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Travels in the life of Laila

The Big 5 in Kenya

KENYA | Tuesday, 25 September 2007 | Views [4156]

The first leg of my overland trip finished in Nairobi. Before we got to Nairobi though we did the Masai Mara, which surpassed all my expectations. Maybe because we saw 4 of the big 5 in the first morning game drive we did.

Test - which are the animals that make up the big 5?

Answer (i hope you at least tried to guess them):

Hippo, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard.

i was surprised at the buffalo inclusion as they are pretty ugly, boring animals...and there are so many of them that there is no thrill in spotting one. (like the zebra and giraffe, as awful as it sounds, once you have seen 45, you've seen enough!) but the big 5 aren't based on beauty or number...but on how mean and nasty they are. and these are the most vicious of the animals. apparently. i plan to write to the powers that be and ask them to include the baboon. they are agressive things.

we drove into the masai mara in white van type things...not jeeps but i will keep calling them jeeps as its easier?! they were not the most nippy things, but good enough, and the roof opens so you can stand up and look out which is good when you have a lion 3 feet away. but they were also totally uncomfortable on the awful roads in kenya.

we stayed at a lovely campsite on the edge of the mara with a really nice bar/lounge area. we had masai men as our security guards but they thought it was hilarious when people got up in the night to use the bathroom and were scared of the wandering baboons and hyenas. not funny where i was standing!

so we were lucky enough to see 4 of the big 5 in one morning- all apart from the leopard which eluded us the whole trip. the rhino was amazing..we were told of a sighting of the black rhino and set about on a hunt for it...we ended up getting back to the camp 3 hours later than planned and totally starving as we hadn't had breakfast but it was worth it.

in fact they are all incredible animals (ok even the buffalo- i love their wigs!). we saw a male lion really close thanks to our great driver Sylvester, who patiently waited for alex the lion to cross over the water and head towards our jeep when all the other jeeps went hurtling round to where he was...i got some amazing shots of him calling to the female lions.

we saw an amazing amount of game;

zebras, hartebeest, topi, thompson's gazelle, wildebeest, lions, elephants, ox picker (the little bird that sits on a buffalo's back), giraffes, warthogs, bat eared fox, black rhino, stationary bird, dik diks, maribu storks, guineau fowl....  i am sure there were more but you lose track after a while.

we did 3 drives in the mara but the first one was the best and spoilt us for the rest of the trip so that on the other safaris we expected to see a lion walk up to us with a rhino close behind.

we also did a visit to a masai village while in the mara -it was interesting but i am a cynic and felt that it was a very commercial exercise for them, esp when they tried to sell us their souvenirs. it was good to see how they live though and amazing to think they still conduct female circumcision, lion hunting (not for meat, just for fun). they also do male circumcision and they don't use any pain relief, and if the boy cries or shows any pain, he is seen as weak and no one gets to eat the celebratory meal. ouch. oh, the girls also don't have any kind of anaesthetic but they are allowed to scream/ cry. so that is ok.

from the mara we drove the horrendous 6 hours to nairobi on the worst roads i have experienced...forget pot holes and cracked tarmac, half the way there was no road and the rest was made up of bits of concrete and ditches.

we got into a lovely campsite called indaba where we said good bye to some of the overlanders and saw new ones join for the next part of the trip.

i should say here that the people are what make a trip like this and we had a lot of fun. my irish buddies were really missed on the second part- my princess friend jeanne who made me feel less alone with my beauty products and pining for home comforts, and my talking friend gregg who was one of the few to put up with my incessant chatter at 6am on the truck when everyone else was asleep (that is 2 mentions - i want payment). my london buddy kate carried on to the second part of the trip and was unfortunate enough to have to share as tent with me, so for that alone she gets a mention. everyone was so much fun and really helpful and considerate-for the most part!

and you may think i am a little obsessed with the topic of cleanliness and showers when i have so many amazing things to see. but let me tell you that even when you have a male lion right infront of your jeep and the mara all around you, you are still a little concerned with when you showered last, when your next shower will be and if the water will be hot. oh, and if you are like 3 people in our jeep, if you need to pee in the mara surrounded by wild animals. (they did and they went and were v fast!)

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