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.

Today began bright and early (but more early than bright!) with a game drive out through the Masai Mara. We took photographs of the bright orange sunrise, the beauty of which was complemented by hot air balloons touring the horizon. According to Teeku, passengers on these balloons enjoy a 45 minute tour and a “champagne” breakfast, all for the low price of around $400. Although these tours allow visitors to the Mara a bird’s eye view of the park, they can be rather destructive in that the balloons, once they have landed, often require tractors to haul them out of the area.

Shortly after the sun came up, we encountered a group of elephants enjoying breakfast in the grass, not far from our base camp at Matira.

An elephant greeting us at breakfast--photo by Rebekah White

The day was spent leisurely driving around and photographing wildlife, including warthogs, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, dik diks and Thomson’s gazelles. Unfortunately, we also witnessed quite a few cattle, the grazing of which is a controversial issue in and around the Mara. We saw a hippo napping in the grass and, shortly after spotting a group of buffalo, some sleepy male lions. Later in the day, after lunch, we encountered another pair of lions asleep beneath a tree. Must have been a good day for a siesta!

A male lion napping in the midafternoon heat--photo by Rebekah White

Another male lion sighting--but awake--photo by Rebekah White

We returned to camp late in the evening, ready for showers and a good night’s rest, needing to refuel for another day out in the Mara.

Shiv rescues a tortoise from a close call in the middle of the road--photo by Rebekah White