An unexpected wake-up call at 4:30 in the morning consisted of hyenas howling close to our tents. Although earlier than expected, it was very cool to hear their howls. It made me realize just how close to the wilderness our camp (Ilkeliani Camp) was. Our actual day started off with the usual tea and coffee before heading out in the safari vehicles. On our way to the Mara, we were stopped by a KWS officer telling us we needed to pay at the Talek gate even though we were driving through to get to Olare Orok Conservancy. Once the payments were taken care of, we drove back through Talek towards our original destination. After passing over the virtually dried up Talek River, we drove by the Talek Country Club with an appearance quite opposite of the usual country clubs I am used to seeing. Within less than a couple of minutes we were soon back onto Masai Mara land.

The cool morning air felt refreshing as we all stood on the seats in Kifaru, (our safari vehicle’s name, the other is Dik Dik) looking for different species and snapping photos of the wildlife. We saw our first white bellied bustard today, or as Munir called them, “falcon food.” As the day started to warm up, we spotted many familiar animals such as the mongoose, zebra, impala, topi, warthog, Thompson’s gazelle, olive baboon, helmeted guinea fowl, ostrich, and many more. We spotted a yellow-throated longclaw close to our car, took some good photos.

Yellow throated longclaw. photo credit: Tyler Pidgeon

While passing though a large heard of Cape buffalo, we saw a black-chested snake eagle with a snake in its mouth. The eagle ended up eating the snake while hovering in mid-air! Munir said that if the snake eagle regurgitated its meal back at the nest that the snake could still be alive (pretty gross fact of the day). Not too far up the road we spotted the other group’s car and a very ecstatic Roger pointing to the bushes. It was here where we saw our first leopard! This leopard appeared to be a son of Olive, a well known leopard along the Talek River. It was pretty amazing and shocking to see such a big cat so close yet not too disturbed by the vehicles parked in front of its view. As we were taking photos of the leopard, we noticed a group of mongoose that were wandering closer and closer to our vehicles, and apparently the leopard noticed too.

photo credit: Tyler Pidgeon

The leopard stalking its prey. photo credit: Tyler Pidgeon

He started stalking the group, creeping silently closer and staying hidden among the shrubs. As the leopard sprang from the bushes, the mongooses went ballistic, emitting a blood curdling death wail. It seemed as though all of them were yelling “PREDATOR!!” as they scampered away. The leopard quickly chased a single victim into another set of bushes and successfully completed its hunt. Although none of us saw the actual take down of the unfortunate mongoose, we were all extremely excited to have just witnessed our first kill, especially since it was a treat to see a leopard in the first place. We were also surprised to learn that this was also Munir and Shiv’s first witnessed kill as well.

After the leopard excitement and the arrival of more safari tour vehicles, we decided to move on. Continuing on route to Olare Orok, we came across another male lion. This lion was chilling out in the shade, but soon got up and walked literally less than a few meters from our car! With a morning full of great experiences, we made our way to Olare Orok Conservancy to learn about a different kind of wildlife conservation.

photo credit: Tyler Pidgeon

After a quick pack up, our troop had yet again another emotional good-bye with the staff members of Matira Bush Camp. The staff was nothing but gracious and kind to us.  We were sad to leave them behind but looking forward to yet another campsite.  Our new campground we will be staying at is called Ilkeliani Camp.  This campsite is not in the reserve itself, but lies on the outskirts of the reserve in the town of Talek.  We will be staying here for three nights.  Once we got to Ilkeliani, we were greeted with fruit punch drinks and were seated in a beautiful common area.  We were then guided to our tents.  Two people were assigned for each tent, except for the three girls, Liz, Rebekah, and Kaitlin.  The girls wanted to stay together yet again.  They didn’t want to break up their bond from Elsamere where they lived in C Block.  Our tents astonished us all.  Is it camping if there’s a toilet and a shower? Even so, nobody was complaining!! We then set down to lunch!  We had a four-course meal for lunch!   None of us could believe our eyes (or mouths)!

After a delectable lunch and some free time, we set out on yet another adventure into the Mara.  We drove pole pole (which means slowly in Swahili) through the Mara, while standing on our seats and looked for wildlife and snapped awesome pictures when possible. The afternoon turned quickly into dark.  We quickly looked for the ideal spot to take sunset pictures.  The perfect African tree was the subject of all our photos.  The sun set right before our eyes.

Ungulates grazing don't even notice the gorgeous sunset.

After we drove back to the hotel in the dark, we were greeted with an “easy” surprise quiz.   Luckily for us, dinner and Tusker baridi shortly followed and our moods quickly improved.  With a full stomach and water bottle heaters, sleep never looked so good.  Sleep was necessary because a long, exciting day in the Mara was ahead of us again.