Monday 27 November 2017. Photos.
Highlights: Ballon Safari, Amazing Africa Wildlife
Today was the first safari for this trip and in fact it was two safaris across a very long day. It was to be a day of an overwhelming range of wildlife; lions, the elusive leopard, elephants, buffalo, monkeys, ostriches, warthogs, cheetah, hippos, hyenas, crocodiles, wildebeest, gazelles, buffalo, elands, zebras oh my!
Last night was the first night in the mobile tent that I setup and shared with Nick. While a little rough it’s comfortable enough, I’m a little concerned by the heat in the tent, I sleep with my sleeping bag mostly opened. Given it will be get warmer as we start heading towards South Africa my sleeping bag might turn into a mattress at some point.
I had booked the early morning hot air ballon safari with Logan and Emilie on the basis of Danelle’s suggestion before I left home. This meant a 4.45 am pickup or more correctly a 4.15 am wake up. I used my Fitbit watch as an alarm so not to wake Nick but I found I was waking up every hour or so anyway.
It took roughly 45 minutes from our campsite to the ballon take of point. Today’s safari cost $450 USD, luckily I could put $400 USD on the credit card as conserving hard currency is important for the long trip ahead.
Hot Air Ballon Safari
The ballon basket hold up to 12 people with 3 in each quarter, I shared with two locals. It turned out that today was very misty which resulted in significant cloud cover. Apparently this occurs maybe 3-4 times a year. While initially I was disappointed we got to see a magnificent sight once we went over the clouds, that of the sun rising over the clouds with the mountain ranges in the background, stunning.
During the safari only saw a few animals including zebra, elands, and hyenas. There were however lots of animal bones across the Masai Mara plains. After our 1 hour 10 minutes in the air we landed and were taken to our breakfast spot. During the drive we sighted wildebeest, zebras, and warthogs become a common sight along with the ironic Africa landscape with flat top trees.
Breakfast was amazing, omelettes, pancakes, champagne, orange juice, sausages, toast and fruit. We were eating like kings with views to suit royalty. The ‘loo with a view’ was also a nice touch.
Reluctantly it was time to leave in a 4WD and find our travelling companions for the ground based safari. However before we did that we got to experience a herd of wildebeest crossing the landscape. Apparently this is the last group mitigating as most mitigation finished by late October.
Ground based Safari
The entire touring party had decided late last night to upgrade to 4WD vehicles from our truck for today’s safari costing $30 USD each. This was necessary as we are in the wet season and to go off road to find elusive wildlife would have been impossible in the truck. My 4WD group was Logan, Emilie, Nick, Stephanie, Margaret which meant that the other 4WD vehicle were those who had been on tour for a long time, they were after the elusive leopard to round out the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino)
During this safari we found lions, a leopard, elephants, buffalo, monkeys, a cheetah, hippos, hyenas, crocodiles, wildebeest, gazelles, buffalo, warthog, elands, and zebras. The highlight of the day was finding a leopard in a tree that had dragged up a tree a warthog and was enjoying a snack. The leopard jump around a tree just like a domestic cat but maybe with more grace. Once on the ground we immediately lost the leopard which highlight why they are so hard to find. Unfortunately the other 4WD missed out on seeing the leopard, but the did get to see some hyenas kill a baby gazelle.
Across the 6 hours of the ground safari we also got a chance to see several lions up close, maybe 2 metres from our vehicle. Apparently in Masai Mara the lions don’t attack vehicles which is whey our 4WD had open windows. Luckily for us no predators were interested in adding humans to the menu 🙂
Watching a cheetah relaxed under the shade of a bush and stretching out I couldn’t but think of the cat currently residing in my apartment. Indie has many similar behaviours, I guess I better stay on her good side or risk becoming a meal. I wasn’t going to scratch any of the big cats here.
During lunch we got to watch a herd of hippos relaxing in a river which one mother testing her baby hippo how to swim. There was a crocodile nearby and the hippo herd moved quickly to cover their pack when it got into the water. No crocodile will attack when adult hippos are around.
Across the day I drank 1 litre of water but wished very much that I had more by the last 2 hours. When we got back to the campsite at around 4.30 pm I headed quickly to the bar and ended up drinking several cold Fanta bottles to get my fluids and sugar levels back up. A relaxing outdoor shower came soon after followed by another under the stars dinner around a camp fire.
Tomorrow is the start of three long travel days. It was impressed upon us that we must be on time of risk having to put up tents in the dark at the next site. Tomorrow we leave sharp at 6.30 am with breakfast at 5.45 am and tents down and packed before breakfast.