We drove past our familiar herd of Elephant as they walked slowly into the setting Kenya sunset. At the camp our Maasai hosts escorted us to a campfire dinner on the open Mara; dining in style under the starlit sky. We departed the following day with sad goodbyes to our hosts & guides who had treated us with such care and knowledge. Africa keeps drawing us back and one last view of Kilimanjaro confirming the hope it be soon!

A very special thank you to our hosts Tracy & Rae for the generous gift of an experience never to be forgotten. Thanks to our guides Kevin & Patrick for their immeasurable skill in showing us the very best of Africa. Shaun & Amy who managed the Mara Plains Camp with such warmth, grace and precision. Our pilots who kept us safe and gave such amazing flying experiences. We can dream of returning without hesitation to enjoy once again the expertise of Micato Safaris!

Here are a few final snapshots of our special friends on the Mara Plain .....




On to beautiful Zambia and finally Cape Town, South Africa ..... We look forward to you "Following" these postings which will be continued ..... * see "Back to Africa after 40 years!"

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