The following guest blog was written for us by Corlette Wessels who joined us on safari for our 26 September to 2 October departure.
Going on a safari on your own and with people you probably have never met before is always concerning. I have just been on another trip with Wild Eye and this time to the Mara Triangle Conservancy and did not know anyone on the trip, well so I thought.
As I arrived at the airport I heard a “hallo” and it was a young gent that I did not know or seen ever before & I greeted him back. Shocked I was when he asked me if I was Corlette Wessels. It so happens that we have been Facebook friends for years but never actually seen or spoken to each other – I felt relieved as I “knew” someone now on this trip.
Driving in the Mara around mid day it was hot and our excitement took over and we got to meet our guides and rest of the safari hosts of the Wild Eye team. We got put into vehicles and Garry and I were lucky in one vehicle. As we got in we saw a cooler box and started our trip each with a cold beer and soon were told that we were not heading to camp but to the river as a crossing has been building up there since the morning.
NOW we are SO excited.
Get to the river to see 100’s of wildebeest and some zebra’s at the edge of the river. We waited…and waited….and waited and no crossing. At 4 pm we decided to head back to camp for a “late lunch”. We got an amazing lunch next to the Mara river and were showed to our tents which would be our homes for the next 6 days.
During the night we heard so much night-life, lions roaring, jackal calling, leopard etc. We were up and about early the next morning and ready for our first full day in the Mara.
Off to the river where the wildebeest have been gathering for a while and then got to see our first crossing. I cannot explain the excitement around seeing and witnessing a crossing in the Mara. These wildebeest & other antelope gather in 100’s for days, go to the river and then decide it is not yet time to cross and so it goes on for hours until one brave wildebeest decides it is time to GO and then they jump and swim across the river.
Depending where they cross as there are a few places along the Mara river they have to swim in deep water or cross over very rocky areas. Some never make it to the other side and are caught by crocodiles with some even drowning along the way.
At one crossing we watched hundreds make their way across the river before suddenly stopping, leaving calves split from their mothers on the other side of the river and you hear them call and see them running up and down before they then decide to swim back to their mom’s. Thats when the monster croc’s hit and many of them don’t make it.
It is an emotional scene and as photographer you have been dreaming of capturing these kind of images but your heart tells you a different story. Tears rolled down my cheeks many a day with the sightings I got to see. At one crossing we were so busy watching the wildebeest cross when Garry spotted right in-front of us a huge leopard that just killed a wildebeest calf. He dragged this wildebeest a long way to thick grass into which he eventually disappeared into.
Close to camp we were told of a mother leopard and her 2 sub-adult cubs. We found them on the 1st day but they were very skittish. Garry & I are mad about leopards, or Chui’s like they are called in the Mara, and we were determined to find them so we would head out to this area every morning and every afternoon to search for them. We got to see them a few times but only briefly until one afternoon when we found the young male in a tree eating a wildebeest calf.
It was a bit of a victory for us as we finally got some photo’s of this young male.
On our last day we are lucky enough to see him again, this time 5m away from us and we got to photograph him really well before he went off into thick bush.
One of my personal reason’s visiting the Mara was to meet SCAR the famous male lion of the Mash Pride. He got injured a few years back in a fight with other males over territory and his right eye has a bad scar. For the next few days we headed off to Oloololo Marsh area to look for Scar. We did not see him for 4 days, nor had anyone else. We saw his pride with 3 females and 7 sub-adults and saw the females kill young warthog piglets (mcPiglets) like we named then as they were a mere snack to these females.
On the 2nd last day I went on a hot air balloon ride – trying to find Scar! We saw other lions from the balloon but not scar.
The balloon ride was magical, something one absolutely has to do when in the Mara. Seeing herds of buffalo, elephants, hyena’s, lion’s and crossing over the Mara river is just a different perspective of the Mara. I decided to skip breakfast and get Garry and our guide to pick me up as soon as we landed to look for Scar. As I got into the safari vehicle the head ranger called our guide to say they spotted 2 females and a male but they not sure it was Scar, so off we go. We got there and waited for the male to turn his face…at last a female came walking up to him and he stood up and it was Scar!
I was in awe, what a beautiful male he is. This male has so much attitude, character, power, beauty and leadership. It was clearly visible when he walked that he was the king of the Mara.
The staff back at camp were amazing, we got back and they already had my beer-shandy ready for me and Dickson was ready with the food that was prepared for us.
Dickson one day after we went out the full day in the Mara said to Garry and I when we got out the vehicle – your showers are ready, you have been out the whole day and you must go shower now. When Dickson speaks you do not argue. He, to me, is the Masai Warrior of the Wild Eye Camp.
For me personally I experienced so much on this Mara trip and photography wise Wild Eye team made sure I got back with the photo’s I wanted. Out hosts ensured that our settings were right, downloaded daily and checked photo’s and advice was given to improve where necessary. In the media tent we would edit our photo’s in Lightroom and Andrew Beck and Grant Marcus were always there to give advice.
I thank Wild Eye and the Wild Eye east Africa Masai People who hosted me for the week for an unforgettable experience.
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