Origins, Patterns and Conservation of Biodiversity in East Africa

Masai Mara! – June 9

BLOG Post 5 June 9th, Group A: Andy, Sol, Grace

Writing this blog after twelve hours in the Maasai Mara savanna, we realized that the only thing missing was the narration of David Attenborough. We started the day with breakfast at 5:30 AM under the constellations of the southern hemisphere, and the team was ready to hit the road. Looking out over the grasslands, it’s clear why Serengeti translates to “endless land”. Before the sun finished rising over the great expanse, we were already lucky enough to see zebras, gazelle, impalas, and even a sneaky hyena (or fisi in Swahili) – the game drive was on! Although we came set with charged cameras, an excess of water, and the famous Bunduz truck, nothing could have prepared us for the most captivating ‘lecture’ we would ever experience. The post-sunrise timeline was as follows: 7:00AM was Cheetahs and Warthogs. 8:00AM was African Crowned Cranes and Marabou Storks. 9:00AM was Elephants and Buffalo, and 10:00AM was a very elusive leopard! After spending much time with a magnificent (albeit sleepy) lion, we drove down to the Mara River to stretch our legs and soak up some sun.

Although the sun was blisteringly hot, the sight of the Mara River upon jumping out of the truck was enough for us to power through. After checking out some lizards including a red-headed agama, we met with our guide Daniel (and his associate Lenny) and set out along the shaded banks. Almost as soon as we set off, the sound of camera shutters began – a Nile crocodile! We continued our trek with multiple photo stops until we reached the Bunduz team, who had gone ahead to meet us on the other side. After a great lunch and a quick break among mongoose, we were back in the truck and into the thick of it. Our expert driver John took us to the Kenya-Tanzania border where we could have one foot in both countries at the same time, checking another country off the bucket-list (even if it’s on a technicality). We got back in the truck and set out again. This time, however, things did not go quite as planned. Shortly after finding a group of giraffes, disaster struck (well a slight disaster) – the mighty Bunduz truck got stuck! The whole team shuffled out into the tallgrass a purgatorial state between alert and amused, and the truck sprang forward (mutterings of perhaps we should skip dinner echoed). We were free to continue our adventure!

As if the first half of the day wasn’t enough, the evening game drive generated even more excitement. Our resident ornithologists were thrilled to spot a Hornbill, which re-energized the group for the rest of the ride. Nearing the end of our journey, we noticed the other safari vehicles congregating around a specific area – triggering our curiosity. As we got closer, we were fortunate enough to observe two cheetahs feeding on a topi, surrounded by jackals and a lapel-faced vulture (two species of scavengers) patiently waiting to clean up the leftovers. After seeing some wild Maasai cows or eland near the exit, Dr. Lougheed wrapped up our adventure saying this was the “best game drive [he] had ever been on.” Its safe to say that even without narration, today was better than any episode of Plant Earth ever could be.

Juvenile African cuckoo hawk seen near the entrance to Masai Mara

African crowned crane

Class in front of our Bunduz truck in Masai Mara

Panting male lion seeking shade beside our truck

Red-headed agama lizard seen on bridge crossing the Mara River

Banded mongoose swarmed us at lunch.

Cheetah, one of two that brought down a topi. Face coated in blood but with a full belly.

Eland seen near the end of the day in Masai Mara


  1. Philippa Cureton

    Hello to Rachel from Canada who I believe is on this field course! It sounds like this is the field course to beat all field courses!

    What a beautifully written blog from the Masai Mara. It brought back so many memories of a trip to the Tanzania I did a few years ago.

    Yes indeed, the endless plain! We were so lucky to see many of the same animals and birds. It is exotic and awesome (in the true meaning of the word). You are in awe.

    We were so lucky to see wildebeest and zebra migrating across the river. They grouped up before starting out, but even this “safety in numbers” approach didn’t protect all members of the herd. A crocodile pulled down one wildebeast, under the water, it thrashed about 2 minutes until the ungulate was exhausted, terribly wounded and succumbed.

    Meanwhile, all the other wildebeast ran like mad things up the river bank (who could blame them?) virtually a stampeded to “get the heck out of Dodge”.

    I remember the starry nights, the cooler evenings, the sound of lion at night, and the thrill of so many new sights and sounds.

    I look forward to hearing more of the trip!

  2. Thi Ha

    Wow, what an incredible adventure! Reading about your encounters with zebras, cheetahs, hyena, crocodile and even a leopard gave me a serious case of wanderlust. The stunning photographs brought the Maasai Mara savanna to life, and I felt like I was right there with you. Thank you for sharing your unforgettable experiences!

  3. Cathy Alex


    What an amazing experience to see all these wildlife interactions!

    As usual, your pictures are incredible. (I’m resisting the urge to say “nice kitty” when I look at the lion. ?)

    Reading your timeline of sightings, it’s like the animals & birds set up a special schedule just for you!

    Thanks again.

  4. Mary Dillon

    Since I am living vicariously through this trip, thanks for making sure that it was a game drive for the ages!! The descriptions of the animal sightings and the photos are truly amazing, but I also liked the story of the truck getting stuck and the associated humour of whether people should have skipped a meal! Those details, along with the use of “blisteringly hot sun” really paint a picture of what it was like to be there. Thanks for all the efforts put into writing the blogs. They are a treat.

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