Into Africa: A Day with Prey

The days we spent in the Mara were beautiful, complete with the typical fluffy white clouds and blue skies that heralded good weather. The plains were verdant, signalling plenty of food for the herbivores.

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One of the mornings, there was even a pretty rainbow welcoming us on our drive out.

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And this was when we spotted the giraffes. It’s one thing to see one in captivity, but quite another to see its tall figure distinguish itself from the background vegetation and come nonchalantly closer to our van.

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Soon, it was joined by its friends. This pair even walked side by side as if headed for Noah’s ark.

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Goodness knows where they were going as a group. Soon they formed beautiful silhouettes against the horizon, miniscule against the herds of wildebeest in the foreground.

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Despite its grave, bearded expression, a wildebeest reminds me of rather a silly and faintly stupid gnu (not that I know any clever ones).

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Their herding instincts are strong, and if anyone of them starts running, the rest soon break into gallop too. Even the route they take is pretty much fixed. Check out this video of them jumping over a little depression in the road. It’s not until so many have crossed that one smarter one realises that there isn’t any need to jump, really. Silly creatures.

Yet these silly creatures are the reason for visitors flocking here in this period, some even equipped with the biggest telephoto lenses I’ve ever seen!

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These huge lenses would definitely come in useful to get close up shots of places we can’t easily access, like this islet in the middle of the Mara River. We didn’t have the good fortune to witness a herd of wildebeest crossing the river in huge throngs. A highlight is to witness this spectacle and to watch how the herds nervously come up to the banks of the river, and wait expectantly till one stumbles in, whether out of leadership or misstep. Then the whole horde crosses as one, trampling over the unfortunate who stumble and fall. Many a wildebeest loses its life to the river, only to be fished out by the waiting crocodiles and laid out in the sun. Only when its gory remains are nicely tenderised by decomposition do the crocodiles come in for their feast, like this poor specimen below.

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Yet, it is a rule of nature that one forgets the sacrifice of a single animal as it gives up its life only to sustain the life of another. We remember the teeming herds and marvel at the millions that live in the great expanse of the Masai Mara and the neighbouring Serengeti.

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And the zebra caught our attention. It was clear that they were far more intelligent that the wildebeest they hung out with. They cleverly realised that wildebeest startle easily and rely on them to be watch-outs. In return, zebras chomp down the tougher plants, making them easier for the wildebeest to feed on the tenderised parts.

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I never got tired of looking at zebras, they always looked so pensive, as if hiding a secret.

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Except, of course, the baby zebras who looked so fuzzy with their brown stripes. Their main aim in life is simply to look cute.

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Aside from the more common wildebeests and zebras, we saw some lesser known and lesser seen animals, like the eland. It is a large antelope-like creature weighing up to 300 kg. They tended to be quite shy, mainly because their size restricted their running speed. It is easier for them to move away when they see threats, whether real or perceived, in the distance rather than wait for them to come closer before deciding to run.

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And outside the reserve, there were also these gentle looking wild donkeys. Their long ears and flippy tails made me realise why Winnie The Pooh’s Eeyore is so cute!

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And then it was time to return to our strange little safari tent. It was hardly real camping as it was essentially a tent erected on a concrete base, complete with plumbing (there was a separate bathtub and shower area as well as two sinks in the bathroom!) and electrical wiring. Neither did it truly qualify as a room because there was a double layer of netting and canvas letting in plenty of air (and sound), and insects if we were not careful. Nevertheless, we were very impressed by the four poster bed here.

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