Appreciating the Buffet
Updated: Feb 7
People are always talking about the Big 5… and until recently, I really had no idea what the reference was to. I couldn’t understand why the big tuppy hippo or the elegant giraffe and the hasty cheetah weren’t a part of it.
Of course, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, The Big 5 is a reference to trophy hunting. The big 5 are the big kills for hunters, which is sad… I no longer like that reference.
So, of course, we were wondering what the rest of the animals were referred to as. The grazers and the wanderers, like the impala, the gizelle, the topi, the zebras, the wildebeest… etc.
We came up with our own name.
Perhaps 'buffet' is as equally dreadful as trophy hunting, but at least it involves the natural pecking order, and not guns and/or big egos.
As we drove through the vast and scenic expanse of gently rolling African savannah plains, we would often find ourselves in areas that had NO animals scattered around. Seriously, there would be times the buffet were everywhere, as far as you could see... and then suddenly, not an animal in sight. Nothing but empty fields.
James told us that all the animals were currently in Tanzania and would migrate back here in February. Great timing, considering I just left Tanzania.
I come to Kenya.
They go to Tanzania.
Ok… but what about the animals that were here? How come they don't migrate to Tanzania?
His answer was simple.
“They are residents. They’re here for food for the lions.”
That sucks. I wasn't expecting that answer.
Their entire existence is to feed the top of the food chain. That life would suck.
Oh well. The eco system here is incredible. Everything has a purpose. The Masai Mara is a complex, but very intriguing ecosystem. It offers one of the world's most important habitat areas for a great variety of wild African animals.
The lion eats, then the hyenas and jackets and vultures move in (if they haven't already stolen the kill) and rip it to bits... moving in to crush the bones with their powerful jaws. Their whole take over of a kill is dictated by size, strength and aggression. You see a few skulls and rib cages lying around, but nothing much else. It’s all entirely consumed.
Today we spent the entire day with James in the Masai Mara.
Full day safari.
What did we see today?
It was actually a mind blowing day.
We watched lions MATING, just like they do on the discovery channel... which was in my head the entire time, by the way. Apparently they can go at it every 20 minutes. Females are the dominant one, and call the shots when it comes to mating. They can be receptive for three or four days within a widely variable reproductive cycle.
We saw a cheeky little hyena steal a buffalo hide from a feasting lion. The lion was angry, rightfully so... and followed the hyena for a while. We were all thinking "THIS IS GOING DOWN!" He even called to his pride to help him out, but they were all full and not in the mood to battle for his stupidity of letting his share get grabbed by a scavenger. In the process of going after the hyena, he chased a few giraffes around, just to show off his strength & power... and then returned to the bushes with the rest of the pride.
We saw a total of three cheetah’s - which blew my mind entirely, as I hadn’t even considered seeing this animal. I was really on the lookout for the leopard, but I think that’s only because I was so set on seeing the Big 5. You get inundated with The Big 5 so much, it ingrains in your brain.
My obsessions aren’t even all in the Big 5 category.
My Big 5 are;
~ Cheetah… running.
Why isn’t the Cheetah on the Big 5? Not trophy enough???
Ridiculous. Fastest animal on planet earth!!
We saw the most enormous cuddle puddle of crocs and hippos in the river.
During the migration, the animals come here and once they arrive, they are forced to cross the river. It’s the first animal that takes forever, testing the water and ensuring it’s ok to cross. As soon as he takes the plunge, the rest bolt! The crocodiles sit patiently, waiting for their feast to make the plunge... then game on! It’s buffet time for them.
James let us get out of the jeep for a total of 2 minutes, in order to quickly take pictures of the hippos... but later regretted his decision and then yelled at us all to get back in the jeep. I guess it was a very dangerous situation, as there were hippos nearby and of course, they’re the most dangerous animal in the world. Responsible for the most human deaths worldwide. Maybe we should have stayed in the vehicle... but exciting moments are exciting moments!
We survived though.
My obsession with hippos and crocodiles continues... and my questions are still never ending.
What else did we see?
A leopard walking into the bush. FINALLY! It was so far away that my blind eyes couldn’t even confirm it was, in fact, a leopard, but those with binoculars confirmed it, so I guess I’ve now seen the entirety of the popular Big 5. We even saw a dik dik, which is fairly uncommon.
No snakes. No kills... unfortunately... but lots of warthogs, impala, wildebeest and zebra. We even saw an ostrich pooping and a group of hyenas feasting on a dead cow. There were a LOT of elephants wandering around. There were times that the jeeps got a bit too close and you could tell they were uncomfortable, circling their young in order to0 protect them.
We watched a lion take shade right beside one of the safari trucks.
The Masai Mara can't really be described as anything other than DUSTY.... a full day of bumpy and dusty. Besides it's natural beauty, of course...! There were times the heat was so entirely unbearable, we opened all the vehicle windows... only to turn around & shut them immediately, due to the excessive dust.
Grit in your teeth dust.
Black snot dust.
A lot of people say safari never gets old… but after awhile, you grow tired of the buffet and long for the kill... You almost become complacent to the herds of buffet roaming around the fields.
... and then there’s the ones that have to stop the vehicle every single time to photograph another zebra, buffalo and wildebeest as we go along...
Check out videos I made as we went along... if you want.