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Magical Masai Mara – Mecca of wildlife

Masai Mara helps you learn a lot about wildlife say wildlife photographer Randeep Singh and his son Arshdeep Singh as they share their experiences.

It’s one of the most famous National Parks in Africa, world-renowned for some extraordinary sightings of lions, African leopards, cheetahs, and elephants and is also home to over 450 bird species.
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh

Situated in the southwest of Kenya, Masai Mara National Reserve is a land of breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, and endless plains. Masai Mara has the most popular safari destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The safari delivers many attractions, as the reserve is home to an excellent year-round concentration of game, including more than a million wildebeest, zebras and other antelopes that make up the famous Great Migration.

It’s really popular during the migration period when hundreds of thousands of wildebeests cross the river Mara to enter Masai Mara and the Lions, Cheetahs, and Leopards hunt them down for food.

A paradise for wildlife lovers

This place is a paradise for wildlife lovers, with abundant wildlife alongside the migratory wildebeest and zebras. I was in Kenya for a business trip and then I planned a trip to Masai Mara Game Reserve with my wife and kids during the Migration time. It was the best decision to do business and see the beautiful wildlife of this park.

As we touched Nairobi, it was nighttime. We went to our hotel which was pre-booked and stayed there for a couple of days. I finished my business meetings and then on Sunday morning, we went to Masai Mara by plane which was just a 12-seater. Only my wife and kids were travelling so we had a feeling of hiring a private plane.

Masai Mara Randeep
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh

It was a short flight of less than an hour and when we landed it was a brilliant sunny day and our guide greeted us cheerfully. We stepped out and were pleasantly surprised by a cool breeze blowing despite the dazzling sunlight. We checked in at the campsite inside the forest which was covered by fencing all over.

We were warmly welcomed into the resort and our guide provided us with vital information about the park and the tribal people around. We learnt that there exist almost forty-three tribes and their dialects, while Swahili and English are the official languages. 

We relaxed in our rooms and went for the safari later in the evening, it was our first safari in Masai Mara. We drove inside the park, Mara being so huge and unimaginably vast might give one the feeling of getting lost in this wonderland. To me it looked like a fairy tale with so much wildlife all around, I felt like I was daydreaming about seeing so much wildlife.

Masai Mara Reserve is a place where all animals roam, played, ate, and breed freely. We saw large herds of giraffes, zebras, gazelles, wildebeests and buffaloes. We took their pictures and finally reached for the big cats, we really wanted to capture some amazing action shots.

Masai Mara Randeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh

Amazing time on the first day itself

First safari and we soon saw a lion family relaxing in an open area. I happened to notice two cubs who were playing inside the bushes and one of the lionesses was lying out in the open area nearby. Cubs were coming in and out of the bushes, and the lioness was surely getting disturbed by them. When it happened for the 3rd time, at that point the lioness really got uncomfortable and the lioness banged her paw on the cub’s face. The cub just sat down in front of her with head down. Maybe the cub admitted to his mistake of disturbing the peace of the lioness.

Within seconds, another lioness who was watching from a distance came rushing to the scene, maybe she was pissed off by this lioness who banged her paw on the cub’s face. She just got under the standing lioness and tossed her up in the air. The cub standing nearby also jumped up a bit in the air and held his hand towards the big cat in the air as the cub thought the lioness would fall towards their side. Wow! I said to myself in my heart, this scene was beyond amazing for me because I don’t think I would get to see this quite often.

Masai Mara Randeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh

I captured this amazing and special moment in my camera and mind forever. We drove further ahead and we saw a lioness relaxing and we saw a male lion approaching her. We captured head-on shots of this handsome and majestic male lion. Soon he reached towards the lioness and I guess they were ready to mate. We captured some amazing mating moments of this beautiful couple. 

It was just the beginning and as luck would have it, we soon sighted the fastest animal on this planet, the Cheetah! She was busy tearing the flesh of her prey with one of the cubs was also feasting on the kill. We maintained our distance so that both mother and the cub could enjoy the meal. The mother after filling her stomach, kept an eye all around while the cub was still filling his stomach.

The mother caressed the cub when it stood up and my son clicked the amazing interaction shot of the mother and the cub. We left them on their own and moved ahead, we were really lucky to spot five cheetahs together and they were sleeping under the tree.

Masai Mara Randeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Randeep Singh

These 5 cheetahs have become well known in the Masai Mara over the past couple of years, I read about them before I visited this place.

This team of cheetahs often team up together to hunt through a group of five is an unusually large team.

One of the cheetahs woke up and everyone around had smiles on their faces including me. One who woke up first took a big yawn and soon two more cheetahs woke up as well. Now it was the turn for the rest of the two, they also woke up but they were sitting in the grassland. The cheetah who woke up first started walking ahead of the group, later sat on the grassland just a few metres away, and now two other cheetahs started following him, while the other two were still sitting.

