African Safari (Kenya) Pt. 18
It is 4am. It is cold and it is pitch black. The idle generators will not be powering up the lights till 5. Drowsy but undaunted, with flashlight in hand, I stumble around the tent assembling gear for my extra early departure. This morning, I will be separating from my group to watch the sun rise over the plains of Masai Mara from the basket of a hot air balloon followed by a champagne brunch in the wild. I have seen Napa Valley wine country from a balloon so the ride is not the attraction, but rather, the perspective this vantage point will provide of the terrain we are working everyday. John Gerlach, tour organizer and true fiscally conservative Western Republican, kidded me by referring to this venture as the most expensive breakfast known to mankind. I remained John that one rubber-egged Republican fund raiser would make the cost of this ride look like chump change. Judge for yourself.
The Mara River, main artery of all life on the plains, meanders peacefully through the early morning haze.
The intensifying sun casts the imposing shadow of our 16 person balloon causing the grazing Impalas to take notice.
Off in the distance, a large family of Elephants file across open grassland in route to a morning river visit.
Frightened by the roar of the flame throwing propane gas heater, the Elephants immediately encircle their young …
preparing for any battle necessary.
Eland and Cape Buffalo graze side by side in what appears to be an endless supply of supple young grasses. Normally, at this time of year, there would be great competition for what nourishment wasn’t burnt and dried up.
Come September, over 1,000,000 Wildebeests and 1.2 million Zebras will pass through this region as part of one of the most impressive spectacles of the animal kingdom, the Great Migration. Grasslands and water will be the motivation.
After a delicious open-air breakfast and a couple glasses of champagne vinified by an aspirin company as a self-promotion (headache wine for those neophytes yet to be introduced to the ways of the wine culture), I return to camp rejoining my group for the 3:30pm game drive. A dust storm rises from our rear tires as we speed along the sun baked trail. Fortunately, we are lead vehicle this afternoon and will only have to deal with the torment of dust and expensive camera equipment if a quick stop
envelopes us in our own cloud. On the horizon, from opposite sides of the road, two separate Elephant families are marching toward one another. We may have stumbled into a territorial feud. Get closer so we can see the action.
A formation is amassed to convey strength and assess the other group’s intent.
The very young are hustled to the rear of the group.
Astonishingly, young female emissaries from each camp are sent into the neutral ground between them to determine the other’s intent. By sticking their trunk into the other’s mouth, they can determine if they are related clans.
This day turns out to be a full blown family reunion picnic. It is a joyous day, quite different from the skirmish we would have witnessed if they had been competing clans.