Adventures on Safari Part Two: Leopards & Sky Leapers

Adventures on Safari Part Two: Leopards & Sky Leapers

This is Part II of a three-part series about an American couple's safari in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.  Miss Part I? Click here to catch up!

In the middle of the night, we both woke up to a heavy rain and what sounded like an animal dying. It was crying for a long time, and we later found out that a leopard had gotten into the camp and killed an animal. A freaking leopard.  In our camp.  Killing something.

via GIPHY

Before we had gone to bed the night before, we were asked what time our wake-up call should be, and if we’d like tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. We woke up the next morning to Jacob, our butler, zipping open our tent and bringing in a tray of drinks and some coffee cake. It was a little awkward to have him there while we were both lying in bed, but the tent-side service was kinda sweet. There were the sounds of the hippos again, and even a lion roaring to get us energized.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Squeeeeee!!!!

Squeeeeee!!!!

We met everyone in front at 6:30am for our morning game drive and got to see an incredible sunrise right off the bat. We drove for about an hour and mostly saw the same animals as the day prior.  Suddenly, Jonathan got word of a nearby leopard and we BOOKED it to this mass of trees. Jonathan said he hadn’t seen a leopard in two months, so we needed to get there before it left. Leopards spend most of their time in trees, and are also nocturnal animals, so they’re very tricky to find.  We parked by the trees, where there was a lioness with her adorable little cubs. We spotted (get it?!?) the leopard in the tree and watched it slowly descend to the ground. The lioness sensed it moving immediately, and the second the leopard made it to the ground, the lioness chased it right in front of our cars. It happened so quickly that we weren’t able to get a picture. The leopard scurried up another tree and disappeared from our sight. For the brief time we saw it though, it was beautiful with its lithe body and decorative open-oval spots. The lioness went back to her cubs, and we watched them feed on her milk and play with each other, even grabbing the mom’s tail in their mouths at one point.

On our drive back to the camp, we saw a jackal, an animal that usually hangs out by the hyenas, looking for scraps. Sure enough, Jonathan spotted a nearby hyena eating a small wildebeest’s severed HEAD. It just carried it around in its jaws, jaws that are strong enough to crack bones.  Besides the Ichabod Crane encounter, we also saw some baboons and more giraffes.  Back at the camp, we were greeted with warm towels before sitting down to breakfast "indoors".  While we ate and drank, we saw a few elephants and giraffes walking along the river, joining the hippos who were still doing their grunting thing.  We showered and met Jonathan, Antonio, and Kristina for our visit to the Masai village and afternoon game drive.

Greeted by the tribe

Greeted by the tribe

We pulled up to the village, and Dominic, a 19-year-old kid, greeted us and told us he'd be our guide.  As he was talking to us, two columns of men and women, dressed in ceremonial clothing, came out of a wooden fenced-in area, singing and bouncing in rhythm.  I just wanted to watch, but Dominic made me and Antonio join them.  Not knowing what the hell to do, I just started bouncing.  I didn't want to fuck up the words they were saying, so I just stood silent and bounced like a human pogo stick.

A few of the ladies placed necklaces on us so we could jingle along with our movements.  We followed them into the area that's normally a cattle holding pen and got into a circle.  One warrior held my hand the whole time, as we jumped up and down and moved in circles.  The women then suddenly left, and the men started doing the ceremonial "sky leaping".  They got some serious vertical height, and were super smiley and having fun with each other.  While they jumped, I talked to Dominic and he was impressed that I was asking questions related to things I had read.  Yeah, I did my homework, no big deal.  After they stopped jumping, Dominic and my hand-holding warrior showed us how to make fire using two types of wood, a sword, and elephant dung.  It was some serious MacGyver shit.  Literally.  They got it going in no time, faster than most people are able to use a lighter.  There were lots of little kids and a few women sitting and watching.  Most were dressed in more Western clothing, but there were a few women who had on colorful dresses and were adorned with beaded jewelry they had made themselves, including cuff earrings that fit on their stretched ear lobes.

The Masai "sky-leapers"

The Masai "sky-leapers"

Dominic took us to a model Masai house, which was constructed out of wood, leaves, and cow dung.  Looking around at the other houses, which looked more modern, it seemed that they play up a more "natural" angle for tourists.  We went inside, and Dominic showed us the parents', kids', and visitors' spaces (not really enough space for a room).  It's important to always have a space for visitors because hospitality is so important to their culture.  Dominic showed us the calabash they fill with milk and cow's blood to give them power.  Dominic also talked to us about how the warriors used to hunt lions, and would have to bring the lion's claws and head to the elders to prove their strength.  They obviously can't do that now because their village is on a conservancy, which brings up a debate about the balance between animal needs and human culture.  Our last stop was the gift shop, a circular hut set up with tables of jewelry and crafts.  The women stood outside the hut, in front of their table, and watched to see what we'd buy.  We got a mask, some carved animals, a rock hippos, and a bunch of jewelry.  I felt like such an asshole because I noticed the earrings that one of the women was wearing, and I asked her if there were any on the tables.  She responded by taking hers off and insisted that I take them.  That was totally not my intention, and I was so embarrassed that it looked like I wasn't happy with the jewelry on the tables and wanted to take their personal jewelry.  But if I didn't now accept them, I risked insulting her.  Ugggggghhhhhh I suck.

We continued our game drive after the village visit, seeing male and female ostriches, lions, a crowned crane, the lion & lioness pair that still hadn't yet decided to mate, a group of female lions eating a baby wildebeest, a lone elephant, mongooses, and another incredible sunset.  It was a perfect day: one filled with beautiful animals, beautiful people with a beautiful culture, and beautiful scenery.  And it was only day two....

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