Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Morning on the Maasai Mara. . . . . . . . . . . .


Rise and shine!
It's dark with a definite chill in the air.
A stiff breeze billows the linen curtains covering the meshed tent walls.
One almost feels as if floating on a sailing ship.
There's nothing quite like the early morning on Kenya's Maasai Mara.
Your wake-up comes via the 5:30 AM requested delivery of tea, coffee to
hot chocolate at your tent entrance. The Maasai smiles and hands you a tray.
Peering through the canvas it's black as ink outside and the morning noises
 are muffled. A few early birds start to call. China clinks from the nearby kitchen tent,
and fragrant food smells waft through the air.
The monkeys and bush babies who played on your roof through the night are gone.
 The lions have stopped roaring, and hippo grunting has ceased.
By 6:15 AM you are washed (too cold to shower, that comes in the warmer afternoon)
 and warmly dressed. Louder birds call as the hippos slide back into the small
 river behind and below the tent. A tiny lizard runs up the outside
of the canvas walls. You can just make out a line of wildebeest crossing nearby as
the sky shows a narrow line of light on the horizon.
You gather your hat, scarf, day-pack, and most important your camera, flash your
 torch, step outside and zip up your tent flaps. 
Immediately a guard armed with just a machete appears from nearby
 bushes - where he has watched out for your safety through the night - to
accompany you on the short walk to the main tent. There are prints and droppings
 along the soft ground - usually hippo, and once a giraffe, they often visit at night,
 Your friends and guide are waiting. Skipping breakfast, which is there if you want it,
 you know your bush breakfast will be packed in the vehicle ready to enjoy
 when the sun is up and after you've seen some wonderful things. . . . . . . 
such as these. . . . . . . . . .all taken on the morning game drive.


Along the north and east boundaries of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, 
much of the cattle-grazing areas have been converted into wildlife conservancies. 
In these exclusive sanctuaries, the Maasai landowners (each own a small tract of
 unfenced ranch land) now benefit from safari tourism by agreeing to joint land use,
 and lease agreements with safari camp operators who pay their partners an
 annual rent and a daily fee for each visitor.  
Minor troubles aside, the conservancy model has been a huge success for both
 the Maasai landowners and the wildlife which has steadily adjusted, finding more
 safe havens where humans pose only a limited threat and the environment is
 returning to a state of healthy balance.
Conservancies have a limited number of smaller camps which are exclusive to
 their guests. They are permitted to take them into the National Reserve
 however conservancies do not permit safari travelers staying in larger camps
 and lodges to enter conservancies. All of this means more focus on conservation
 and more successful community integration.

Our ten day stay was at the seven tent Mara Plains in the Olare Motorogi
 Conservancy. There the benchmark has been set for sustainable Mara tourism
 in the conservancies, the limit being  just 12 tents per camp and at
 least 3 square kilometers of game viewing land per tent.









By the time the sun is fully risen, life on the Mara is wide awake.
 Driving across the golden landscape, with sweeping views across the plains,
 one felt privileged to be in one of the world's most magnificent wildlife havens. 


8 comments:

  1. Fantastic photographs, Mary, accompanied by a wonderfully descriptive narration gives me the feeling I was there myself riding along with you in the Land Rover --- oh wait, I really was. Thanks for rekindling the great memories of a splendid adventure. Your faithful hubby, Bob.

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  2. Oh, Mary, these are stunning. And your writing had me right there in the tent with you. A simply gorgeous post. The photo of the three giraffes silhouetted against the golden sky - absolutely breathtaking. Wow!

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  3. Oh the photos are glorious and the writing is, too.

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  4. Wonderful photos and description. A breath of African air this morning.

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  5. Oh Mary!
    What an amazing experience. Your photos are wonderful. The words you write allow my mind to imagine being there with you. Thank you so much, M

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  6. My goodness...your photos and stories are unbelievably amazing. I'm so glad you're sharing this with us.

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  7. Dear Mary, I knew that your photographs would be exceptional. And they are!

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