Booking an African safari meant taking big steps in direction of a life-long lasting dream. Just the idea of wild animals simply rambling around, in their natural habitat, makes me super excited. Even now. As I've experienced it. Actually, it's better to say "specially now". Because now I truly appreciate what an incredible experience this is.
We've booked a 3-day safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Landed in Nairobi international airport and headed directly to our camp, which took our driver around 5 hours to get there. More or less, half of the time we were driving through the bumpy and dusty Rift Valley. It was a bit exhausting, specially after an overnight flight, but as soon as we got to the valley, all the sleep fade away. I remember how happy and excited I got when I saw the first antelope there. And we were still outside the National Reserve. As soon as we passed the gate of Masai Mara (there's a gate, but actually there's no fence) the number of antelopes rose to infinity. And then came the zebras as well. Thousands of them. All so graceful and pretty. And then magic happened. We still haven't check into our camp but our driver got some super exciting news on the radio. There was a rhino. During our first glimpse of what an African safari looks like, we got to see our first from the Big 5 (the other four are buffalo, elephant, leopard and a lion).
Within less than half an hour we have also crossed our path with an elephant and "found" a pair of leopards taking nap. It was a very promising start, although I was trying to keep my hopes for the Big 5 quite low.
We checked into Ashnil Mara Camp. It's located very close to Mara river and very often we were able to hear the hippos down at the water, or even see them from the balcony of the lounge. This is how I enjoy camping. Specially at night - with a glass of red wine by the camp fire and listening to the wild animals around. Unforgettable.
After lunch at the camp, we would usually go for another game drive in the afternoon. Initially, I didn't understand why they call it a "game drive". I mean, we saw a dead animal being eaten by other animals - a group of cheetah was enjoying the fresh meat of an antelope gnu, while all the vultures were coming one by one, waiting for their turn. And, even though it was interesting to observe, the view was not the most pleasant one. Specially, if you're an animal lover and have the brilliant idea of bringing, as a trip reading, Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa (which is basically a hunting novel; not a good match in my opinion). But then, on our second day of game-driving we saw an impala challenging a couple of lionesses by getting very close to them. It almost seemed as the impala was playing with them and their patience. Getting closer, going back. Getting closer, stops for a while looking at them, then going a couple of meters back again... On our last day it happened again. We saw a cheetah, apparently looking to hunt, and an impala playing funny around it. Actually, it almost seemed as the impala was going to hunt the cheetah, as was going after it, but then kind of calling for its attention as well.
In fact, I was so excited with this cheetah, as we were the ones who saw it. Our guide thought it was just the impala, but we've noticed the beautiful fur in the tall grass. So, thanks to our guide, who trusted our eyes, many people on that day were able to observe a cheetah hunt. Thankfully the victim was not the cute, playful impala. Instead, it was an equally cute, fluffy rabbit. Sorry, rabbit!
After all we did see all of the Big 5, plus many more species of wild animals. And did I told you it was amazing? Definitely, an experience of a lifetime, I would actually love to repeat in another African country. The highlight of this safari experience to me however, were the super cute lion cubs we saw with their moms sleeping in the shadow. All I wanted to do was jump out of that van, hug them tight and cuddle all day.