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We dreamed of Africa - Nandita Mukherjee

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And the dream came true at last. We were on our way to the safari in Masailand, the heart of Kenya. Safari means “journey” in Swahili (the local language in east Africa). It was a journey indeed, a journey never to forget.  Our first destination was Amboseli. Starting from Nairobi airport reaching Amboseli itself was an experience. Topsy-turvy road, weathered by rain, gave us the real feel of safari.

 When we reached Amboseli, it was afternoon, little before dusk. Kilimanjaro was slowly waking up behind the clouds and we were yet to catch its first glimpse. We looked around and saw a group of Thomson’s gazelle. Excited, we asked our guide Simon to stop the car. He smiled and said, “You’ll  see many”. And, we did. A group, then another, then another, in abundance. Meanwhile, Kilimanjaro woke up and waved away the cloud on its face, we caught the glimpse of it. Snowcapped mountains and a herd of Tembo (Elephant) in its stunning backdrop! The Elephants were heading to the mountain for their night shelter. We reached our lodge. It was a beautiful lodge in the midst of the jungle, decorated with local handcrafts, made by Masai people. We had a wonderful open-air dinner followed by Masai dance.

The whole next day we spent on the "game drives". On a game drive, we were in a roof open midi with our driver-cum-guide Simon. He would drive through the park, and stop when we spotted some animal. The eco-system is bound to amaze, when you find the animals not reacting to your very existence.  We spotted groups of Elephant, Buffalo, Zebra, Giraffe and many antelopes like Grant's gazelle, Eland etc. We also saw some birds, one of which was "Crested Cranes". These beautiful birds are always seen in pairs!!

 In Amoboseli, another place we went to was the Masai village. Many Masai people still live a tribal life, observing many of their old, traditional practices. Their basic diet is fresh and curdled milk, carried in "calabash"(gourds), and blood tapped from the jugular vein of cattle. They keep on migrating in search of better grazing and their main wealth is counted by number of cattle they have. The Masai villages are inside the jungle and prone to attack by wild animals like Lion and Hyena. So, they have a group of people, called "warriors", who guard the village in the night and fights wild animal. When we were in the village, they welcomed us with a traditional "Welcome Dance" and a Masai guide took us inside. Small “Masai Manyattas” (cottage), with almost no light entering the rooms is the place they live in. We strolled around, saw the local market where women were making beadwork and then ended our journey with a "Goodbye" dance from them.

After Amboseli, we were heading for Aberdare range, surrounded by virgin rain forest. On the way, we stopped for a very special gourmet at "Carnivore" restaurant in Nairobi. Name a meat, and we had it here. Ostrich, Zebra, Eland, Hartebeest, and Crocodile, all served with delicious sauces. Finishing this unforgettable cuisine, we had a siesta on the way and by the evening we were in "The Ark". This wooden lodge is a very special one, sited by the side of a waterhole and salt lick, which would be floodlit in the night, and we would view the animals coming to drink water. The whole night we were awake waiting for the animals to come. That night was thrilling, with chilling sound of a Fisi (Hyena) attacking an antelope just few meters from the lodge.  We saw some Elephants, antelopes, Hyena, Warthog and Wild Buffalos and a White Rhino, not to mention the spectacular sunrise on the Mount Kenya.

Leaving Mount Kenya, we reached Lake Nakuru. Alkaline lake of Nakuru is famous for its pink Flamingoes. We caught the sight of hundreds of thousands of Flamingoes, looking like a pink flowerbed on the lake. Here, we were allowed to get down from the car on the lakeside and we managed to collect some feathers of these wonderful birds. There were endless pink lines on the lake, one of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen. Nakuru also hosts number of Rhinos, both black and white, we saw a number of them. And in all these places, antelopes were in abundance. But, apart from Flamingoes, special was to see the Chui (Leopard), hiding in a bush, by the side of the road. It was a "shy" Leopard, and was not very enthusiastic to pose for our camera. Never mind, we found one "Servel Cat", one rare species in cat family, famous for its speed and quick jumping capabilities.

 

By now, we had spotted 4 of the "big five" - Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard and Elephant. Remaining was Lion. And, where other than Masai Mara would be the most likely place to spot them? Yes, we were on our way to our last destination of the safari - Masai Mara. On the road to Mara, we found one dead Zebra, run over by a car. Imagine the density of animals there!! Reaching Mara, before even reaching the lodge, we found one big family of Giraffe, blocking our way. Mara is surrounded by small hills, and comprised of open plains, covered by savannah with areas of beautiful Acacia and thorn trees, and that big family on the backdrop of the hill, was looking unearthly, reminding us of “Jurassic Park”.

Our lodge was just besides the Talek river, which hosts many crocodiles and hippos( we saw one crocodile while having breakfast in the lodge!!) That night, it was raining heavily outside, Talek was gorging in her full fledge, and Simon was telling us all the jungle stories and about El Nino and about when the rain didn’t stop for 7 days and this lodge was completely submerged by Talek. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop raining in the morning either. Still we took our chance and went for the long game drive, for the whole day. Simon was driving in small roads, and we were looking for Lion and Cheetah. Throughout the drive, we saw huge number of Gazelles, Topi, Eland, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hartebeest and number of birds like Ostrich, Ibis, Fish-eagle, and Secretary Bird etc.

After an hour of drive, we spotted one Cheetah, enjoying its lunch, a Thomson’s gazelle. We were at around 5 ft. distance from her and still she did not even bother to look at us, and was too busy with the rich meal she had. Cheetah, unlike others from its family (cat family), hunts in the daytime, because, it’s fast but weaker than the rest. We took a range of shots and then drove away. The road was very wet and we were in a very remote part. Suddenly, the car got stuck in the hidden mud under the long grass. We tried to push it but without any result. The only option was to arrange for some big stones and stones could only be found near the bush. We were looking around and made sure that “The Lion is not coming” while we search for the stones. We were stuck for almost two hours. Fortunately, nothing but the Gazelles came, who were observing us with great curiosity. Finally, we got the radio connectivity, informed the rangers and their pickup van came and rescued the car. So, we were safely back at the  the lodge for lunch.

That afternoon was our final game drive. We saw a male Simba (Lion) sleeping in the bush, undisturbed by the noise of the tourist cars surrounding him. Lone reply he gave was a big, big yawn only to go to sleep again. Way back, it was dark and full moon was coming up on that mystic land of Masai Mara. It was some spectacle! Our safari was at its end and we were packing to come back to the hustle bustle of big city, Nairobi. These days, we lived in lodges where only electricity was through generator; phone was miserable and unimaginably costly. There was no television, no radio, and no real connection with rest of the world. Now we were going back to the so-called civilization and we were surprised to find a working telephone and a TV set in the Nairobi hotel room. African Safari has left its everlasting impression on us, and we are still living with a dream of seeing more of Africa. Kwa herini, kwa heri (Goodbye).

About Nandita:

 

“Hazaaron khwaishein aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikle” – This describes me. Living life with a long wishlist :) I am not a morning person and therefore I struggle every day to make my way in a world heavily skewed towards morning people. I love gourmet. I love to travel. And above all I love to spend time with people close to my heart. 

Comments  

 
#1 Bidisha 2013-10-11 09:46
Are ei trip er kotha jantam na to! Very well written..now I have started dreaming about African safari..
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