Had a few hours in the morning before heading off to the Maasai Mara, so I thought I would change some money into US dollars. Not as simple as it might sound … the hotel directed me to the bank but said that I would have to withdraw the money from an ATM in Zanzibar Shillings and take it to the bank to change to US dollars. The ATMs here are in a locked room with an armed security guard on duty outside. Done. Went to the bank when it opened at 8.30 and joined the queue which did not move for 10 minutes as the staff wandered in about 8.45, then a staff member appeared behind me and beckoned me over. When I told him that I wanted to change Shillings to US Dollars he said I would need to visit a money changer who was located outside the building, to the left, next building. As I was leaving a tourist in the queue advised me that I should never try to change money at the bank and that I should visit the Eagle Bureau De Change to the right outside the bank and then right at the first intersection. I tried the bank’s instructions first, without success, then decided to try the tourist’s suggestion, without success, then quite by accident I found a tiny sign, followed two blocks later by another equally small one – can you see them? The last photo is the Eagle Bureau de Change, second door on the left. It was actually directly behind the bank on the next block, so I guess both sets of directions were technically correct.
This is going to be a long day, flying to Nairobi before connecting to another charter flight to the Maasai Mara. An added complication is that Nairobi Airport had a major fire recently which destroyed the arrivals area so we were expecting the worst … as it turned out they had turned one of the cargo sheds into a temporary domestic departure terminal and it seemed to work just fine. Fortunately the temperatures have been lovely – it has not been fiercely hot anywhere. A little unexpected surprise was the offer to join the flight crew in the cockpit for the first 20 minutes of the flight and see Mt Kilimanjaro from the pilots’ perspective which was a buzz. Unfortunately Kilimanjaro was almost completely wreathed in cloud so not as spectacular as I had hoped.
We were met at the Maasai Mara airport by the representative from the game lodge and a porter wearing what every self-respecting Masai baggage handler wears. Note to Greg – I can see you in this outfit 🙂
At this point I should point out that “Masai” is the name of the tribe and “Maasai” is the language they speak and also seems to be used more frequently for the name of this place. I would hate you to think I was spelling them incorrectly! A thirty- minute drive to our Game Lodge which is stunning, and walk down to our tent – glamping at its best.
Couldn’t help but fall in love with the little Dik-Diks running around the gardens – this is the world’s smallest species of antelope and only about 300m tall. How cute is that???
Welcome drinks around a bonfire just after sunset, followed by dinner and off to bed. We have been travelling all day …
Today we are off on our first game drive in the Maasai Mara – such a different scene from Chobe. Here the land is lush and simply teeming with animals. One of the drivers said that in ten years of driving he had never seen so many animals! He probably says that to all this passengers 🙂 So here goes!
The highlight would have to be this lion pair whom we followed for a while and then watched as they mated about ten metres from us! We had been waiting about ten minutes as he followed her at a polite distance until she decided the time was right. The driver said that as they had mated about ten minutes before, they were due for another one, and sure enough five minutes later it happened! Apparently they mate about every 15 minutes for several days! So impressed …
Apparently she felt that enough was enough and left him wondering if he had overplayed his paw.
These photos give the impression we were alone with this romantic couple. In actual fact it looked like this when I zoomed out.
We also saw zebras …
hartebeeste, Thompsons gazelles,
One of the most amazing pieces of drama was unfolding before our eyes when we went down to a river crossing where thousands of wildebeeste were trying to pluck up the courage to scramble down the bank and cross the river but they seemed to be aware that there was a lioness and a crocodile waiting patiently for their lunch to arrive. Crocodile looks a bit fuzzy as it was about two hundred metres away and was only picked out by our guide using binoculars …
hippos … our hair standing on end as they all lie around in silence – the only sounds being their breathing and an occasional groan.
vultures, the Nubian vulture, which is the most powerful vulture and one that the other vultures defer to, the Ruppells vulture, and both of them sitting on a tree awaiting the newly dead.
We didn’t see any leopards but we did see the remains of an impala a leopard had enjoyed up a tree
At the end of the drive Captain’s Choice had arranged for us to have breakfast on the open plain, complete with armed sentry to ward off those pesky wild animals and all mod cons for Ros.
I was impressed by this mobile phone repeater station in the park cunningly disguised as a palm tree!
After our tour we visited a local Masai village and were invited into one of their houses, constructed of timber and cow dung.
The first (tiny) room we came to was for the baby calf – the cow is the most important thing in the world to the Masai. Their survival and their prestige are directly related to how many cows they have.
This is the living room
the parents’ room
and the kids’ bedroom
Inside it was almost completely dark with a small fire burning and only a couple of holes about 200mm round to allow some ventilation and about 1700mm headroom. Ros looking a little nervous as she didn’t know exactly what she was sitting on – probably a cow dung seat. I could not see a thing until my flash went off!
Ros was then forced to explain diplomatically that as much as she has always wanted to sleep with the Masai, she was a happily married woman.
Afterwards they serenaded us with their traditional dance
and showed us their jumping dance which is how the menfolk attract the women. Apparently when they do this the women watch shyly while the other men pretend to ignore the performance.
One of our group thought he would give it a go and didn’t do too badly!
Their village is circular with a thorny fence to keep out lions
and to protect their flock of cattle
As well as their cows they have a handy flock of goats as well all neatly corralled into this pen
We had pretty much covered all the animals we expected to see in the Maasai Mara so decided to take the afternoon off in our tent with a couple of bottles of wine and the cigar that Ros brought to be consumed somewhere in Africa.
You know what it’s like – you’ve had a couple of bottles of wine and someone comes by with a wheelbarrow … what are you going to do, especially if you live on Dangar Island?
Early to bed again (funny about that) and up for a long day’s driving tomorrow to Lake Nakuru to see the rhino and the flamingoes.