The Masai Mara – It was a photography Safari | by Eric Olonana Sindiyo

Let you not be told that a day on safari can be similar to the next. 13 years as a safari driver guide has taught me that the wild can do things. Good things and dangerous things. Sometimes on safari we watch the bush for what can seem like ages for some action to happen. Other times the action comes to us and comes real close. Sometimes too close for comfort.

Three years ago in November is still new to me. It had rained in Masai Mara. It was the short rains season but the sun managed to break through the clouds from time to time. The grass was green but not as tall as in the low season after the long rains. The animals stood out in the savanna; it was easy to spot them even in the bush. In the dry season when the Mara is golden some of the wildlife blend in, easily camouflaged. Of course not the Elephants and the other un-hide-able ones.

It was a photography safari, and despite the rain and muddiness, Masai Mara did good things for us. Spotting a leopard on game drives is a celebrated exploit. This is because they are elusive – secretive. As it seemed to be the norm with photography safaris that year, our first spotting was a leopard lounging on a tree. It had its back to us, never giving us a front shot, and not in a hurry to climb down the tree either. From morning to midday it stayed there even as we moved around the area to snap away at those glad to see us. By the first evening we had ticked our Big Five checklist.

We met Malaika, one of the well known cheetahs in the park. She had a set of cubs – three of them, and she also had a fresh catch for the family. We had missed her hunting expedition but saw her every day after that.

The Mara River is famous as the theater of the wildebeest versus the crocodiles during the migration season. Apart from the Mara River Masai Mara has other rivers as well – seasonal rivers. We had to cross the Talek River on the game drive. It was water filled, with steep muddy banks typical of the rainy season. We crossed with some difficulty. I fought with the mud on this safari, getting stuck not on once, not twice either. On one occasion I was trying to get close to a black rhino when the mud held firm. It was very much as though the rhino chuckled, shrugged, and left us there with our troubles.

The last day of the safari was the show stopper. Masai Mara just had to show us the dangerous. I got to know what it means when things happen in the blink of an eye. Something was in the bushes. It was a lone buffalo. Two teenage elephants were minding their own business, strolling in the company of a mature female elephant and a calf. The female had only one tusk.

We never knew what shocked the buffalo out of the safety of the bush. All of a sudden it was running. Fleeing, it blindly ran for the elephants – head on to the matriarch. There is no greater wisdom in the wild than to know not to threaten an elephant herd with calves. In all my years as a safari driver/guide, it was the first time I heard safari guests screaming in the bush. Never mind that the screams did not come from our group.

The matriarch elephant’s one tusk was tusk enough to lift the young buffalo 10 feet off the ground. Coming down, the marred buffalo was not a picture to send home. The serene game drive had quickly become an ugly scene. The unexpected shock of it froze us in place cameras and all. That seemingly split second moment was not captured by any of us in our group.

A few weeks later I saw the pictures on the internet. They went around fast and wide. Someone from a different tour group had clicked away after all, and every time I saw the images I wanted to say to someone, to anyone – “I promise you I was there. I was really there.”

About the Entry

Eric Olonana Sindiyo

The wildlife and I met in my childhood many years ago. It was no little privilege living where the animals were never far. It is now 13 years since started working as a safari driver guide.

  • Site name | Olonana On Safari
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  • Why should someone visit your site? I have come to know the inside out upside down of the bush. Out there, there is no normal day of work. Each safari is a new journey with different discoveries and at times even a new adventure.
  • Entry TitleThe Masai Mara – It was a photography Safari
  • Entry Number | 74

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