Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In the grasslands of Masai Mara

By Aswathy Kumar

Mara is famous for its majestic Lions
The time is 7.00 p.m. We had just got back to our rooms. I had put on my little black dress and was all set for a quiet romantic dinner with my husband. I was about to grab my jacket when I heard a knock on the door. It was a bit unusual because it was a bit too late for housekeeping and we definitely hadn’t ordered any room service. “Maybe we are getting a complimentary bottle of wine,” I joked to Vikram.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a lean old Masai standing outside. He held a spear in one hand and with the other he supported the red-checked shuka (the Masai blanket) covering him. His skin was wrinkled with a huge scar that went from his lips all the way up to his cheekbones. He was unlike the Masai who had greeted us at the hotel lobby or unlike the pleasant English-speaking Masai who acted as our guide. He didn’t even look like any of the Masais who had eagerly waved at us as we passed by them, signaling us to stop and take a picture with them.  This man at my door…was probably the oldest I had seen. With blood shot eyes, there was something ominous the way he stood by my doorstep gesturing us to hurry.
With a Masai at the Mara Game Reserve
He told us in his broken English that he was there to escort us to the restaurant which was just a few minutes’ walk from our cottage room that was cut off from the rest of the hotel. (We had paid extra and specially opted for this particular room as it was right on the Savannah and had no boundary walls surrounding it. You stand out in the balcony and you can see the grasslands of Mara stretch in front of you. )
We were a bit surprised and a bit annoyed too as we definitely didn’t want any company at the time and we definitely didn’t want anyone telling us what time to exit the room for dinner on our holiday. As we stood there staring at him, not budging a bit without having given an explanation for his strange appearance, he simply smiled at us and pointed his spear at something moving in  the grass outside.
Lioness,” he said… “Three of them…there are on their hunt.”
I peeped outside to see what this strange old man was talking about.
Zebras migrate from Serengiti for the sweet grass
And right before my eyes, on the grass, at the point where the artificially laid lawn met the tall golden grass of the Mara lay three lionesses…majestic, peaceful and extremely beautiful…her golden skin almost shining in the moonlit night.
That’s Masai Mara for you…raw and wild in every sense of the word! Known for being one of the finest and the most popular game reserves in Kenya, in the grasslands of Mara spotting a lioness relishing a wildebeest or hyenas dragging a kill to its den is nothing out of the ordinary. Vultures preying on a left-over gazelle or a pride of even 15 lions consisting of cubs and lionesses lounging around are a common sighting at the Masai Mara.
Posing with the tuskers
If you are staying in one of the luxury tents or camps situated near a water hole and not protected by any boundary walls you are sure to see a hippopotamus grazing in the night, a family of baboons or even a herd of tuskers by simply standing outside in your balcony. Apart from the lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and other predators, Mara is home to plenty of other animals like hippos, gazelles, topi, eland, giraffes and zebras amongst many others.
 Situated at a mere 140kms from the capital city of Nairobi, the best time to visit the magnificent Mara is during migration. By the end of June every year a large number of wildebeests and zebras cross over to the Mara from the Serengeti. Thousands of wildebeests and zebras grazing on the grasslands of Mara make for a breathtaking view if you travel to the grasslands during this time. And if you are lucky and you make it at the time when the wildebeests cross the Mara river you may even see them fall prey to the large number of crocodiles that anxiously await their arrival this time of the year.

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