Masai Mara Arshadeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Arshdeep Singh

The other two cheetahs came from behind as the first cheetah was already sitting on the grassland. As soon as the cheetahs came together, I really couldn’t believe my luck at all. The first one stood and others just got so close that they gave me a wonderful pose of the three cheetahs in one frame and I snapped this amazing moment. It appeared that there was one cheetah with three heads. We all had a super amazing time on the first day itself. 

A full-day game drive

The next day we woke up early for a full-day game drive at the park. We searched for an elusive cat ‘Leopard’. Our driver drove around the area of the leopard and soon we saw a movement in the bushes.

Our guide confirmed surely it was a leopard. We all were full of excitement and soon came out this beautiful female leopard through the thickets, and she launched an attack on a hare (African bush hare). I really could not see anything happening as the leopard again got inside the bushes. Soon the place was surrounded by many safari vehicles. This female leopard appeared with a hare kill in her mouth. Wow! I was stunned to see this moment, she was walking on the rocks but not towards us.

I and my son were dumb-struck to see such a beautiful leopard doing a catwalk in front of us with a hare in her mouth. We captured this unforgettable and incredible moment on our cameras. What a moment and what a day it was for us in the wild.

We drove further ahead and we saw another mother and cub sitting on the mud mound, it was such a cute moment of this mother and cub hugging caressing and loving each other. I captured this amazing interaction between the mother and the cub.

We moved ahead and soon we saw a group of zebras. We witnessed a fight between two male zebras, earlier I thought they were playing friendly but I was wrong. Soon it became deadly and very violent which could end in death. Also one of the Zebra started to bleed. Both zebras wanted to establish their supremacy over each other. I could see one zebra’s neck and legs bitten by the other zebra.

Masai Mara Arshadeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Arshdeep Singh

They kept on moving away from us, and eventually, one of the males who was bleeding got exhausted and ran away fearing his death. It was such an intense interaction that I snapped on my camera. We had an excellent day in the wild once again and then we moved back to our place of stay.

Every day is an exciting day

I realized every day is an exciting day for the visitors in Masai Mara as you have a new experience every day. The next morning we started early again and as soon as the sun was up, we saw a few hot air balloons in the sky. My son captured a landscape shot of the sun along with hot air balloons flying high, it was an amazing sighting at the golden hour.

We had a great morning and we saw a few amazing bird species: Superb Starling, Long Tailed Glossy Starling, Ground Hornbill etc. Later in the evening, we saw a group of zebras feasting on high grass and walking towards us and they were completely unaware that behind our jeep was watching them, camouflaged by the bushes. the zebras had no idea about the lioness hiding behind the bushes. We were about to watch an amazing hunting moment for sure. The zebras kept on walking towards the lioness as they had no idea about the predator.

The lioness quickly looked around to see which zebra was closest to her as she was really desperate for this hunt. The lion noticed a zebra that was the closest to her and launched herself in that direction, zebras ran off in different directions.

The lioness kept chasing one of the zebras and began running faster. The lioness wasn’t ready to give up and reached very close to the zebra. While running they both got close to a couple of elephants. The elephants roared and the sound from their trumpet shocked the people around, it was really loud.

The whole surrounding was shaken by this as he didn’t like the presence of zebra followed by a lioness following him. My son didn’t waste any time and clicked at the right time when he snapped a lion, zebra, and elephant in the same frame. They ran across the grassland with the elephant roaring, lioness hit her right paw on the back leg of the zebra and the zebra flipped but regained the motion again.

Masai Mara Arshadeep Singh
Masai Mara Credit: Arshdeep Singh

The zebra kept running, though the lioness tried desperately to hunt but failed in the end. I guess it was not a good day for the lioness. We had an amazing and quite exciting last safari though we missed seeing the live hunt of the lioness.

Village of the Masai people

Before moving towards the resort, we went to the village of the Masai people where we learnt a few of their customs.

Their places of stay were really tiny huts with small envelope-like openings (windows) to let in sunlight. They contained an inbuilt mud stove where the charcoal fire could be stoked at any time, and by the side of which the sleeping arrangement for the children was made. It was tough to watch them living such a life with their kids. We later bought a few of their handcrafted items as souvenirs.

We also saw the women’s folk dance my daughter with all enthusiasm, joined them. Under a foreign sky, close to the Masai Mara National Park, my family was enjoying the rhythmic beats with the local tribe, all the differences were gone if for a while, and their spirit of ‘Hakuna Matata meant no worries filled the air. 

We just lost track of time altogether, we had an excellent time in Masai Mara. We felt we have seen and experienced lifetime safaris felt more like sunshine, it was difficult for us to say goodbye to the majestic mara, in short, we lived more of life during these few days as visitors to this amazing wild wonderland.

The trip to Masai Mara will surely remain an unforgettable one forever. It’s a must-visit place for everyone, Masai Mara is an incredible and magical place.

( Text and Images are by Randeep Singh Wildlife Photographer and his son Arshdeep Singh)

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